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P H I L O S O P H Y F O R B U S I N E S S ISSN 2043-0736
Issue number 61
20th September 2010
I. 'Rescuing Capitalism' by Geoffrey Klempner
I. 'Gandhi, Gandhism, and the Principle of Non-violence' by Krishna
III. 'Trust the Marxists' by Burton Sankeralli
I would like to apologize to readers who patiently waited for the
June, July and August issues of Philosophy for Business -- which
didn't appear. The reason is simple: the lack of submissions of
sufficient quality to publish in the e-journal.
One explanation may be that as a journal listed in the Directory of
Open Access Journals (DOAJ) we appear too 'academic' to authors not
trained as philosophers, while from the point of view of the
university professors we are not academic enough. We don't use the
method of double-blind review, because I think it is important to
know who the author is before publishing his/ her work. There is also
no 'editorial board' as such, although I have colleagues whom I am
able to consult in making my editorial decisions. But I think we've
found the perfect balance. I don't want P4B to become just another
obscure academic journal.
In my contribution to this issue, which first appeared in my
Tentative Answers blog http://tentativeanswers.blogspot.com, there is
a call for anyone who is interested in taking up the Editorship of
P4B, initially as Guest Editor for one issue. We need someone who is
prepared to be proactive and seek out suitable authors and
publishable material. If you are interested, please email
me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
The theme of this issue concerns the state the world is in and things
we can do to change it. Not a new topic, but one which urgently needs
to be addressed nonetheless.
Dr Krishna Pathak of the University of Heidelberg, in a paper written
to commemorate the United Nations International Non-Violence
Day on 2nd October, writes about Gandhi's philosophy of
non-violence, and how we can all apply this to our own lives even
though we cannot aspire to 'be Gandhi'.
Burton Sankeralli, founding member and convener of the Trinidad and
Tobago Philosophical Society brings his perspective as one 'on the
receiving end of history', to the debate over the Marxist
interpretation of historical change, arguing for a more subtle view
of philosophical analysis/ critique of society as a form of
engagement with actual material reality, rather than merely playing
idle games with the superstructure.
I. 'RESCUING CAPITALISM' BY GEOFFREY KLEMPNER
On Thur, Sept 16, 2010 at 04:52:35
Derrick asked this question:
I recently read a report on a request made by the Russian Minister
of Finance who asked that Russians smoke and drink more as the country
needed the revenue. Is this not as a result of their adoption of the
capitalist system, a system that has been faulty since its exception?
Communism did not work and the West did its utmost to see it failed,
the Capitalist system is no better as it benefits only a small
segment of the population and the myth of the creation of wealth
which is now the holy grail is all smoke and mirrors and has value as
long as the paper Dollar retains its value.
When it comes to finance we have people who are awarded the Nobel
prize for the creation of systems that are supposed to improve how
systems work, I have yet to see this actually effect anything, in
fact things keep getting worse.
We are told how well we are doing while pensioners don't know how
they are going to survive.
We are also told the markets know best, best for who? A shareholder's
interest is never a countries interest, self-interest is the only
What do we need to break the cycle of greed, a 3rd World war? But
then war is profitable.
I understand Greek Philosophers had thoughts on matters of finance,
does Philosophy have solutions or is man so flawed that we are too
far into the abyss to pull back.
Derrick's question is timely. I have been seriously considering
whether I want to continue as Editor of Philosophy for Business, the
e-journal which I launched in November 2003, in an atmosphere of
heady optimism that a 'reformed' version of Capitalism, or
'Capitalism 2.0' was just around the corner. The philosophers would
show the way.
While the readership of the e-journal has steadily increased, the
flow of articles has significantly declined. There are undoubtedly
business ethicists out there, marketing their expertise, but they've
gotten smart. They know the things that companies and corporations
don't want to hear, so they don't tell them. All the talk is of how,
by increasing the company's ethical quotient, or boosting its CSR
strategy, or even developing the 'emotional intelligence' of managers
and executives, profits will inevitably increase. Cast your bread upon
Don't mistake these remarks for cynicism. I think that the business
ethicists are doing the right thing, the only thing they can do, by
working for evolutionary change and not trying to start a revolution.
