Gandhi and the Virtue of Non-Violence


Nicholas F. Gier, Department of Philosophy, University of
Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-3016 (

from Gandhi Marg 23:3 (October-December, 2001), pp.


Permission to link article given by Mahendra
Kumar, coeditor of Gandhi Marg


Note: Some endnotes may be incomplete or
missing, and the argument for nonviolence as an enabling virtue has been
rejected in the final version in The Virtue of Non-Violence: from Gautama
to Gandhi
(SUNY Press, 2004), chap. 9.


The following essay is the main chapter of a book manuscript
entitled "The Virtue of Non-Violence: from Gautama to Gandhi." The book attempts to
accomplish two principal goals: (1) to conceive of nonviolence
from the standpoint of virtue ethics; and (2) to give Gandhi’s philosophy a
Buddhist interpretation.  My intent is not to foreclose on the possibility of
a Hindu or Jain reading of Gandhi’s work; rather, I argue that there are some
distinct advantages in thinking of Gandhi as a Buddhist. 
Writing to a Burmese friend in
1919, Gandhi said that "when . . . I became acquainted with the teaching of
the Buddha, my eyes were opened to the limitless possibilities of
nonviolence"; and he also said that the "Buddha taught us to defy appearances
and trust in the final triumph of Truth and Love."[1] 
Although Gandhi’s neo-Vedantism is more compatible with Mahayana Buddhism, I
will propose that the ethics of nonviolence works better with a Pali Buddhist
view of the self and world.   This essay will focus on the first goal of
explicating a virtue theory of nonviolence.


My task is not to give a full scale defense of virtue ethics,
but I have appropriated the thoughts of the best virtue theorists, have added
my own insights, and have applied then to Gandhi=s
ethics.  Some of Gandhi=s
ideas cannot be forced into this theoretical framework, so that means that
Vedantist or theistic rule ethics are also options. Furthermore, Gandhi=s
commitment to the Indian ascetic tradition and to a Hindu dialectic of
extremes is not compatible with either the Buddhist Middle Way or the
moderation of classical virtue theory.  Hindus are sometimes prone to, as
Wendy Doniger describes it, to pursue a Doctrine of Golden Extremes, between
excessive eroticism at one end and excessive asceticism at the other.[2] 
The more contemporary Gandhians stress this aspect of Gandhi=s
philosophy the more difficult it will be to build an acceptable theory of
nonviolent political activism that all people can embrace.


The first section will defend the priority of virtues over
moral laws, demonstrating that, drawing on hackneyed phraseology, the virtues
are ultimately blind without the abstract ideals embodied in moral rules, but
these norms are empty without the particular achievements of the virtues.  The
second section will discuss the traditional connection between virility and
virtue, and, contrary to our first impressions, we will find that Gandhi
completely subverts patriarchy=s
bias on this issue. Gandhi speaks more of vows than virtues, so the third
section will analyze the distinction between vows and virtues.  The fourth
section will summarize Gandhi=s
vows and propose that they can be reinterpreted as enabling virtues.  The
fifth section deals with the Gandhian virtues, interpreting the unity of the
virtues by means of practical reason and focusing on truth, love, courage,
, and humility.  The final section explicates the distinction
between enabling and substantive virtues, joins Gandhi=s
principal vows with the virtues of self-control, patience, and courage, and
concludes that the virtue of nonviolence forms an alliance with these enabling



When one thinks of the question "Which came
first–moral rules or virtues?"
the obvious answer, I contend, is that virtues came first.  Moral imperatives
are abstractions from thousands of years of observing loyal, honest, patient,
just, and compassionate behavior, just as moral prohibitions have come from
equally ancient experiences with the vices.  There is good evidence to argue
that the expression of moral rules requires a spoken language and one could argue just
as persuasively that virtues manifested themselves in prelinguistic
human beings. For example, strong circumstantial evidence for compassion among
the Neanderthals can be joined with the hypothesis that their very high larynx
made it impossible to articulate the basic vowels.[3]
Michael Spangle and Kent Menzel state that "spoken language
transformed our species and was a major factor in forging the human world as
we know it."[4]
They also argue for the existence of an
Aacoustic trigger to
that gestural language obviously lacks.  While there is now a consensus that
gestures are integral to all natural languages (remarkably, even the blind
gesture when they speak), it is generally agreed that they do not express abstractions very well
at all.


It is even more clear that divine virtues precede divine law,
because God=s virtues
would remain even if God chose not to create a world.  The Pauline view that
the Law was created only to manifest human sin further proves its contingency
and confirms the idea of a "lawless"
God before creation. For medieval nominalism the moral law characterizes what
God has ordained (potentia ordinata) for a sinful world, and it is not
part of God=s
potentia absoluta
.  Even though Aquinas maintains that there is practical
as well as theoretical reason in GodBspecifically
God would know the rule that good always excludes evilBthis
argument is open to serious objections.  Furthermore, Gandhi speaks of God=s
laws frequently and if he believes those laws are part of the nature of God,
then a Gandhian virtue ethics is not possible.


Philosopher Leslie Stephen describes virtue ethics as follows:
"Morality is internal.  The moral law. . . has to be expressed in the form,
‘be this,’ not in the form  ‘do this.’ . . . The true moral law says ‘hate
not,’ instead of ‘kill not.’ . . . The only mode of stating the moral law must
be as a rule of character."[5] 
In other words, people of good character and virtue require no reminder of
what the rules are or what their duty is.  For John Stuart Mill the application of internal sanctions had much more moral value than the
imposition of external sanctions, those that most often used by parents and
societies to control human behavior. Mill=s
argument is persuasive: a society living under self-imposed vows would require
few police, judges, and prisons thereby maximizing utility.  Generally
speaking, the sanctions for virtue ethics are internal and self-regulating,
whereas the sanctions for rule ethics, especially in its religious form, are
external.  (Kant joins virtue ethics in favoring internal sanctions.)  For the
Greeks, the Roman Stoics, Buddhists, and the Confucians, virtue was its own
reward, but for most Christians, the incentive for good deeds is eternal life
in heaven, with eternal damnation for those who do not follow the rules.


One of the problems with rule ethics is applying the rules to
specific cases.  The imperatives of virtue ethics–be patient, be kind, be
generous, be compassionate, be courageous–better equip an individual to
negotiate the obstacles of the moral life.  The virtue ethics approach is not
to follow a set of abstract rules, but to develop an ensemble of behaviors,
dispositions, and qualities that lead to human excellence and the good life. 
Virtue ethics may not have pat answers to specific cases–no ethical theory
could offer this–but it does prepare the moral agent for adaptation,
innovation, and self-discovery.  As Martha Nussbaum states:
AThe good agent must
therefore cultivate the ability to perceive and correctly describe his or her
situation finely and truly, including in this perceptual grasp even those
features of the situation that are not covered under the existing rule.@[6]


Annette Baier=s
analysis of trust is a good example of the specific adaptability of the
Rule based ethics and its contractarian social and political arrangements give
the false impression that the essence of the moral life consists of conforming
to general rules.  Obeying rules can be made specific in a legal contract, but
it would of course be impossible to cover the exigencies of our lives with
such formal arrangements.  It is the virtue of trust that is basic to human
interactions and only a few of the myriad promises necessary for the smooth
running of human life could ever be spelled out in contract form.  It would be
not only be absurd but also a great insult to plumbers (Baier=s
hilarious example) to Ahaving
it in writing@ that
they promise not to plant explosives in the pipes of the houses they visit. 
Again it is the virtues that come first and they are the tools the do the work
of the moral life.  As Martha Nussbaum so aptly states:
AA good rule is a good
summary of wise particular choices and not a court of last resort. Like rules
in medicine and in navigation, ethical rules should be held open to
modification in the light of new circumstances@[8]


Interestingly enough, some virtuous behavior is not always
required in cases that might call for it, while confirmation to rules demands
no exceptions.  For example, generous people do not lose their virtue if they
do not give to all charities as a
Arule to give@
might command or certainly what Peter Singer requires for maximum world-wide
utility.  Let us imagine a burning house where a hedonic calculator is
indicating that it is too dangerous to go in and save the children inside. 
While all utilitarians would be bound by the calculus and all Kantians would
be bound by the rule that it is always irrational to go beyond one=s
duty, virtue theory would allow people to act on their own personal mean
between cowardice and foolhardiness. Turning to yet another virtue, it is
clear that even the virtue of justice always amounts to more than simply
conforming to the strict letter of the law.  The craft excellence of judicial
review, as well as daily extralegal decisions, always lead to unique,
distinctive, and noncompulsory results.


