Emotional detachment: how to square it with politics in the Stoics and Gandhi

Richard Sorabji

in Gandhi and the Stoics

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI:
Emotional detachment: how to square it with politics in the Stoics and Gandhi

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How is detachment compatible with seeking political objectives? The Stoic answer is that objectives sought are merely targets. The real goal is the correct seeking of the correct target, as in cricket winning used to be merely a target; what mattered was how you played the game. The Bhagavadgita taught that what mattered was right action, not its fruit. This did not require Gandhi to give up political objectives, so long as his spiritual goals were compatible with them, or even mutually supportive. But in case of a choice, it was his spiritual goals, above all moksha, or spiritual liberation, that came first, and this preserved a certain detachment from the political. His spiritual objective has no analogue in Stoicism. Yet he would have approved the Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius, when he said that Philosophy was his mother, the politics of the palace his step-mother, who had to be served.

Keywords: politics; detachment; target vs. goal; Bhagavadgita; Moksha; spirituality; Marcus Aurelius; Stoics

Chapter.  4404 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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