Hesitations about general rules in morality

Richard Sorabji

in Gandhi and the Stoics

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644339
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745812 | DOI:
Hesitations about general rules in morality

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Gandhi seldom offered universal rules of conduct, unless heavily qualified, like the counsel of perfection not to use violence. There are too many differences of individual duty, and he could identify the duties only of those he knew. He regarded economic laws for getting rich as universal but of no interest to nations seeking to cure poverty. Silence was preferable to a lie. But although insistence on truth in non-violent resistance was universally applicable, it was universal in its good effects, rather than in calling on everybody to be resisters. For the Stoics too, duties have exceptions, and no informative description encapsulates virtue. Their favourite example of a moral law (nomos) is unspecific — cherish the bonds of human society. One moral rule (kanôn) is specific: ‘discard what is not under the control of your will’. But Stoic ‘doctrines’ are not moral rules, and rules are less useful than mentors.

Keywords: universal rules of conduct; differences of individual duty; economic laws; insistence on truth; duties; virtue; moral law (nomos); moral rule (kanôn); Stoic doctrines; mentors

Chapter.  7965 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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