Another way to demonstrate the superiority of virtues over
rules is to think of the life of the consummate couch potato. (This is very apt,
as I come from a state that is famous for its potatoes.)  He is a  man
who essentially lives and works on his couch.  His job is entering data via
modem attached to his computer.  It does not take much thinking to enter the
data, so he is able to view his favorite TV shows all the time.  His
refrigerator and microwave, of course, are handy for snacks, drinks, and
frozen dinners.  Our sofa slug is also a very religious person.  He tunes into
to his favorite TV preachers on Sunday morning and sends in his tithes by
mail.  Finally, let us say that this man has never broken a law or committed
sin in his life.  According to Aristotle, such a life lacks virtually
everything that counts as human excellence; and for Confucius, this man
remains very much an uncut gem.  Our couch potato obeys all moral laws, but he
does not aspire to cultivate the virtues of the good life.  According to rule
ethics and traditional religion, however, this man is fully moral, and,
assuming divine favor, saved as well.   Bernard Mayo clearly sees the
implications of this example: "People might well have no moral qualities
all except the possession of principles and the will (and capacity) to act
This appears to be a severe indictment for any rule-based ethics.

As we have seen, the sanctions of a rule-based ethics, in its
religious form, are primarily external: rewards for those who do good and
punishment for those who do evil.  This may lead to a mere moralism rather
than a genuine morality based on internal sanctions and the view that virtue
is its own reward.  Most people would agree that the latter is a more
admirable form of ethical motivation, and we have seen that internal sanctions
maximize utility. Most traditional religious ethics teaches us the wrong
reasons to be moral.  We should become moral so as to become a better person
and be an example to others, rather than for the purely selfish reasons of avoiding punishment.  Moral
action should flow naturally from our selves; we
should not have to be bribed to be moral.  Justice will not be achieved by
following rules, it will only be attained, as Plato, Confucius, the Buddha,
and Gandhi envisioned, by people with balanced and harmonious souls and the
particular just acts that comes from such harmony.

Another concern about duty ethics is the problem of legalism. 
True morality should be the foundation of law, and the virtues, as prior to
law, would then serve as a guide and check to any law.   Humans acted
courageously, justly, beneficently before they laid down rules regulating
human behavior.  A rule-based ethics reverses this order.  It speaks of law,
usually divine law, first, and moral rules come directly from the mind and
mouth of the lawgiver.  But true morality must always serve as a check for the
possibility of unjust laws.  If law and morality are the same, then this
crucial idea of morality as the guardian of just law is undermined.  For
example, most of my students are able to condemn Zeus and other Greek gods as
immoral deities because of the basic intuition, central to virtue ethics, that
virtue precedes law.  The king, earthly or heavenly, is not always right,
we must always guard against the false identity of the legislator and the
source of the Good.

Yet another problem is the issue is freedom.  For Kant a duty
is whatever one is forced to do according to the moral law, and the moral will
lives by the dictates of reason.  This does not sound like freedom at all.  If
the will is truly free, it must be free from reason as well. (Although virtue
theory steers clear of all dichotomies, it is clear that it would be a form of
moral voluntarism.) For Kant the consistently autonomous person would be one
who can no longer choose the wrong and must always choose the right.  (This
seems to be the implication in Platonic ethics as well.)  Virtue ethics,
however, is free from these conundrums of moral rationalism. 

For Aristotle the virtues are dispositions that we freely
choose to develop, and everyday we have to fine tune the moral means that are
relative to us and our situations.  (It is true that after a short while the
virtues become habits [ethike], but we are still fully responsible for
actions that proceed from them.)  Rule morality recognizes no middle way
no variation on an absolute right.  Virtue ethics always aims at a personal
mean that is a creative choice for each individual.  Such an approach engages
the imagination and personalizes and intensifies moral responsibility.  While
there can be no process of self-discovery in duty ethics, virtue ethics
requires us to confront a growing, dynamic self in ever changing conditions. 
Here again is the reason for the dynamic Buddhist self as opposed to the
universal static self of Hinduism and Stoicism.



In the ancient world virtue was thoroughly gendered.  There was
a strong connection between self-mastery, freedom, and virility.   (The Latin
virtus stems from vir meaning
so that Roman virtue meant Aexcellence
of manly qualities.@
Aristotle=s conception
of woman as an ill formed and irrational man was almost universally accepted. 
Lacking reason the woman could not instill reason in those things without it,
which of course the virtuous man could.  (This meant that the virtuous man
could control his sexual appetites, but women in general could not.) 
Greco-Roman ethics was, according to Foucault, an
Aethics of men made
for men, . . . a structure of virility that related oneself to oneself.@10

Foucault also demonstrates that there was a close alliance
among sexual virility, ethical virility, and social virility. The social
hierarchy of virility and mastery produced interesting anomalies, such as the
wife of the house being more masculine than the male slaves. Here the virtuous
wife has these qualities only because she has imitated male self-mastery. 
Foucault gives the example of Ischomachus=
wife in Zenophon=s
who displays
masculine understanding@
and is so well trained by her husband that she, like Plutarch=s
barking dog, need hear his commands only once.11
Fourth Maccabees, a Hellenistic Jewish text, portrays the brave mother
of seven boys as more masculine than Antiochus Epiphanes, the tyrant who
tortures her sons to death.[12] 

In both the Chinese and Indian traditions there is an intimate
relationship between virtue and male power, although the Daodejing is
one text that generally subverts male dominance.  In a famous passage Mencius
connects the power of qi energy with the virtue of courage. The
retention and concentration of qi is a central focus of the Chinese
marital arts and spiritual discipline in general. In Asia there is a near
universal dictum that the one who preserves his semen is the one to increases
his spiritual power.  In some Asian traditions it is thought that a man loses
a little of his soul every time he ejaculates.

Interestingly enough, the only Hindu god who is allowed to be
depicted with muscles is the celibate Hanuman, the patron god of wrestlers. 
Hanuman always preserves his tejas, the power of the male gods.  (Virya,
linked to the Latin virtus, is another Sanskrit word for male power,
with its meanings of manliness, heroism, and male seed.)  Tejas is not
only an attribute of the gods and antigods (asuras), but it is also
found in the Manus, sages, priests, kings, and ordinary men. The priest "takes
on a physical form of brilliant energy (tejas) and attains the supreme
condition . . . A; the
king is "made from particles of these lords and gods, therefore he surpasses
all living beings in brilliant energy (tejas)."[13] 
Tejas ebbs and flows, as can be seen in the man who breaks a vow of
chastity, sheds his semen, and loses his tejas back to the gods. Also
significant is the case of the man who loses his tejas by having sex
with a menstruating woman, and the priest who loses his vitality by looking at
a woman "putting on her eye make-up, rubbing oil on herself, undressed, or
giving birth.[14] 
Even in their misogyny the author(s) of the Laws of Manu give a
back-handed compliment to the power of woman.

