Animal Liberation From A Gandhian Perspective: Political and Spiritual Freedom in The Purusharthas

In this article, I develop a Gandhian perspective on animal liberation. Indeed, I argue, against Gandhi himself, the traditional Hindu theory of the purusharthas, or goals of life, applies to non-human as well as human animals. In this respect, I adapt Parel’s reading of Gandhi as reinterpreting the purusharthas through the philosophy of non-violence. In this reinterpretation, Gandhi, regards political freedom (swaraj) as the means to spiritual freedom (moksha). Gandhi is already an animal liberationist in the sense of advocating liberation for animals from violence and exploitation by humans. However, he does not also embrace the political turn in animal ethics, asserting that domesticated animals are co-citizens of the mixed polity. I further reinterpret the purusharthas through Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence to embrace this political turn. This combines three forms of liberation: negative freedom from exploitation, positive freedom to be a political participant, and freedom as spiritual growth and self-development. Not only does my argument provide a novel Gandhian perspective on animal liberation. It also challenges the political turn in animal ethics to embrace Gandhi’s notion of spiritual liberation as a goal of life for the mixed, interspecies polity.


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