From Uday S. Mehta’s essay on Gandhi in this month’s Raritan

“…for Gandhi civility was a mode of individual comportment, which had the crucial feature of tying ethics to politics in a way that never allowed politics to assume an independence of purpose and instrumentality.  Civility referred to that kernel of what it meant to be human. It gestured to the ember in the midst of social and political life that had the potential of flaming into demands that exceeded the contours of the social and political by pointing to something beyond them. Civility referred to the metaphysical core of what it meant to be human; for that reason it could not be abstracted from the issue of death and self-sacrifice. Ultimately, for Gandhi civility embodied the ineradicable presence and challenge of the absolute in the midst of the everyday routines of life and struggle. This is what prevents the incorporation of the Gandhian account of ethics, politics, and protest into the narratives of European modernity created by Marx, Weber, Lenin and others– those stories of ineluctable rationalization and its accompanying demands for justice, spurred by a well-organized collectivity.”

- from “Gandhi and the Burden of Civility” by Uday S. Mehta in Raritan, volume XXXIII, no. 1, p. 38

Also, there’s a relevant quote from Gandhi in the essay:

“A satyagrahi was ever ready to endure suffering and ever lays down his life to demonstrate to the world the integrity of his purpose and the justice of his demands. His weapon was faith in God and he lived and worked in faith. In his faith, there was no room for killing or violence and none for untruth. It was the only weapon with which India could be rid of the bills…”

The absolute claim that there is no absolute truth supercedes the claims of absolute truth with a more absolute absoluteness. Insofar as the claim to have access to a metaphysical absolute is impossible to substantiate, the claim that there is no such truth is even more impossible to sustain.  However, the strength and courage that inures in the faithful require courage and effort, while the claim that there is no absolute truth is enervating and does not encourage resistance to exploitation or oppression.  Isn’t this fact, in and of itself, suggestive that truth-orientation has more to teach us than truthlessness?


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