Initially one=s
impression of Gandhi is that he conforms to this traditional fusion of virtue
and virility.  In fact, commentators have said that one of Gandhi=s
greatest achievements was the he destroyed the Orientialist prejudice that the
West was masculine and the East was feminineBsummed
up aptly in John Strachey’s description of the Bengalis="extraordinary effeminancy.@[15]
Much of Gandhi=s
rhetoric has strong martial overtones: such as
Anonviolent warfare@
waged with the Amasculine
virtues@; and
"nonviolence. . . does not mean cowardice. It means the spirit of manliness in
its perfection."[16]
Gandhi also follows the traditional Hindu belief that the life force with the
seminal fluid: AAll
power comes from the preservation and sublimation of the vitality that is
responsible for the creation of life. . . Perfectly controlled thought is
itself power of the highest potency and becomes self-acting. . . Such power is
impossible in one who dissipates his energy in any way whatsoever.@[17]

The young Gandhi was very much attracted to the manly virtue of
the British and he was initially convinced of the widely held view that
meat-eating was essential for nourishing a man=s
vital energies.  His experiments with meat eating were a disaster and the
recovery of his Hindu heritage (thanks to the theosophists in London) and his
dramatic reconversion to vegetarianism were major turning points in his life. 
As a result, a very different way of relating virtue to gender gradually arose
in his thinking.  As he reflected back on his childhood, the power of
"self-suffering," modeled perfectly in his devout mother, moved to the center
of his struggle to find an acceptable philosophy of political engagement.
Transgressions in Gandhi=s
home were dealt with by self-punishment, which became the model of Gandhi=s
insistence on performing others=
penance for them. 

What the young Gandhi feared most at home was his father’s
self-suffering not his punishment, and the mature Gandhi had considerable
success in applying this insight against the British. As the Rudolphs have
shown, Gandhi discovered the connection between self-suffering and courage in
his South Africa campaigns.  The virtues of patience, self-control, and
courage (we will later define these as
were absolutely essential to defeat the temptation to retaliate and respond
with violence.  Gandhi concluded that aggressive and retaliatory courage
demonstrated a complete lack of self-control; it actually shows impotence
rather than maniless. Satyagrahis must purge themselves of ill-will and their
goal must be the bring out the goodness in their opponents.

Let us now move to the crux of the issues of self-suffering,
courage, power, and nonviolence. Gandhi made it clear that each of these
virtues were found most often in women. The textual and experiential evidence
is quite persuasive:  "Has she not great intuition, is she not more
self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater
In 1936 he declared that ahimsa is embodied in the woman: she is "weak
in striking. . . strong in suffering."[19]
The women around Gandhi were amazed about how comfortable they felt in his
presence and how much of a woman he had become to them.  (AI
hope you have not missed the woman in me," he once said.)[20]
His grandniece Manu considered Gandhi to be her new mother and simply could
not understand all the controversy surrounding their sleeping with one another.

Gandhi once said that he wanted to convert the woman=s
capacity for Aself-sacrifice
and suffering into Shakti-power."[21] 
The Sanskrit shakti is the power of the Hindu Goddess and, as opposed
to tejas, is a necessary attribute that the Goddess shares with
everything in the universe. The Hindu Goddess theology essentially breaks the
vicious cycle of the Vedic maxim, explained superbly by Brian K. Smith,[22]
that one gains power only at another’s expense.  The Vedic power game, as with
most patriarchal concepts of power, is a zero-sum game.  Those who control the
sacrifice, either by hook or by crook (with the gods dominating in the "crook"
department), control tejas.  The result is constant battles between
gods and antigods, gods and ascetics, priests and kings. Goddess theology is
radically different: shakti is a power that all beings have by virtue
of their very existence.  Ontologically speaking, tejas is a quality
(seen most clearly in its meaning as fire as one of the primary elements of
the basic substance [bhuta]) while shakti is the basic
substance; or, more accurately, the basic process because Goddess philosophy
is clearly more compatible with process, rather than substance, metaphysics.

The Goddess scriptures were written by men and her sacred sites
were controlled by male priests, so it should not be surprising that she does
not always speak with a woman=s
voice.  In North India a husband must pay for fourteen recitations of the
, the most famous Goddess scripture, in order to control an
unruly wife, but he only has to pay for twelve recitations to defeat an enemy.[23]
A recitation of the same text may also protect a Hindu male’s genitals and
semen and help him get a good wife.   Every year, at the beginning of the
warring season, Hindu kings sacrificed thousands of animals to the Goddess so
that their battles would go well.  Mythologically, this translated into the
Goddess winning the great victories over the enemies of the Dharma with
incredible acts of violence and destruction.
At the 1999 Durga festival in
Calcutta, clay statues brave Indian soliders were added to the traditional
neighborhood altars to demonstrate how the Goddess made their victory in
Kargil possible.

Significantly, Gandhi embraces Goddess theology in a manner
more consistent than these traditional views. The most dramatic demonstration
of Shakti power was Gandhi=s
pacification of the Pathan warriors, whom Kipling praised as the notable
exception to the cowardly effeminancy of the Indian people.
ABrave they are as a
matter of course,@
said Gandhi,  A[and]
to kill and get killed is an ordinary thing in their eyes, and if they are
angry with anyone, they will thrash him and sometimes even kill him.@[24]
Ironically, the Pathan=s
disposition to anger and uncontrolled retaliation describes the masculine
version of the Goddess=s
action, while Gandhi unarmed moral courage in front of them is more consistent
with the shakti view of shared power. Indeed, Gandhi=s
Goddess does not decapitate nor does she impale; rather, she disarms and
attempts to reconcile warring peoples.  Therefore, when Gandhi states that
"all power comes from the preservation and sublimation of the vitality that is
responsible for the creation of life@[25]
he must be referring to shakti not tejas.



Even though Gandhi does speak of the virtues and even
nonviolence as one, my attempt to make Gandhi a virtue ethicist is complicated
by the fact that Gandhi emphasized vows more than virtues.  The fact that
person has to make a vow to discourage certain behavior clearly indicates that
this person is not naturally inclined to the virtuous action that counters the
vice.  Even if this person is successful in her vow, she may still be virtuous
only, as I say, under duress–the pressures of temptation to lapse from the
vow.  Gandhi believed that the greatest human failing is was weakness of the
will, and the taking of vows is the best cure for akrasia. In Aristotle=s
terms the person who takes a vow is an akrates, literally one without
the will overcome temptation.  The enkrates is one who has sufficient
will to resist but has not formed the habit of living naturally in the mean of
the virtue in question.   Aristotle calls the latter a sophron, one
who, as Confucius said of himself at the age of seventy:
AI could give my
heart-mind free rein without overstepping the boundaries@
(Analects 2.4).

Let us illustrate this distinction with the following story. 
Jack and Jill work as temporary tellers at a bank.  The bank has only one
permanent teller position open, and either Jack or Jill will be chosen for the
job after a probationary period.  As soon as he is on the job, Jack finds that
he has strong temptations to embezzle funds from this new employers.  He finds
these temptations so troubling that he decides to take a solemn vow not to
follow through with these intentions.  The vow works and Jack makes it through
the probationary without succumbing. Meanwhile at the other station, Jill goes
through her daily routine not once thinking of stealing funds.