If things seem to be going very slowly one has to remember that the
system has massive inertia. Change will come, but it will come
slowly. At least, that's the optimistic forecast.
But too slowly for the likes of me. The great slogan of defenders of
Capitalism (of which I am one) is 'freedom'. I believe in freedom.
You can't have freedom without the marketplace, where goods,
commodities and services are freely bartered and exchanged. That's
the way it works. This isn't caving in to human 'selfishness' but
rather the only way the game can be played. There's a place for
ethics, provided you recognize that ethics and CSR are things you
have to budget for. In some years you have more to spend and in other
What really hurts me is seeing how unfree this same system has
made us. If someone offers you work you don't waste time thinking
whether you really need the money (unless you are lucky to have an
inheritance or private income). It doesn't matter if you are a senior
executive or do the postal round. Now, as a response to the recent
downturn, belts are being tightened once more, we are being asked to
work harder and longer -- while we avert our eyes from those unlucky
enough to be cast on the scrapheap.
We are prisoners of our own expectations -- for example, that the
only healthy state for an economy is growth. You must consume more,
so that the money can go round, job opportunities increase etc. This
is all economic witchcraft. Why not consume less, work less, have
more time to dream, more time to philosophize?
Our wealth is one another, our friendships, our human capacities, the
world of culture that human beings have created. When will there be an
economics of that? Could there be, or is it more realistic to assume
that the very concept of being 'economical' is at fault, that human
beings are at their best when they are extravagant, when they don't
count the cost? When was the last time you treated yourself -- or
your partner, or family -- to something you couldn't afford?
If you ever did, did you feel guilty afterwards? Shouldn't one feel
more guilty at allowing such base considerations as money to
influence one's decisions? (Actually, I think we do -- based on my
I sympathize with the Russian Minister of Finance. Alcohol and
tobacco are two of the greatest benefits bestowed on humankind and at
the same time two of the greatest curses. They are not just
'addictions'. They make you feel good. I can't think of anything more
important then feeling good about oneself and about the world. You'll
say that the country 'doesn't need' even more resources expended on
the illnesses caused by smoking, or the social disorder caused by
drinking. But maybe there is a balance that hasn't been reached yet.
The economic benefits of a ten percent increase in smoking, say,
marginally outweigh the cost of the increased burden on the health
services. I can see that.
In his question, Derrick refers to the Greek philosophers. One of the
fashionable trends in contemporary business ethics -- reflected in the
number of articles on this topic published in Philosophy for Business
-- is the application of Aristotelian virtue theory to the business
world. The focus on the virtues needed for the 'good life', and in
particular, the virtues needed to be a good business person, is one
that I welcome. (See my Ethical Dilemmas
at http://www.ethicaldilemmas.co.uk, in particular Unit 10.)
The problem is that if you are looking to redress the imbalance
between the rich and the poor, Aristotle and Greek philosophy
generally is the wrong model. The Greeks had no problem with the idea
of social inequality. Slaves were an essential part of the
well-ordered polis. Unless you give a totally false,
'Christianized' gloss on the notion of 'virtue', there is no
necessary corollary that exercising the virtues, or the business
virtues will lead to a 'fairer' world, where we can all be free and
But I agree with Derrick that the world is in a mess, in so many
ways, as it always has been (although that's no comfort).
My response is unoriginal, one that you will have heard many times
before. If you can't change the world, if things move too
slowly regardless of your best efforts, then at least you can work on
yourself. If you are well-off, in a good job, then stop being
so complacent. Become aware of your over-dependence on the system,
which rewards you now but tomorrow may kick you out through the back
door. If you are poor, then stop complaining. Consider all the ways
there are of improving yourself without amassing useless material
possessions. Ask how you can be helpful to others rather than just
looking to others for help.
