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Heidegger, Gandhi, and the Paradoxical Search for a Metaphysics of Nonviolence

Mohandas Gandhi’s interpretation of Hinduism was key to his practice of nonviolence. His influence on Western thought is most often represented by Martin Luther King Jr.’s Christian appropriation of Gandhi to support the Civil Rights Movement. American philosopher, Gene Sharp, has written about Gandhi’s influence in terms of political strategies that do not need a metaphysical or religious foundation. This paper contends that Gandhi’s metaphysical foundation for his nonviolent philosophy and practice has striking parallels with the writings of Martin Heidegger. Through these similarities Gandhi’s ideas can be more clearly incorporated into Western, secular thought. Two examples include the paradox that a self-righteous “holding to truth” (satyagraha) itself may be, itself, a source of violence. It is precisely at this point of contradiction that both Gandhi and Heidegger use their respective metaphysics to argue for an active, nonviolent struggle with violence.

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