Our story obviously makes Jack the enkrates and Jill the
sophron. (He would be an akrates without the vow.) First, note
how absurd it would be for anyone to suggest that Jill needs to take the vow
that Jack has taken.  Second, both Jack and Jill are deserving of praise, but
note that while we would commend Jill for her virtue, we can praise Jack only
for his will power to resist temptation.  We may believe that Jack=s
action has moral content, and some may even propose that Jack deserves higher
praise.  (In fact, Immanuel Kant supports this view because we know for sure
that Jack is being honest out of duty and not just mere inclination, while
Jill=s easy virtue
obscures her commitment to duty.)  But I contend that more dramatic examples
of duress virtue–the person who has strong urges to murder every person that
she meets but always manages to restrain herself; or the man who wants to rape
every woman he meets but desistsBdemonstrates
that there may be no moral value to Jack=s
heroic efforts. Third, let us say, just for the sake forcing the argument,
that the bank managers somehow learn of Jack=s
temptations.  (He frequently mutters to himself and pounds himself on the
forehead like Gandhi used to do.) It is clear that bank managers will
obviously not be able to trust Jack and that they will offer the job to Jill
without hesitation.

The point of the argument thus far is to suggest that an ethics
of virtues and a morality of vows are conceptually divergent and may also
assume significantly different views of human nature and the nature of evil. 
It has been said that Aristotle did not fully appreciate the depth and extent
of human evil.  While he can envision a person with insufficient will to
follow the mean, he cannot conceive of a person who deliberately wills evil and certainly not one who would
actually take pleasure in it.  It is
significant that for Aristotle the only one
Awith will@
(the literal meaning of enkrates) is the person who stays in the mean
under duress not the person with the will to deliberately do evil.  Aristotle
does admit that persistent misfortunate (Oedipus is a good example) can
destroy the conditions for personal happiness. The Stoics, however, read the
external world as one of insurmountable misery and the Christian view of
original sin further undermined the optimism and perfectionism of the
classical Greeks.

The Stoics=
contribution to virtue ethics is considerable, but ironically they were
responsible for its eventual demise.  As we have seen, the Stoics reaffirmed
the concept of virtues as skills and the fact that they are whole the entire
time they are expressed.  However, their devaluation of the affective
dimensions of the human soul led to a position where virtue was an internal
process of conformation to cosmic reason and its laws. The Stoic withdrawal
from the world and from the body led to a rejection of the empirical ego in
favor of a universal self, one, as Epictetus said, who never sleeps, is never
deceived, and always knows the good. The Stoics then set the stage for the
full decline of virtue ethics in Christian philosophy. There is no good except
obedience to law, whether it be given by reason or God, whether it be by
divine command or out of the divine nature.  Furthermore, the Stoic view that
success is not necessary for virtue leads, ironically, from Augustine to Kant,
to the view that the virtues are not necessary for morality at all.  Only
Thomas Aquinas, under Aristotle=s
profound influence, resisted this destruction of the classical virtue

emphasis on original sin and the omnipotence of God led him to reject the
Greek view that we can develop the virtues on our own power.  The dual
emphasis on sin and omnipotence also results in a paradoxical position on the
resolution of evil.  For the Greeks, those who experience great misfortune had
no recourse except to endure it, and in Oedipus at Colonus the hero,
comforted by his equally brave daughters, accepts his fate with grace and
equanimity.  For the Christian, however, the extent and depth of evil is much
greater and punishment for sin is infinite torment. Some are surprised to
learn that even Kant believed in radical evil, the original sin against the
moral law that produces "infinite guilt." As Kant states: "It would seem to
follow, then, that because of this infinite guilt all mankind must look
forward to endless punishment and exclusion from the Kingdom of God."[26]
On the bright side, the promise of God=s
grace offers final and complete relief from all misfortune and suffering.  For
the Greeks, the stakes are lower but complete reconciliation is impossible;
for the Christians the stakes are much higher but for the sincere person a
ready solution is right at hand.  As Christine MacKinnon states:
AThe problem for the
agent who disobeys God is that the stakes are so high: the fate of his soul
must be the most important thing the agent is to consider when he contemplates
his welfare.@[27]

position also resulted in a distinctively European focus on the will and its alleged freedom,
a view of the will that one does not find in ancient
philosophy either Asian or European.  (I qualify this freedom because 
Augustine’s God empowers those who turn away from him just as he empowers
those to turn to him in grace.)  This focus on the will and sin has subtly
transformed our intuitions about the enkrates and the sophron.
It culminates in Kant=s
position that the enkrates is the only one that we know is conforming
to moral law and the only one whose action has moral worth.  The emphasis on
sin has led us to suspect people like Jill; indeed, for people who love to
speak of such things, it is the Devil who prefers to disguise himself as a
person easy virtue and elegant manners.  For Christians committed to original
sin the sophron must either be an illusion, or at least secretly bad,
at worst Satan in disguise, or at best the incarnation of God himself.  In
such a view perfection of this sort is not of this world.

Returning now to Gandhi, it appears that the taking of vows is
necessarily connected to rule ethics rather than virtue ethics.  A vow can be
best seen as the self-enforcement of a rule. Gandhi is definitely more like
Kant than Aristotle if the Rudolphs are correct is saying that he held that
"only self-control in the midst of temptation was worthy."[28]
Was Gandhi=s view of
human nature so negative that he concluded that vows rather than the free
development of virtues was the only option for humankind?  This, I submit, is
not Gandhi=s view. 
His neo-Vedantist view of the self and his negative views of the body and the
passions, however, align him very closely with the Stoics.  As one of my
bright ethics students once said,
ADuress virtue is the
father of natural virtue,@
so we might think of Gandhi=s
vows as instruments to train satyagrahis to develop the virtues necessary for
world peace.  One could envision, especially within the context of Hindu
perfectionism, the Gandhian gradually moving from the enkrates state to
that of the sophron.  Theoretically, however, the neo-Vedantist
position requires that we view the Atman as already morally perfect, so this
would be a "recovery" rather than a "developmental" view of the virtues.  I
personally support the latter and that is why I propose the Gandhi=s
ethics of nonviolence be reformulated along Pali Buddhist lines, for most
Mahayana Buddhist schools have reinstated the Higher Self of Vedanta.



Returning to the proposal that Gandhi=s
vows could turn into virtues that people could enjoy, a critic might raise an
obvious objection.  Why did the Mahatma himself never make this transition
why did he have to struggle with temptation all his life, even to the point of
frequently striking out against himself for his failings?  His closest associates uniformly
attest to frequent outbursts of anger.  Here is one of
Manu=s observations:
AWhile he was pouring
out his soul like this [objecting to good wool used as garlands], he looked
the very picture of a volcano in eruption.@[29]
This is not an image of Aristotle=s
sophron.  Before 1906, when he took the first the vow of
, he admitted that he was an akrates, one who not only
lacked the will to deny himself the pleasures of sexual intercourse but also
one who had insufficient faith in the grace of God.[30]
In 1939 he spoke of evil as a real force in the world and admitted that he had
much of it in him.[31]
Here is strong evidence that Gandhi cannot join Confucius, the Buddha, or
Aristotle in a humanistic developmental virtue ethics.
With their emphasis on evil and
divine grace, the passages above are strong support for a Christian rule and
duty ethics.