If you are a philosopher or business ethicist reading this, then the
offer of the Editorship is genuine. There's no salary, but then
there's not a lot of work to do. Mainly, you will be badgering (or,
if necessary, bullying) colleagues or people you know into writing
articles. It would look good on anyone's CV.
If you're interested, email me at email@example.com. Initially,
you will be invited to guest edit one issue. This is an experiment
we've successfully tried in the past. If you pass the test, and still
have the appetite for more, then the job's yours for as long as you
can continue the flow of quality material. Think about it. It could
change your life -- it certainly changed mine.
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2010
I. 'GANDI, GANDHISM, AND THE PRINCIPLE OF NON-VIOLENCE' BY
KRISHNA M. PATHAK
A Philosophical Perspective
The creative flame that kindled the great human society is
languishing. The human mind in all its baffling strangeness
and variety produces contrary types, a Buddha or a Gandhi, a
Nero or a Hitler. It is our pride that one of the greatest
figures of history lived in our generation, walked with us,
spoke to us, and taught us the way of civilized living.
Let me begin with a question asked by a Romanian professor: How
to practice Gandhism and the principle of non-violence in a
globalized world of today in which the neo-capitalistic ideology,
violent attitude, and political crisis have been major problems of
human concern? More precisely, we can sum up her question as: why
there is no other Gandhi? Almost every one of us asks these questions
publicly while discussing or debating on Gandhi and Gandhism. But why
do we ask questions like these and discuss and debate on Gandhi and
The reason is quite simple: Either we follow Gandhi or his philosophy
or the principle of non-violence; we will sooner or later succeed in
making the world a better place for humanity and the planet we are
living on because the three -- Gandhi, Gandhism, and the principle of
non-violence -- are of universal relevance. For this very reason, the
United Nations declared 2nd October -- the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi
-- as International Non-violence Day (IND hereafter) to send
the world a message of 'peace, tolerance, understanding and
non-violence'. In light of the relevance of the IND, this
seminal paper mainly focuses on three philosophical
perspectives of Gandhian philosophy: In the first part, it gives an
idea of why it is too difficult to be another Gandhi; in the second
part, it explains that Gandhi's teachings and his philosophy are
moral force that can guide us to direct and decide our courses of
action; and in the final part I argue that even if one does not know
much about Gandhi and Gandhism but knows non-violence as the
supreme moral principle and practice accordingly, one of course could
be a Gandhian if not a complete Gandhi.
2. Gandhi: A Person of Principles and Simplicity
Gandhi has been given many honorary titles by the people from all
around the world based on their individual understanding and
knowledge of Gandhi. For some people, Gandhi was a mahatma,
for some he was a saint, for some other he was a social
reformer and a noble politician, for some he was a
philosopher and for some others a practical idealist.
Giving these honorary titles to Gandhi, we strongly believe
that he was an extra-ordinary human being compared to those like
us who think we are only ordinary beings. We think that none of us
can be a second Gandhi because we cannot reach that level of
supremacy to which Gandhi reached in his life. For this reason, we
never try to be another Gandhi because we think that we cannot live
and act in the way Gandhi lived and acted both in personal and
political affairs. This is one side of Gandhi's life that is
completely different from lives of our own.
Another side of Gandhi's life is not well focussed on by scholars:
Very few of us know that Gandhi was a simple being and a person of
principles of which the principle of non-violence was
supreme. He lived his entire life not for his own interests but
for the interest of those principles that can be universalized. Some
of those principles are moral and some political but the primacy was
given to the former over the latter. He always preferred the
principles of Truth and non-violence over the non-cooperation
movement and mass civil disobedience in a situation of any clash
between the two. For example, he called off the nation-wide
non-cooperation movement and went on fast for five days after he
heard of the violent incidence of Chauri Chaura (Gorakhpur) in 1922
in which a police-chowki (police station) was set on fire by a
local nationalist mob killing 23 policemen. Gandhi called off that
movement because he could not support a movement that was based on
violence of any kind and to any extent.
