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Gandhi and the Stoics

Richard Sorabji

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644339.001.0001
Gandhi and the Stoics

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Gandhi was a philosopher and understanding his philosophy helps with re-assessing the consistency of his positions and life. He was less influenced by the Stoics than by Socrates, Christ, Christian writers and Indian thought. But whereas he re-interpreted those, he discovered the congeniality of the Stoics too late to re-process them. They could supply even more of the consistency he sought. He could show them the effect of putting their unrealised ideals into actual practice. They from the Cynics, he from the Bhagavadgita, learnt the indifference of most objectives. But both had to square that with their love for all humans and their political engagement. Indifference was to both a source of freedom. Gandhi was converted to non-violence by Tolstoy's picture of Christ. But he addressed the sacrifice it called for, and called even protective killing violent. He was nonetheless not a pacifist, because he recognized the double-bind of rival duties, and the different duties of different individuals, which was a Stoic theme. For both, it accompanied doubts about universal rules. Contrary to one picture, the Stoics did not give up politics, but in Rome, like Gandhi, were leaders of political resistance. Both preferred human duties to human rights. But Gandhi's idea of individual conscience, was influenced by Socrates, his belief in subsistence-living by Christ, not the Stoics. Gandhi's lapses were inevitable from ideals adopted as a counsel of perfection. In his search for criticism, he transcended other philosophers by refining his values through public experiment.

Keywords: Gandhi as philosopher; Gandhi's lapses and consistency; Socrates; Christ and Christians; indifference; love; politics; freedom; violence; duties; individuals

Book.  240 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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Introduction in Gandhi and the Stoics

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Moral conscience in Gandhi and the Stoics

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