Gandhi believes that vows
Acan be taken only on
points of universally recognized principles,@[32]
and they are taken with the higher self as witness and the lower self and its
desires as the object of control.  Typically, Gandhi moves from Vedantist
monism to personal theism with no hesitation. God is the perfect model of
inflexible resolve, because, as Gandhi explains,
AGod is the very image
of the vow.  God would cease to be God if He swerved from His own laws even by
a hair=s breadth.@[33]
Gandhi, according to Suman Khanna, believed a vow to be a
Asacred commitment to
God@ and that
Abreaking a vow is
tantamount to a breach of faith with God on the one hand, and being untruthful
to oneself on the other.@[34]
Taking a vow is a way of grabbing hold of the Good=God and not letting it go.

The Sanskrit word for vow is vrata and its earliest use
in the Rigveda is linked to divine will or command.[35] 
For Khanna a vow is an internal sanction: a
Acommitment to an
injunction voluntarily imposed one oneself.@[36]  
For Gandhi a vow means having
unflinching determination [that] helps us against temptation,@[37]
so vow taking for him appears to be a form of duress virtue. It is a way of
storming the fortress of virtue and overcoming all odds and succeeding.
Presumably it is the only possible way to coerce yourself along the way of
moral perfection.  Brahmacharya does not become the effortless
disposition required by the sophron; rather,
Ait is like walking on
the sword=s edge, and
I see every moment the necessity for eternal vigilance.@[38]
(Here again is the Hindu dramatic vision of extremes rather than calm Buddhist
Middle Way.) While in South Africa he convinced himself that he could maintain
his vows with Ano
effort@ by simply
holding to his diet of fruit and nuts, although he did find that adding milk
made the vow difficult again.  But these suggestions that humans on their own
power can consummate their vow are undermined by the strong assertion that
is Aimpossible
to attain by mere human effort.@[39]

language is ambiguous and not always consistent, so it is always difficult to
determine whether this is a Stoic-Kantian model or a traditional Christian
one, in which a transcendent God is directing the moral life.  The Christian
view is seen in Gandhi=s
strong hints that divine grace is necessary:
AWin divine grace for
us in good time, and all artificial tastes will then disappear with the
realization of the Highest.@[40]
The Vedantist Gandhi would of course follow the Stoics and Kant, with Atman as
the immanent divinity giving itself (=gracing itself) the same cosmic laws
that others in tune with their higher selves would do.  When we read that "the
straight way to cultivate brahamacharya is the Ramanama [repeating the name of
the god Rama]"; or that the initial vow of 1906 was successful only
Awith faith in the
sustaining power of God,@[41]
then the theistic perspective appears to dominate.

Before we analyze Gandhi=s
principal vows, we should discuss the additional vows that Gandhi added,
consistent with his contextual pragmatism, for 20th Century India. 
The addition of these vows can be seen as the direct result of Gandhi=s
experiments in truth: they are, as he says,
Adirectly deducible
from Truth.@[42]
Furthermore, each them stands in considerable conflict with traditional Hindu
dharma.  The phrase
from Truth@ implies
logical deduction and a necessary relation between premisses and conclusions. 
We have seen, however, that Gandhi=s
experiments in truth is thoroughly empirical and, in addition, as
Athey are enjoined by
the present age,@ it
is clear that they are fully contingent.  Indeed, if the socioeconomic
conditions that caused the need for these addition vows change, then the vows
would no longer be necessary. Therefore, we can establish a distinction
between basic and necessary vows, such as brahmacharya, based as they
are on certain facts of human nature that will not change, and contingent vows
determined of the conditions of the
Apresent age.@

First and foremost among the contingent vows is Gandhi=s
demand that all Indians commit themselves to the elimination of untouchability. 
Although many contemporary Indians still have great difficulty with this
imperative, the central government has implemented, not of course without
protest and controversial, a quota system for the scheduled castes, more
generally known today as the Dalits.  The second vow of bread labor also
conflicts with traditional dharma in that it requires all people
regardless of caste/class to involve themselves in the dignity producing activity of physical labor.  Indeed, Gandhi recommends that every person
commit herself/himself regularly to the lowest menial labor as a gesture to
those who have done these jobs for centuries.  (Gandhi himself went one step
further and prayed that he be reborn an untouchable.)  The third vow of
sarvadharma samabh~va
extends the elimination of caste distinction to the tolerance of all
religious faiths.  The conceptual similarity is deeper at the practical level:
Gandhi proposed that we not merely tolerate other religions but actually
attempt to step into their precepts and their forms of life.

The fourth and final vow for the present age is the vrata
of swadeshi, which is best translated as
and is expressed personally and socially in a life of communal
self-sufficiency.  In the context of Vedantist philosophy, self-realization is
the discovery of the Atman common to all people, so that the traditional
concept of autonomy is eliminated in the vow
Aof selfless service.
. . and the purest ahimsa, i.e., love.@[43]
Gandhi appears to equivocate on the contingent nature of swadeshi when
he states that it Astands
for the final emancipation of the soul from her earthly bondage.@[44] 
This not only implies a necessary connection to human nature (thus making it a
basic vow), but the Vedantist overtones make this move highly problematic for
the social dimensions of swadeshi and the fully embodied self that this
vow requires. 

These fundamental problems are occasion to reaffirm a basic
thesis of this book: a Buddhist relational self is much better suited to
in that it prevents the loss of personal identity that all forms
of Vedanta imply (and that Advaita Vedanta asserts) and fully situates the
self in the body and society.  For example, it is hard to understand how
has any meaning if the individual self is ultimately unreal.  This
self-confidence, Gandhi claims, is necessary for courage, a virtue that is
intelligible only on the basis of personal integrity and agency.  To say that
Atman is fearless, when this entity has, strictly speaking, no qualities, is
to say nothing at all.  Furthermore, a Buddhist interpretation would bring
Gandhi=s ethics back
from the extremes that his vows tend to take him and encourages the
contemporary Gandhian to follow the Middle Way.

Returning to the basic vows, brahmacharya is the supreme
vrata that essentially includes all the others.  It literally means
Adwelling in Truth=God
and Nirmal Kumar Bose explains that it is
Aconduct that puts one
in touch with God.@[46] 
Generally taken to be a vow of chastity, Gandhi insists that it is much
broader than that:

[chastity] is impossible without proper control over all the
senses.  They are all interdependent. Mind on the lower plane is included in
the senses. Without control over the mind, mere physical control, even if it
can be attained for a time, is of little or no use.[47]

Control of the
mind is obtained by taking the vow and initiating willful power over the
senses.  The goal of brahmacharya is nothing less than complete control
of  Athought, word,
and deed.@[48] 
In his Autobiography Gandhi claims that satyagraha would not
have been possible without first succeeding in this supreme vow.

Gandhi offers a provocative connection between brahmacharya
and nonviolence when he proposes that
Alying naked with a
naked member of the opposite sex is the ultimate test for not doing violence
to another.@[49]
The axiom appears to be that if you can overcome the temptations of sex, then
you will also overcome the temptation to do violence and to retaliate.  It is
also an expression of great courage, sufficient to withstand the criticism of
those who objected to such a risky experiment. When it comes to sexual
temptations, the isolated ascetic, according to Gandhi, does not fully trust
himself.  He is actually a coward if he does put his self-control to the
ultimate test.

