Persona and <i>svadharma</i>: is duty universalizable or unique to the individual?

Richard Sorabji

in Gandhi and the Stoics

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI:
Persona and svadharma: is duty universalizable or unique to the individual?

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The Stoics advised that in making decisions in life, one must consider not only one's (Kantian) rationality, but also one's persona, based on individual commitments, temperament and talents, not aping another's persona. One must decide if one is a Ulysses or an Ajax. Some individual personae are unique, so that when Cato committed suicide, it would not have been right for anyone else to do so, in the same circumstances — in apparent contradiction of Kant's universalisability. The later Stoics stressed the imperfect individual's strengths and weaknesses, and the possibility of progress towards the ideal, rather than the inevitable falling short. Hence their discussion of ordinary anxieties: health, early retirement, choice of career or daily exercise, obedience to parents, enslavement to books, loss of property or writing. Gandhi required the same attention to individual duty (svadharma), even in deciding whether to join his resistance campaigns, or to avoid violent killing.

Keywords: persona; unique individuals; imperfect individuals; strengths and weaknesses; anxieties; universalisability; svadharma; individual duty

Chapter.  7185 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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