If we thoroughly investigate his entire life particularly during the
period when he actively entered the social and political movements in
South Africa and India, we will find that he always took care of his
principles and lived his life in simplicity without any attachment to
material objects and prosperity. He never took care of his clothes,
his appearance, or his belongings. He was worried only about his
principles and actions. He frequently went on fasting whenever he
found a violation of the supreme principle of non-violence. He was
always prepared to sacrifice his life for principles. This unique
personality of Gandhi made him superior and this is what that
differentiates us from him since our ways of living are just the
opposite. We live for ourselves and our interests and take care of
our clothes, appearance, and belongings. We do not respect principles
of universal values. Sometimes we respect them but we do not act from
them. So how can we be Gandhi unless we live and act like Gandhi?
We as common beings live and wish to live our lives from
self-interest and personal principles. We follow individuality and
lack honesty to principles, and therefore we are in some sense
complex beings; we always face confrontation and violence. When we
find ourselves trapped into violent situations, we remember persons
like Gandhi and principles like non-violence but unless we change
ourselves to prepare to act like Gandhi, neither Gandhi nor his
philosophy nor any thing else can be of any help. We must act and
respond in the same way Gandhi acted and responded to the world. If
we do so, we will be at least Gandhians if not pure Gandhi. We
remember Gandhi on occasions like this (the IND) depicting him as an
ideal being and somehow make a distance from his way of living. I
think Gandhi should not be considered as an ideal only for occasions;
rather we should remember him for what he gave to the world and should
practice his philosophy in all walks of our lives based on our
individual moral capacity.
Gandhi did not want titles from the world so he did not welcome those
titles. He only wanted to see the world based on the principle of
non-violence and moral virtues such as honesty, truthfulness, love,
and so on. He wanted that the people should act from the principles
of truth and non-violence. In the introductory chapter of his
Autobiography, he clearly wrote:
My experiments in the political field are now known, not
only to India, but to a certain extent to the 'civilized'
world. For me, they have not much value; and the title of
'Mahatma' that they have won for me has, therefore, even
less. Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is
not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have
Of course, it is very difficult to be another Gandhi at least in
today's world of modernity and capitalistic society but it is not
impossible. Once we have similar life-views as that of Gandhi and
strong passion for principles, and if we act accordingly, there would
be no violence in the world. There would be only peace and harmony.
But because of our self-motivated inclinations and defective
world-views, we find ourselves incapable of being Gandhi, or so to
speak we don't want to be Gandhi. Gandhi rightly observed: 'Men are
good. But they are poor victims making themselves miserable under the
false belief that they are doing good.' Since most of us are living
a life of a false belief, we do not act from the purity of our
3. Gandhism: A Philosophical Pathway
In light of the complexity involved in becoming another Gandhi, a
very relevant question should be asked: If we cannot be Gandhi, can
we at least follow Gandhian thoughts? My answer is affirmative and I
have a sound ground for my claim. Many including historians consider
Gandhism a political philosophy whereas I consider Gandhism a moral
philosophy. Since we have potential to be Gandhians, I strongly
believe that we can serve humanity by following Gandhian thoughts
without changing our normal lifestyle. The Gandhian way of living is
to the some extent excluded from normal lifestyle but honesty and
passion for principles of truth and non-violence must be followed. By
the term 'Gandhian', I mean those who have purity in their
thoughts and actions. To be a Gandhian does not mean to live like
Gandhi as a semi-naked man in dhoti and khadaun (wooden
slippers), to wear home-spun clothes, and to keep fasting for
political matters. Rather to be a Gandhian means to practice the
principle of non-violence with purity of soul and to make people
aware of its moral strength.
