Indeed, Dionysodorus agrees that “there is no such thing as false opinion … there is no such thing as ignorance”, and demands of Socrates to “Refute me.” Socrates responds “But how can I refute you, if, as you say, to tell a falsehood is impossible?”

Winning an argument, whether in a prep school debate or the Supreme Court, frequently involves turning something on its head.  The latest matter of scrutiny – namely, whether the president of the United States of America is immune from prosecution – is at first blush a impenetrable issue. On the one hand there is an inclination to uplift the entitlement of the nation’s leader; on the other hand there is the especially American proclivity for equality and democracy.  Specifically the challenge appears to be, does American law apply to all or not? Worded in this manner, the answer becomes a riddle; or, it constitutes a blow to commonly held definitions of democracy.

The term appeared in the 5th century BC in Greek city-states, notably Classical Athens, to mean “rule of the people”, in contrast to aristocracy (ἀριστοκρατία, aristokratía), meaning “rule of an elite”.

There is at times a resulting distinction without a difference; worded, for example, in the manner of exceptions to the general rule, an effort to characterize something as unlimited while at the same time imposing limits. Whether this succeeds to defeat the larger question is itself debatable.

Scratching the surface of any notion will inevitably reveal something below it. If it were otherwise, it may dissolve as only as a mathematical truth such as 2 + 2 = 4 of insubstantive application. For me the disturbing feature of Trump’s argument is not only his violation of the uncontradicted thesis that it is the “law of the land”, but rather that he has seemingly devoted his entire life to what I might call “adversarial intelligence”; that is, the attempt to appear probative merely by asking an impossible or irrefutable question. Basically Trump gets more out of life by contradiction than by confirmation or reaffirmation. Our legal system is generally acknowledged to entitle anyone to challenge anything.  The unfortunate corollary is the cost of doing so. It is common knowledge that cost is what really “trumps” many arguments, not legality or propriety or entitlement at law. When the cost is winning or losing an election – and there are those willing to pay for the entitlement – the matter rapidly descends to the same discussion of contradiction advanced by Socrates.

“But how can I refute you, if, as you say, to tell a falsehood is impossible?”