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

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Gandhi’s Moral Agents

A conception of moral agency is needed to anchor the moral concepts invoked by M K Gandhi. Akeel Bilgrami’s work on Gandhi introduces two notions of moral agency: the moral exemplar and the unalienated individual. These concepts do not satisfy Gandhi’s idea of moral agency. First, the idea of moral exemplar relates insufficiently to Gandhi’s notion of moral truth that guides the moral exemplar. Second, the idea of an unalienated individual is underspecified as a Gandhian response to the problem of alienation. In contrast, Gandhi’s detached moral agent is guided by moral truth to both act as an exemplar and overcome alienation.


There is a growing theoretical interest in M K Gandhi’s moral and political ideas such as truth, self-rule, and non-violence. His ideas are mainly studied by historians and political theorists largely in the political context of the struggle for independence in India. As a result, Gandhi’s moral and political thoughts are often discussed in connection with his personal and political history, including the public images ascribed to him (Orwell 1949; Amin 1984, 1995; Guha 2013; Devji 2013). Thus, much of the prominent contemporary literature on his thought continues to be largely anecdotal, historical, and biographical in character (Goyal and Mukherji 2020).

However, there is some attempt to view Gandhi as a philo­sopher rather than a political figure (Bilgrami 2003; Taylor and Perry 2010). In parti­cular, Bilgrami suggests that Gandhi ought to be studied as a philosopher such that his thoughts are understood in abstraction from his life and political activism (Bilgrami 2003, 2011). This is because his ideas about very specific political strategies are integrated to the most abstract epistemological and metho­dological commitments. Bilgrami deploys Gandhi’s integrated framework to address various philosophical concerns, such as naturalism of values, defence of liberty and equality, and the problem of alienation (Bilgrami 2015, 2016, 2020). We will touch upon them as we proceed.

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Updated On : 26th Mar, 2022
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