The Gandhian teaching and political activities give us directives for
how a highly-tensed situation can be normalized, how universal moral
values conduct can be developed, how we can respect people and laws,
and how simplicity can be spiritualized. It does not matter whether
Gandhi was a saint or a mahatma or a philosopher or a political
leader rather what matters is whether we act according to those moral
values that are qualified to gain universal appeal and that are
helpful to benefit the world and the society at large.
Sainthood and Mahatmahood are those terms that are used
for idealization of a person just as we use different religious terms
for our personal deities. Whether he was a saint or mahatma, we
should not consider him and his philosophy as topics for discussion
and debate in classrooms and conference halls. Rather we should give
him true shradhanjali (offering of faith) by adopting his
philosophy in our actions because Gandhi wanted that the people
should practice non-violence as moral duty. He was a person of
his own; he realized his essence of being moral. How many of us do
realize our essence of being moral? Very few of us! Or better to say
that we do realize that we are human beings and we are obligated to
act humanly but unfortunately we realize these truths only in
thoughts and not in actions.
Why do I suggest that Gandhi should be considered as a simple being,
and not as a saint or mahatma? Because sainthood or mahatmahood seems
to be something that ordinary beings cannot achieve. We cannot say the
same thing about Gandhism since I am quite convinced that we common
people can act from Gandhism without any big difficulty. What Gandhi
preached about and acted on can be practiced by ordinary people: We
can speak truth, be honest, love all, act non-violently and so forth.
But it is tragic that we do not follow what we think is right to do.
We all know that Gandhi was not trained in philosophy and politics;
he was academically trained in law. But he was more than a trained
philosopher and politician. Following Gandhi, my message to the world
is that we should realize ourselves as moral beings, our moral
strength, our rational capacity, and our obligations towards the
world and other species. And we should idealize ourselves by
following the (Gandhian) path.
Gandhi's world-view and thoughts found expression in his actions. He
never preached or taught to anyone. His actions taught us what to do
and how people can learn moral values through those actions. He
wanted to arouse the world through his conduct and behaviour. In
fact, he was a person of disciplines and directives. George Orwell
correctly observed: 'It is worth considering the disciplines which
Gandhi imposed on himself and which -- though he might not insist on
every one of his followers observing every detail -- he considered
indispensable if one wanted to serve either God or humanity.'
My point here is that Gandhism is neither a political nor a
philosophical concept. It is not a systematically fixed philosophy;
rather it is a mixture of thoughts related to various disciplines of
knowledge for example morality, religion, politics, society, health,
spirituality, harmony and peace. Gandhi's mixed thoughts do not give
a voice to any particular religion or a political or moral theory;
rather they present a holistic world view that is applicable to all
human beings without regard to their caste, creed, religion, and
nationality. For example, his principle of satyagraha as a
non-violent means of resistance can be practiced everywhere. Those
who take satyagraha as a principle of 'passive resistance' do
not know the pure essence of this term because the term 'satyagraha'
in true sense is a principle of 'active non-violent resistance'. It
is a soul force that moves the person to act non-violently.
Advocating Gandhian philosophy and the Gandhian way of living, I need
not discuss how much he was influenced by various religious texts like
the Bhagavad-Gita and the Bible and great figures of the
world like Buddha, Ruskin, Tolstoy, Rousseau, and Thoreau. We only
need to keep in our minds that Gandhi was actively engaged into all
kinds of humanitarian causes: social, political, economic, and moral.
We have to learn some lessons from Gandhism to handle the same kinds
of problems we are facing today in different parts of the world. We
know that his teachings and thoughts never support and appeal for
violence and therefore we must remember that while following
Gandhism, all types of violent means should be avoided from our
intentions and actions.
When I consider Gandhi as a simple being I wish to let people know
that Gandhi was in his early life like us as ordinary beings; he was
a simple ordinary man. He did not have philosophical and political
understanding nor did he have any idea of how to achieve perfection
through Truth and non-violence. But as time passed and he grew older,
he realized what it is to be a human being and what kinds of action
one should perform for the wellbeing of the world. This realization
led him to have strong faith in Truth and the principle of
non-violence through which he always tried to reach the level of
perfection. Like Gandhi as a child, we are also not perfect beings
but like mature Gandhi we can at least try to direct our actions
toward perfection by practicing those moral ideals of Gandhi.