Interestingly enough, Gandhi adds control of the palate (asvada)
to the traditional list of Hindu vows. Its literal meaning is not to eat
merely for the taste of food.  Gandhi firmly believes that food should sustain
the body not please the palate.  It is clear that this amounts to more than
Aristotle=s mean
between gluttony and fasting.  It also raises the issue about Gandhi=s
own fasting and perhaps yet another difference between vows and virtues. 
Vows, at least in Gandhian practice, tends to the extreme whereas classical
virtue theory sought the mean in all actions. Aristotle, Confucius, and the
Buddha would all agree that Gandhi=s
fasts unto death would constitute a vice and not a virtue. (It is significant
that Aquinas also argued that fasting was a vice.)[50]
One could contend that such fasts do in fact violate asvada insofar as
its positive implication is that food is required for human nourishment. 
Gandhi actually sounds very Aristotelian, even Buddhist, when he proposed that
we must always be mindful and adjust our food intake according to our own
bodily needs.[51] 
(In terms of our discussion of experiments in truth, we could say that to eat
more than we need is to be untruthfulBin
the strict factual sense that our bodies do not need the extra calories.) The
body must therefore be kept fit for spiritual service.  This positive
imperative of asvada is therefore at odds with a political fast unto
death in which the constant worry of course was Gandhi=s

With regard to the vows of asteya (nonstealing) and nonpossesion (aparigraha) Gandhi proposed
an experiment in truth that
tested the full implications of these vows.  (The meaning of truth most appropriate for these two vows is the Greek sense of nonconcealment [aletheia]). 
Gandhi=s special way
to test his own and any possible thief=s
commitment to asteya was to leave all possessions in the full light of
day.  (In his controversial tests of brahmacharya he also insisted on
open sleeping arrangements to demonstrate that his bed partners were not his
sexual possessions. (This seems to imply that the veiling of women is a major
violation of asteya.) Not concealing your possessions means that you
confuse potential thieves in a way that can best help them overcome their
temptations.  They would also be morally disarmed by your lack of concern for
your possessions and could very well serve as a way of shaming them to realize
their own extreme possessiveness.  In fact, it seems to be a rule that the
more people possess the more they are forced to conceal and to secureBsometimes
a great cost and inconvenience to themselves. Gandhi believes that to look
with envy at the possessions of another is to violate asetya, and even
the one who fasts sins if he casts a desirous eye at any food.[52] 
Gandhi makes the vow of nonpossession so comprehensive that he concludes that
Aeveryone of us is
consciously or unconsciously more or less guilty of theft.@[53] 
Again Gandhi=s ethics
of vows tends to the extreme rather than the mean.  Even the most accomplished
(=spiritual) fasters hallunicate about food, so Gandhi appears to be in strict
agreement with the Yoga-sutras which requires that one not only control
all conscious desires but also unconscious ones as well.

The fifth and final vow is fearlessness (abhaya) and the
fact that this vrata is related to the virtue of courage allows us to
make a transition from vows to virtues; or to anticipate our goal more
precisely–to reinterpret the vows as enabling virtues later in this chapter. 
Except for brahmacharya, each of the vows is expressed with the
Indo-European Aa@
privative: no stealing, no possession, and no fear.  This form of expression
intensifies the notion of extremes in Gandhi=s
ethics of vows.  For Aristotle, having no fear could be foolhardy and
dangerous and would not always be what right reason (phronesis)
requires.  Suman Khanna, however, argues that Gandhi believes that the virtue
(not vow) of humility is a precondition for all the vows.  Proper humility
prevents foolhardiness because the humble person does not overestimate
resources of courage.@[54] 
We shall follow Khanna=s
constructive proposal in the next section where will discuss Gandhi=s
virtues.  Before we do so, there is one issue that requires attention.  Gandhi
claims that abhaya Aconnotes
freedom from all external fear@[55]
and the key to this freedom is to distinguish between our true spiritual
natures and our bodies.  The reader should not be surprised that I encourage
contemporary Gandhians to reject this advise and embrace a fully embodied self
that an ethics of nonviolence and political engagement requires.



The evidence for a Gandhian virtue ethics is considerable. 
Central passages are the following:   

Education, character and religion should be regarded as
convertible terms.  There is no true education which does not tend to produce
character, and there is no true religion which does not determine character. 
Education should contemplate the whole life. . . . I have no faith in the
so-called system of education which produces men of learning without the
backbone of character.

I have felt during the whole of my public life that what we
need, what any nation needs, but we perhaps of all the nations of the world
need just now, is nothing else and nothing less than character building.

First of all, we shall have to consider how we can realise the
self and how serve our country . . . . For realising the self, the first
essential thing is to cultivate a strong moral sense. Morality means
acquisition of virtues such as fearlessness, truth, chastity, etc. Service is
automatically rendered to the country in this process of cultivating morality.[56]

Refusing to
separate the private from the public, Gandhi insisted that spiritual, moral,
and civic virtues are all united.

A Buddhist Gandhi would follow the developmental model of
virtue formation found in Aristotle and Confucius.  The recovery model–found
in Plato, the Stoics, a few neo-Confucians, some Mahayana schools, and VedantaBholds
that moral education involves coming in touch with a higher self that its already perfect.  In terms of
a Hindu ethics of nonviolence this would mean
that one acts out the Atman of perfect virtue rather than a self-centered
.  In this model a vow is a life long requirement to keep the violent
ego in control.  Only in the perfected yogi would the vows fall away as
unnecessary. Suman Khanna suggests the developmental model for Gandhi when she
states that the commitment of a vow
Abecomes effortless,
just as the forming of good habits first needs continual effort of the will
but later grows into character, from which good choices issue forth with ease.@[57]

If we analyze the list of Gandhi=s
vows and virtues, we notice at least two interesting points.  First, Gandhi
considers chastity both a vow and a virtue, and in his detailed comments on
Hind Swaraj
Anthony Parel calls the vow of nonpossession a virtue.[58] 
If these are virtues in the traditional sense of a disposition that becomes
habitual rather than constantly self-imposed, then the developmental thesis is
supported. Second, humility is a virtue not a vow, and Gandhi is very careful
to distinguish between the two categories with regard to humility. Gandhi
maintains that one cannot take a vow to become humble.  Humility does not
involve a specific decision or course of action.  As he states:
AHumility . . . does
not lend itself to being deliberately practised.@[59]
Objections immediately arise. Is not reducing ourselves to zero a specific
decision and action?  Doesn=t
Gandhi contradict himself when he states that
Atrue humility means
most strenuous and constant endeavor entirely directed towards the service of
We will return to the virtue of humility at the end of this section.

Gandhi joins the ancient virtue traditions by strongly
supporting the unity of the virtues.  To interpret this doctrine as the claim
that the virtues have no differences whatsoever is of course absurd.  For the
Greeks the virtues were one in the sense that virtue is knowledge.  Each of
them is formed according to right reason. For Aristotle the moral virtues are
the same because they are products of phronesis, and they are different
because of the many different spheres of action in which phronesis
works.  Phronesis operating in the sphere of self-worth becomes pride,
just as temperance is the result in the area of controlling the appetites. I
propose that Gandhi follows Aristotle by having truth unify the virtues. 
Following Jean Porter=s
analysis of Aquinas, I also concur with her emphasis on the dialectical
relation between phronesis and the virtues: the former not only finds
the mean for the latter but the development of the moral virtues aids
practical reason in clarifying and fine tuning the goals of the good life.[61] 
The moral virtues embody truths just as much as practical reason itself does.

