ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi in the Company of Western Philosophers

Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics by Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi, Foreword by Jean-Luc Nancy, New Delhi: Bloomsbury, 2019; pp i–x, 1–272 , ₹ 799 (hardcover).


The main task that Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi set for themselves in writing this book was to outline a system for gathering together both “Gandhi’s writings and practices” and presenting them within a “corpus” in which his “precise conception of nature, truth, violence, resistance and the end is classified” (p 1). These multiple tasks are undertaken against the background of Gandhi’s alleged opposition to philosophy, which the authors claim, he considered “satanic.” Notwithstanding this view, they do point out that philosophers, including Martin Buber, Maurice Blanchot, Hannah Arendt, Etienne Balibar and Slavoj Zizek “found it necessary to engage with him” (p 10).

Having juxtaposed this peculiar relation between Gandhi and the philosophers they turn towards another concept, namely “hypophysical.” They find this term within a parenthesis in a passage from Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. They make an adventurous move to elevate it to the level of one of central ideas in Gandhian thought. Making an exact connection between Immanuel Kant and Gandhi, they go on to affirm that this Kantian concept “finds a highly developed articulation in Gandhi’s theory of nature where nature is value, the moral is the natural” (p 2). Gandhi, they claim, held that anything that conforms to nature is a virtue and that which does not is a deviation from “nature’s moral course.” These deviations consist of “the syndrome of civilisation, the perils of speed, and the desire for progenies” (p 1). It is this idea of nature as a value, as hypophysics, they claim, can explain a long list of Gandhi’s activities, many of them controversial and some experimental, including: his “sexual experiments; his resistance to democracy and women’s liberation movements; his racism towards the Africans and the untouchables of the subcontinent; his startling political positions with respect to great events of the early 20th century such as Nazi Camps and the atomic bomb”; and his experimental attempts to “determine Truth” (p 2). So, in their reading this concept of the “hypophysical” holds a central position for understanding the “systematic unity and uniqueness of his thought.”

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Updated On : 9th Aug, 2019
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