Gandhism in this very sense is certainly of a greater help.
4. The Principle of Non-violence as a Moral force
Some people might think that Gandhi used the principle of
non-violence as a political weapon against the British. Since Gandhi
used this principle to achieve a political objective -- the freedom
of India -- they might think that Gandhi's principle of non-violence
has its own political implications. From one perspective, this is
absolutely true: Gandhi himself asserted that non-violence 'is a
noble method, but it does not on that account lose its political
character. I tried it for this for the first time in South Africa
with good results. I have brought it from there... And there I have
used ahimsa as a political weapon.' But Gandhi did not use
this weapon for any political gain or loss; rather he used it to
awaken people to realize their dignity and moral force both in South
Africa and India. This is why I take Gandhi's principle of
non-violence as a moral principle, which is deeply rooted in
religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity.
We should not forget that Gandhi emphasized mainly the purity of
means and he used non-violence as a means to achieve freedom for
India because it was a truth that India belonged to Indians. So the
freedom of India as an end was pure. It is violence that can be said
to be linked with politics because the acts of deceiving, cheating,
hurting, and violence are possible only in politics and even some
political theories justify them. Non-violence, on the other hand, is
a moral principle and applicable to everyone including the
government. But non-violence is not a principle of weak people;
rather it is principle of brave and courageous people because only
brave and courageous people can have self-control over their bad
actions and aggressions. So for Gandhi physical as well as mental
strength provide a strong foundation to the principle of
non-violence. One, who cannot be aggressive, also cannot know the
strength of the principle of non-violence. According to Gandhi, the
principle of non-violence can be practiced by those who are
self-controlled and have self-knowledge of themselves in terms of
their strength and courage.
Now, there arises a very relevant question: do we need the reference
of Gandhi or Gandhism to practice non-violence? My answer is 'No!'
Because one cannot act from the principle of non-violence unless one
knows and realizes the strength of this principle and also is always
ready to act according to that principle. Of course Gandhi was one of
the world's best practitioners of the principle of non-violence and
his life story is every significant in order to make people aware of
their inherent potential to be non-violent. We can inspire ourselves
as well as the other people to follow Gandhi. But once we realize
that non-violence is the superior moral principle and a pure means to
the pure end of harmonious life, we need not know Gandhi or Buddha or
For example, a child can be taught the lessons of non-violence
without any reference to Gandhi or his philosophy. If we teach a
child telling him that the principle of non-violence is supreme
because Gandhi practiced that or taught us, the child might not
understand that principle because he does not know who Gandhi was and
in what circumstances Gandhi practiced non-violence. But if we teach
the child the lessons of non-violence explaining him its merits and
demerits, he would perfectly understand in what sense the principle
of non-violence is moral and universally appealing. He could also
then understand Gandhi and his teachings much better.
To be honest and truthful in actions does not mean that you first
kill or hurt someone and later you accept your role of what you have
done. Truthfulness does not entail violence. It only entails
non-violence. We cannot justify Truth with the principle of violence;
we can justify it only with the principle of non-violence because
truth and non-violence are like ends and means and both must be pure.
How can we say that the principle of violence is pure? For this
reason, Gandhi himself avoided and also asked people to avoid all
kinds of violence in thoughts and actions.
5. A Concluding Note
It is a true that only a small number of people follow Gandhism
and the principle of non-violence, and even they do not follow in all
their actions. This does not mean that Gandhi's teachings and
political and philosophical thoughts have no or less value. No!
Gandhi's actions and teachings are in fact relevant in all times and
places. The Gandhian teaching is not for acquiring something in life;
rather it is for the moral development of the human soul. It is for
the purpose of behaving as a rational and moral being in every sphere
of life. I would like to conclude this paper with words by the US
President Barack Obama on Gandhi. Mr. Obama said: 'In my life, I have
always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies
the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary
people come together to do extraordinary things.'
