As philosophers Mahatma Gandhi and Socrates have approached a moral life differently because of different perceptions held by each. Socrates was one of the great Athenian philosophers. In childhood he worked as a sculptor because he did not belong to a rich family. He is described as an ugly, poor, and unwashed man who was more concerned with moral purity than external appearance. Some of the characteristics of Socrates include ignorance, and thoughtful. Socrates was one of the influential thinkers in the fifth century whose enthusiasm to careful reasoning changed the entire enterprise. Socrates in his forties, tried to answer some of the difficult questions about the world around him. Some of the questions he asked such as “what is virtue?” “What is justice?” and “what is truth?” Socrates looked at these questions with a different perspective compared to other people. Socrates believed in civil obedience. On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi believed in civil disobedience. Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi was from a small state in western India Porbandar, also known as Sudamapuri. Due to the sacrifices Gandhi made for Indians the people in India called him Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma means great soul and Gandhi means grocer. Grocer was Gandhi’s family occupation in the early days. Gandhi belonged to the religion Hinduism. Some of the characteristics of Mahatma Gandhi include patience, tolerance, and honesty. He was a shy person and never talked to anybody in his school. He was an honest person, as exemplified by a school incident. One day, the educator inspector came to his school to inspect the student’s education. He gave some spelling words to write down on paper. Since Gandhi misspelled the word the instructor asked him to copy the right answer from someone else. However, Gandhi did not like to copy. He never did copying in his life; these incidents represented his honest and truthful nature. Socrates and Mahatma Gandhi not only differed in personal characteristics but they also have a different perspective in trying to answer difficult question about the world around them. For instance, in order to gain rights Socrates follows civil obedience and in contrast Mahatma Gandhi follows Civil disobedience.
In comparison to Mahatma Gandhi Socrates tried to answer the difficult questions about the world in different ways. Socrates questioned people about the world around them and on the other hand Gandhi made some philosophical quotes in order to help Indian people gain their rights in India. For instance, Socrates has a foundational place in the history of ideas in spite of not having written anything. He is considered one of the philosophers who have altered how the philosophy itself is envisaged. Socrates did not write anything because he believed that knowledge is something which is living and a thing that can be shared by interacting with people. The method of Socratic philosophical inquiry consisted in questioning people and proving to them that their original assertion is wrong and making them work through questions into a contradiction on the positions they have asserted. Plato was the student of Socrates who has written the book “The Apology of Socrates”. In Greek the title is called “Apologia Socratous”. It is the oldest existent document of Greek Philosophy. With the title, many readers refer to it as an apology however the title is ambiguous because in Greek apologia means defense. Socrates simply defends the way he lived his life but does not apologize for anything he has done during his lifetime. In the text “The Apology of Socrates” the Socrates says
First, then, its right for me to make my defense, Athenians, against the first of the false accusations made against me and against my first accusers, and then against the later ones and the later accusers. Many have accused me before you, and have done so for a long time now, though they didn’t say anything that’s true (43b).
In 399 BC Socrates was charged of refusing to recognize the gods which was recognized by the state and for corrupting the young Athenians. In other words, people believed that Socrates was trying to corrupt young Athenians about god. He was stood before a jury which consisted of five hundred people of his fellow Athenians.
In the text, he is defending himself in front of 500 Athenians saying that many people have accused me, but no one said anything which was true. With the Socratic Method he offended many great powerful Athenians. Since he created a lot of powerful enemies they brought him to trial thinking that they could make him beg for mercy. It did not work out but instead Socrates ended up insulting the jury by elucidating how ignorant they are, Socrates was mean, ugly, and outspoken but like Mahatma Gandhi he always wanted to be truthful. Socrates looked at the things in the world differently compared to other people. In the trial for the life of Socrates he astounded the listeners by being found guilty and destined to death in spite of his energetic defense. In the text “The Apology of Socrates” the Socrates says
And so, members of the jury, you should be optimistic about death and think about this one truth, that no harm comes to a good man in life or in death, and his problems are not neglected by the gods (65d).
Since Socrates held different perceptions about the world. He says that nothing can harm a good man neither in life and death. After hearing both sides the jury asked the members to vote on the guilt of Socrates. Since a lot of people voted for him that he was guilty he was sentenced to death. Socrates was given a chance to determine his penalty but Socrates wanted to be punished for his actions. Therefore, the jury sentenced him to death. According to Athenian law, they prescribed him to drink a cup of hemlock. Hemlock is like poison. While dying he believed that dying now and escaping from the problems was good for him.
On the other hand, Gandhi was not like Socrates. He was calm, thoughtful, and observant. After finishing his studies, he returned to India for a short period of time. Again he went to South Africa because he was unable to obtain a job in India. At first, he traveled in the train, because he was not prepared for the racial intolerance. Since his color was black he was thrown out of the train. An incident in the train shaped his actions for years. During that period of time British controlled South Africa. He was abused, and all Indians suffered similar treatment. Gandhi stayed in South Africa for twenty one years to fight for his civil rights and won many concessions for his fellow Indians. He believed that if they can gain rights with nonviolence then why be violent and harm others and ourselves. In order to fight for truth and gain rights he gave rise to Satyagraha. Satyagraha is divided into two words which Satya and agraha. Satya means truth and agraha means to follow the principles of truth. Satyagraha was a tool used for nonviolence and civil rebelliousness which is the appropriate methods for obtaining political and social goals. In the text “Mahatma Gandhi- Selected Political Writings” the Gandhi says
Satyagrahi does not inflict pain on the adversary; he does not seek his destruction. A Satyagrahi never resorts to firearms. In the use of Satyagraha, there is no ill-will whatever. Satyagraha is pure soul-force. Truth is the very substance of the soul. That is why this force is called Satyagraha (52).
According to Mahatma Gandhi a person who is Satyagrahi does not harm the opponent with violence. Since Mahatma Gandhi believed in non-violence he gave rise to satyagraha and ahimsa. In the book “Mahatma Gandhi-Selected Political Writings” Mahatma Gandhi also says “Our shastras seems to teach that a man who really practices ahimsa in its fullness has the world at his feet, he so affects his surroundings that even the snakes and other venomous reptiles do him no harm” (40). The word Ahimsa symbolizes non-violence. In the soul of every human being there are many things that we have to fight against such as fear, ignorance, anxieties, and stress. But according to Gandhi the outer fight should be avoided. In the Bhagavad-Gita the holy book which belong to the religion of Hinduism. Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to fight in order to deracinate ignorance. However, fighting is necessary only on some occasions when it is the explicit will of god. According to the text any person who practices ahimsa with truthfulness nothing can harm them not even harmful creatures such as snakes and reptiles. If a person is a follower of ahimsa then the person should love their enemy. Ahimsa is non-violence but also includes truth and courage.
During the lifetime of Socrates he questioned people about the world around them and died because of his ignorant behavior. Socrates chose death because he did not wanted to break the law of the city and also held a belief that since he was a good man nothing can harm him. On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi fought for the rights of Indian people without spreading violence and practicing Satyagraha and Ahimsa. He did not die of ignorance instead he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. He killed Gandhi because according to him Gandhi was betraying India by negotiations with Pakistan to stop the war which was going on. He was the great soul that will live among Indians.
Both Socrates and Mahatma Gandhi not only differed in personal characteristics but also they have a different perspective in trying to answer difficult question about the world around them. Socrates was ignorant but he always believed in truthfulness as Mahatma Gandhi. Both philosophers approached a different moral life. Gandhi died for the people and Socrates died because he wanted to without breaking the law of the city.