Chapter

Nonviolence as universal love: origins and Gandhi’s supplements to Tolstoy—dilemmas,successes, and failures

Richard Sorabji

in Gandhi and the Stoics

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644339.003.0005
Nonviolence as universal love: origins and Gandhi’s supplements to Tolstoy—dilemmas,successes, and failures

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Gandhi was converted to non-violence by Tolstoy's Christian conception of it as love for all. He valued it, whether used in resistance, or not. Supplementing Tolstoy, he selected resisters who could face suffering, prepared them through emotional detachment, and saw the suffering as opening ears. But he designed alternatives for non-resisters. Deliberate killing could only be non-violent if for the sake of the killed. But it was a counsel of perfection to treat even protective killing, as otherwise wrong. Where others lacked the preparation, or the conviction, to refrain, or had undertaken duties requiring violence, he would rather they pursued the best conduct compatible with individual duty (svadharma), even if that put them in a moral double-bind. Thus he was not, like Tolstoy, a pacifist. Non-violent resistance to rulers has been attempted in dozens of countries since Gandhi. But against inter-communal violence, he tragically found it harder to prevail.

Keywords: Tolstoy; non-violent resistance; non-violence as love; resisters' suffering; non-violent killing; counsel of perfection; double-bind (moral); protective killing; svadharma (individual duty); not a pacifist

Chapter.  11181 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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