1. This short paper was presented at the German Cancer Research
Centre (DKFZ), Heidelberg on 26th September 2009 on the occasion of
the International Non-violence Day. I was one of two invited speakers
to deliver lectures on Gandhi. The event was organized by the
Heidelberg Indian Student Association (HISA) in support with the DKFZ
and the Indian Consulate, Munich.
2. From the 'Introduction' in Krishna Kriplani (ed.), All Men are
Brothers: Life and Thought of Mahatma Gandhi as told in his Own
Words, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1960, p. ix.
3. The lady professor asked this question on my paper 'The Gandhian
Formula of Harmony and Peace: The Unity of Truth and Non-violence'
during a session at the XXII World Congress of Philosophy held at
Seoul National University (South Korea) in July-August 2008.
4. The UN General Assembly declared 2nd October of each year as
International Non-violence Day on 15th June 2007. See
5. See Krishna Kriplani (1970), Gandhi: The Modern Mahatma, London:
University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies); Mark
Juergensmeyer (1987), 'Saint Gandhi', in John Stratton Hawley, ed.,
Saints and Virtues, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987,
187-203; Claude Markovits (2004), The Un-Gandhian Gandhi: The Life
and afterlife of the Mahatma, London: Anthem Press; Rajmohan Gandhi
(2007), Gandhi: The Man, His People and The Empire, Berkeley:
University of California Press; Sankar Ghose (1991), Mahatma Gandhi,
New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.; Poosapati A. Raju (2000), Gandhi
and His Religion, New Delhi: Concept Publishing; and Raghavan Iyer
(1986), The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. II,
New York: Oxford University Press, p. 1.
6. Gandhi's faith in Truth and the principle of Non-violence reflects
Kant's faith in reason and the principle of the categorical
imperative. In Kant's moral philosophy, reason and the principle of
the categorical imperative are supreme in their notional respects.
See Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, trans. and edited by Lewis
W. Beck (1949), Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason, Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press.
7. See Gandhi, M. K., Autobiography, Ahmedabad: Navjivan Publishing,
1927, p. xii.
8. Iyer, R. (1986). p. 16.
9. This section focuses mainly on non-violence but Gandhism is not
limited to the principle of non-violence. Gandhism is one facet or
tool achieve his larger purposes that included achievement of
freedom, freedom not only from the clutches of foreign rule but also
from superstitions, casteism, untouchability and other social and
political evils etc. By and large, the 'ism' in 'Gandhism' means both
self and community emancipation in the broader sense. Truth and
Non-violence are the means he adopted to achieve these ends he
considered as pure and humanly.
10. See George Orwell 'Reflections on Gandhi', in John Gross (ed.),
The Oxford Book of Essays, Oxford: Oxford university Press, 1991, p.
11. Gandhi, M. K. (1958-84), Collected Works, Vol. 81:428, New Delhi:
Publication Division, Government of India. See also B. N. Ghosh
(2007), Gandhian Political Economy: Principles, Practice and Policy,
Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
12. Here I do not mean that to have a reference of Gandhi, Buddha or
Mahavir is unimportant in knowing the spirit of the principle of
non-violence. Rather what I mean is that one should first know what
the principle of non-violence is and why we should always act
according to that principle. It is true that to realize that
non-violence is a superior principle one needs to have a reference
point or a figure of inspiration. Gandhi's life will provide us that
reference and inspire us to follow the principle of non-violence. For
that one of course needs to know Gandhi and Gandhism and Buddha and
13. The Times of India, 9th September, 2009:
(c) Krishna M. Pathak 2010
Krishna M. Pathak, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
University of Heidelberg, Schulgasse 6
D - 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
E-mail: Krishna.Pathak@uni-heidelberg.de, firstname.lastname@example.org
III. 'TRUST THE MARXISTS' BY BURTON SANKERALLI
We can trust the Marxists to spoil a good philosophical debate. As
such sublime ideas are merely a superstructure standing on the base
of human misery. Put this way it makes a telling argument. And the
Enlightenment project is a stark example. Here is a supposed high
point of human intellectual achievement resting on a history, an
ongoing history, of unparalleled human barbarity. And I say this
without qualification or apology.