Alan Donagan=s
maintains that unifying the virtues in phronesis produces only a
trivial truth: ACertainly
Thomas= doctrine of
the unity of the virtues follows if every virtue is defined as a disposition
that accords with right reason.  But why so define themBexcept
to secure the result?@[62]
It seems to me, however, that as right reason is always relative to
individuals and their circumstances, then their moral truths are synthetic
rather than analytic.  These propositions would obviously have specific
empirical content as well as formal truth.  (This makes
ANever eat too much@
a synthetic a priori proposition, because the formal truth is
necessarily joined with unique and distinctive empirical content in every
single eater.) If the mean between extremes were arithmetic and the same for all persons,
a view that Aristotle explicitly rejects,[63]
only then would the results of practical reason be trivially true.

In chapter 4 we have argued that Gandhi=s
experiments in truth is a contextual and pragmatic search for particular moral
truths for particular situations.  This means that the traditional truths
about brahmacharya are deconstructed and then reapplied in a
constructive postmodern sense. Writing from the Yeravda prison in 1932, he
states that Atruth is
the end, love is the means thereto.@[64] 
For Gandhi true love is the Aactive
state of ahimsa,@[65]
and courage is following one=s
own truth even to the point of ridicule and rejection. The virtues of
integrity and sincerity, being true to oneself, are also necessary virtues in
the search for truth.  We have already proposed a parallel between the
relationship of truth to God in Gandhi to the Confucian idea of Heaven=s
sincerity.  The sage or saint are sincere in the same way that Heaven is: they
are both constant and totally predictable; they are both true themselves and
true to the present age.

It is significant that Gandhi speaks much more of self-control
than temperance; in fact, the latter is seldom found in his writings. In talk
about the virtues the two are often conflated, when in fact they are distinct
in a very important sense.  The very construction of the phrase
implies that one is engaging the will to restrain the appetites.  This
describes the enkrates rather than sophron, who is essentially
the embodiment of temperance (sophrosyne), the one who does not have to
exert his will to stay in the mean.  Gandhi thought that one the greatest
Indian vices was the lack of self-control. The Rudolphs diagnose the origins
of this problem: "The severe emphasis on self-restraint [in the Indian
tradition], on formality and harmlessness, may well be allied to the
omnipresent fear of loss of self-control."[66]
This emphasis on self-control rather than temperance indicates an ethics of
vows and duties rather than virtues.

Raghavan Iyer offers an alternative framework for the Gandhian
virtues in his observation that "Gandhi tended to assimilate all the virtues
to that of moral courage."[67] 
Even in his time Aristotle had realized that courage was more than just the
physical bravery of his Greek forefathers, who
Astrutted their stuff@
with drawn swords.  Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph distinguish between physical
bravery–not being afraid to use violence to defend one=s
home and principles–and Gandhi=s
nonviolent moral courage as the will not to retaliate in the face of violence.

that Confucius warned his disciples that many people could be brave without
being ren, the obvious implication being that truly courageous people
know and trust themselves so well that the force of their virtue (the Chinese
de expresses this idea perfectly) tends to pacify any dangerous
situation.  We have seen that Gandhi was able to convinced the physically
brave Pathan warriors to change their ways by his moral courage. In terms of
the aesthetics of virtue and the power of de it is significant that
Confucius and his disciples were able to fend off an attack simply by singing.

Gandhi speaks of active nonviolence as both love and truth, so
yet another profitable way to see Gandhian virtues is through the virtue of
love.  Here is a crucial passage:

In its positive form, ahimsa means the largest love, the
greatest charity.  If I am a follower of ahimsa, I must love my enemy.  I must
apply the same rule of the wrong doer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as
I would to my wrong-doing father or son.  This active ahimsa necessarily
includes truth and fearlessness.[69] 

Here we see the
frequent trinity of truth, courage, and ahimsa as cardinal Gandhian virtues.

Instructive comparisons suggest themselves from both Confucius
and Aquinas.  For the former ren as filial love is the comprehensive
virtue that authenticates all the other virtues.  Ideally the ren
person would not and could not dissemble in any of the virtues; it would be
impossible for the ren person not to be loyal or courageous or not to
be true to herself.  A principal difference between Gandhi and Confucius would
be the unconditional love of the stranger, a view that obviously makes him
closer to the Buddhist or Christian tradition.  For Aquinas caritas is
ultimate form of all the virtues, including prudence; it, like ren, is
the comprehensive virtue in which all the others are perfected.  Thomist Josef
Pieper distinguishes between
natural@ and
prudence such that the latter is a keener insight into
Anew and invisible
Both Aristotle and Confucius would balk at this supernatural extension of
practical reason, but Gandhi would most likely embrace the idea. (Even the
Buddha would say that ESP was crucial in proving the truth of
Athose who know
causality know the Dharma.@)
Gandhi would have been particularly sympathetic to Pieper=s
view that Christian love may very well lead one to hold
Aas nought all the
things of this world.@[71]

Gandhi says that people can cultivate truth and love, but they
try to make themselves humble only at the risk of hypocrisy and pride.  The
reason for this odd stance might be the Vedantist assumptions implied in this
passage: AIn one who
has ahimsa in him [humility] becomes part of his very nature.@[72]
In several passage Gandhi that the true self is nonviolent, so this means that
the true self is also humble. (The concept of the self being nonviolent by
nature will be critiqued in the next section.) This is not quite correct
because true humility Ashould
make its possessor realize that he is nothing.@[73]
But Atman is not nothing; it is of course everything.  It can only be the
self that is reduced to nothing. Coherence is finally obtained when
Gandhi describes the humble self as analogous to a drop in the ocean as
is to Atman=Brahman. On the virtue of humility it is obvious that
Gandhi again joins the Christian tradition and rejects Aristotle=s
view that humility is a vice. For the Greeks
Areducing oneself to
zero@ could never be
the correct view of one=s



Virtue theorists have generally distinguished between two types
of virtues: "enabling" virtues and the "substantive" virtues.  The enabling
virtues include optimism, rationality, self-control, patience, sympathy,
foresight, resoluteness, endurance, fortitude, and industry.  The substantive
virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, truthfulness, temperance, benevolence, and compassion. The substantive virtues have moral content or "substance,"
i.e., the right desire to tell the truth or help the needy, whereas the
enabling virtues simply require an effort to resist one temptation or another.  The substantive virtues require proper motivation toward the good,
while the enabling virtues require sufficient willpower to counter evil.  Of
the four cardinal virtues, only prudence and justice
Ado the good,@
as Josef Pieper says, while courage and temperance
Acreate the basis this
realization of the good.@[74]

This distinction tests true when he think of a thief who is
persistent, resolute, patient, and has fantastic self-control.  (Thieves
without these virtues are usually that ones that get caught!)  The fact that
we can think of a loyal and courageous villain has led some to argue
convincingly that these two virtues really ought to be moved to the enabling
category.  Another psychological test by which one can distinguish the two is
to use Aristotle’s requirement that one must take pleasure in the virtues. 
This criterion must apply only to the substantive virtues, because it is clear
that one is not required to enjoy a courageous act of persevering torture. 
Robert C. Roberts quips: "A person who enjoys enduring dangers is better
called daredevilish than brave."[75] 
On the other hand, it makes no sense that a person must dislike being truthful
or compassionate.  This means that a person could have all the enabling
virtues without having a single substantive virtue.

