CHAPTER II
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Gandhi's general political philosophy supplies insights into his ideas about world affairs. This philosophy depends on his premises about absolute truth, duty and nonviolence, and his fundamental conceptions about man, society and the state.

In his book, Political Theory: The Foundations of Twentieth Century Thought, Arnold Brecht affirms that belief in the existence of a supreme being who created and plans the universe is a distinctly relevant factor for the study of the state, independent of the fact that such a deity's existence or nonexistence is not demonstrable by modern science. The relevance of such theism is found in its influence on political ideas, institutions and motivations.1 In Gandhi's case certainly metaphysics and political notions axe intertwined.

At the apex of his beliefs is the Hindu concept of satya, absolute truth, essential being, the supreme good.2 Of these meanings Gandhi preferred "truth." For a time he held that "God equals truth," but later he reversed the order and said that "truth equals God." He adopted the new formula because its appeal is more universal, maintaining that it is as acceptable to non-theists as to theists.3

Before and after the change Gandhi considered absolute truth the same as divinity.4 This interpretation of satya as divinity has been explained by the lack of distinction in Hinduism between the partial ability of man and the full ability of God to know ultimate reality.5 In any event he believed in the purposeful, moral government of the universe by an omnipotent and omniscient first cause which he could explain in terms of pantheism or transcendentalism.6 Furthermore, his first cause is both merciful and just,7 attributes which are reflected in his stress on pacific means and political reform.

Allied to satya in Gandhi's system of beliefs is his conception of law or duty, i.e., his interpretation of dharma, Hinduisms "higher law" and one of its three aims of life.8 The other two are artha,9 power or wealth, and kama, pleasure or aspiration. These three aims are progressive steps toward moksa, final release from the world. Shunning the specialized Indian traditions devoted to domination

-19-

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Gandhi on World Affairs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Chapter I- Early Influences 1
  • Chapter II- Political Philosophy 19
  • Chapter III- War and the World 33
  • Chapter IV- The West and the Non-West 61
  • Chapter V- India''s Role in World Affairs 79
  • Chapter VI- Summary and Appraisal 93
  • Notes 101
  • Select Bibliography 118
  • Index 124
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