But does this mean that we do not engage the ideas philosophically?
That the entire philosophical enterprise be dismissed? And one senses
that Marx regarded philosophy with a certain contempt (that little
business of interpreting the world and all...). And so there is the
classic Marxist reductionism. The meaning of ideas is irrelevant and
must be dismissed. We must instead confront their use in serving
systems of oppression. The old sledgehammer approach to philosophical
This might be politely termed a hermeneutic of suspicion. Ideas are
not engaged on their own terms but as an ideological mask.
I propose a different approach.
Of course ideas do not come out of thin air. Ideas emerge out of
earthed existential tradition/ culture/ social-setting. The very
patterns of human livity. But more than this I argue that ideas are
essentially material. They are articulations of precisely that
material architecture that we term culture.
Hence when we so engage ideas in terms of their inherent meaning we
engage their very historical configuration. When we so strip down a
philosopher's position we expose the system he (or she) is batting
Now Marxists are correct in denying an understanding of history based
in idealist causation. Ideas do not cause history. Rather they are
inherent to that very patterned materialist field that is termed
history. To authentically engage and confront ideas is to engage and
confront the very system of oppression.
The point is that philosophy is not merely an ideological
superstructure for an underlying reality. Rather the interrogation of
philosophical systems in all their existential, that is to say
material, complexity gives us insight into the very condition of said
It does appear that Marxism following in the footsteps of Newtonian
mechanics itself is defined by an overly simplistic and naive view of
matter. Matter is not inherently inert or in some state of blind
motion subject to imposed rigid 'scientific' laws. Matter is an
architecture, it is patterned and constituted in a field of meaning.
This means it is always articulated 'idea-logically'.
It further seems that it often has been the case that it is
Westerners themselves who have had an acute grasp of the flaws of the
specifically modern architecture. A grasp that we the 'natives' who
have been on its receiving end have not always appreciated. Such
insight is evident in the thought of Heidegger and indeed Marx
himself. I have also found this to be the case with MacIntyre. But of
course these thinkers have their limitations.
As regards Marx I believe that the eagerness to embrace Marxist
analysis without an appreciation of its limited view of matter can
lead to oversimplified analyses, it can lead us to not engage and
confront the process of modern Western oppression in all of its
idea-logic aspects. And I repeat ideas are radical articulations of
matter itself. I dare suggest that this consistent failure on our
part has been one factor in the system keeping one step ahead of us.
But of course there is another reason for philosophical engagement,
namely that any system of ideas indicates both the architecture and
the possible architecture of world. So Aristotle's ethics articulates
the actuality and possibility of the ethical enterprise in the Greek
polis this in the very context of the structural oppression of
said city-state. An oppression of which Aristotelian ethics is not
merely an ideological superstructure but an oppression that inheres
in the ethical articulation itself. The same goes (in different ways
of course) for the wisdom of ancient Egypt, Christian theology,
Yoruba and Hindu mythology, the Enlightenment Project or Heidegger
and Germany before World War II.
The same issue confronts us as we propose a philosophical Project --
as we seek to articulate our ownmost material Idea -- in our own
space with all its own inherent contradictions. Contradictions of
violence and creativity (or in one word possibility) that inhere in
the Caribbean philosophical enterprise even as we engage/ confront/
Hence philosophical ideas always stand in such material
contradiction. Philosophizing always occurs in Eshu's realm of the
crossroads. And here we are to constitute a hermeneutic of engagement.
We will engage ideas.
(c) Burton Sankeralli 2009