Let us now itemize the criteria for identifying an enabling
virtue: (1) it does not have moral content nor does it appeal to a norm; (2)
it is not done for its own sake, but for the sake of a substantive virtue; and
(3) one does not take pleasure in it as with the substantive virtues.
Conceived as a virtue, nonviolence fulfills these criteria nicely.  We all
need a nonviolent disposition if we are to overcome desires to injure,
retaliate, and to verbally abuse.  We also need good self control and
patience.  In fact, Gandhi equates impatience with injury (himsa),
provocatively implying that impatience is at the root of all violence.76
(One could object that much violence in the world is done with deliberate,
albeit malicious, patience.) Self control, patience, and noninjury are
obviously connected to the will to resist rather than the will to motivate. 
(Recall the Rudolph=s
definition of Gandhi=s
nonviolent moral courage as the will not to retaliate in the face of
violence.)  That means that a nonviolent thief is not only possible but also
probably the most successful.  It is also clear that one does not control
oneself for the sake of self-control, nor is one nonviolent simply for the
sake of noninjury. Furthermore, resisting the temptation of retaliation while
enduring the attacks of an aggressor would obviously not be a pleasant
activity.  Finally, it appears reasonable to reinterpret Gandhi=s
basic vows as enabling virtues with brahmacharya embracing them all as
ultimate self-control.

Our discovery that ahimsa is an enabling virtue explains
why it is not listed among the major Buddhist virtues.   Ahimsa ,
therefore, joins patience, sympathy, and self-control, three other enabling
virtues in Buddhist ethics. The Dalai Lama=s
analysis of the virtues parallels the current discussion in a way that allows
a conceptual transition to the final section of our chapter.  When he
reaffirms that the cessation of suffering is the ultimate goal of the good
life, he is simply giving the negative formulation of the Buddhist eudaimonism
defended in chapter 4. When he states that faith and compassion are
Avirtues by way of
their own nature,@ he
is essentially identifying them as substantives virtues.  And when he
describes mindfulness is a virtue
Aby way of association,@ I
interpret this to mean that it is an enabling virtue.77
One is not mindful for mindfulness sake but for the sake of love and

Let us return to Jainism for an instructive contrast.  The
Jains believe that ahimsa  belongs to "the intrinsic nature of man,"78
and they hold that it has absolute value.   The implication is that
nonviolence is a Asubstantive@
virtue in a stronger, metaphysical sense than we have defined it above.  Jain
nonviolence is not anything motivated or developed, it is simply the natural
state of the sinless soul.  (This means that the Jains have a
rather than a Adiscovery@
model for the virtues.) In several passages Gandhi appears to agree with Jains
on this point, particularly when he states that atman is nonviolent.  
More frequently, however, he says that ahimsa is a virtue that must be
attained, and he claims that it is a means to a higher end, usually Truth or
Resisting the natural temptation to absolutize it, Gandhi has ascer�tained the
proper place of ahimsa among the virtues.  Ahimsa begins in
self-restraint, self-purifi�cation, and selfless�ness and ends in love and
compassion.  Like the Buddhists, Gandhi believed that ahimsa without
compas�sion is nothing, just as gold is an amorphous material without
gold�smith’s artistic shape or the root is nothing without the mag�nificent
The enabling virtues are the roots, but the flowering tree of the substantive virtues is the true
goal of the good life.

Making ahimsa a disposition rather than the essence of the soul
preser�ves the essential element of freedom.  Gandhi frequently spoke of the
animal side of human nature, and how one must struggle to choose violence over
non�violence.  (As in all enabling virtues, it involves the will to resist
more than the will to motivate.)  If we are nonviolent by nature, then we
cannot be praised for choosing peaceful actions.  On the other hand, we cannot
be completely devoid of a disposition for noninjury, for, as Gandhi says,
"means to be means must always be within our reach."80 
(One is reminded of the Mencian view that the virtues exist as potentials
within the soul; and, like spouts, they must be nurtured for the good life to
flower.)  The language of
within our reach@ is
support for the developmental view of the virtues that we should impute to
Gandhi. Further�more, Gandhi frequently reminds us that true ahimsa
towards an attacker must combine physical non�retaliation with love and
compassion.  (In other words, mere passivity without the proper disposition
and accompanying virtues is not necessarily ahimsa.)  Therefore,
must be a means to the end of the spiritual life, not an end in
itself.  The true proponent of non�violence would hold that only life (Gandhi
prefers Truth or God) has intrinsic value, and ahimsa obviously is the ultimate means of preserving life. 

A critic might respond that ahimsa must be a substantive
virtue because the precept (Ado
not injure@) always
guides its implementation.  But one can formulate a norm for several other
enabling virtues.  For example, the rule for patience would be
Aalways control your
temptation to act hastily@;
and the norm for fortitude would be
Anever give up on a task
worth pursuing.@ 
Interestingly, the only way to formulate the implied rule in the enabling virtue
of rationality is the tautology
always be rational.@
Furthermore, the virtue of courage (and most likely others) does not lend itself
to any easy formulation along these lines.  True to the concrete particularity
of the moral virtues, the description would require endless qualification. (Even
the specifications of patience and fortitude above are rather wordy and open to
limiting conditions.)  I obviously cannot answer the objection in this one
paragraph, but I am confident that application of the other criteria (especially
done for its own sake) would secure these virtues as enabling rather than
substantive.  Finally, with regard to Gandhi, it is clear that he meant
to be a means to higher ends of love and compassion.




Quoted in Raghavan Iyer, The Moral the Political Thought of Mahatma
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 226; Gandhi,
Collected Works
(New Delhi: Govern�ment of India Publications, 1959),
vol. 40, p. 160.

2. Wendy Doniger O=Flaherty, 
Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Shiva (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1973), p. 82.

3.  See Ian Tattersall,
The Last Neanderthal (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, revised ed.,
1999), p. 169-70.

4. Michael L. Spangle and Kent E. Menzel,
ASymbol, Metaphor,
and Myth: the Origin and Impact of Spoken Language,@
Seventh Annual Meeting of the Language Origins in DeKalb, Illinois, 1991; 24‑MENZEL.htm. It is
well known, for example, that deaf school children who read without speaking
a language have difficulty in understanding abstractions (see Helmer R.
Mykelbust, The Psychology of Deafness [New York: Northwestern
University Press, 1966]).  I am indebted to Shane Sheffner, student in my
seminar on virtue ethics, for these references.


5.  Leslie Stephen,
The Science of Ethics
, quoted in Louis P. Pojman, Ethics: Discovering
Right and Wrong
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1990), p. 114. 
The following four part critique of rule and duty ethics is derived from Pojman=s chapter.

6. Martha Nussbaum,
Virtues@ in
Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 13
(Notre Dame, IN: Dotre Dame
University Press, 1988), p. 44.

7. Annette Baier,
ATrust and
96 (January, 1986), pp. 231-260.

8.  Martha Nussbaum,
Virtues,@  p. 44. 

9.  Bernard Mayo,
Ethics and the Moral Life
, excerpted in Christina and Fred Sommers,
eds., Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life (San Diego: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1989), p. 199.

Ibid., p. 83.

Ibid., p. 84.

12. See Stephen D. Moore
and  Janice Capel Anderson,
Taking it Like a Man: Masculinity in 4 Maccabees,@
Journal of Biblical Literature 117:2 (1998), pp. 249-273.

13.  The Laws of Manu,
trans. Wendy Doniger O=Flaherty
and Brian K. Smith (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1991), 3.93; 7.5. Most of this
paragraph is taken from my Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and
Western Perspectives
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000), p. 122.

14.  Ibid., 4:41, 44.

15. John Strachey,
India: Its Adminstration and Progress
(London: Macmillan, 1888), p. 412;
cited in Susanne H. and Lloyd I. Rudolph, The Modernity of Tradition:
Political Development in India
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago
Press, 1967), p. 165.

16.  Gandhi, The
Collected Works
, vol. 19, p. 12.

17. Gandhi, Harijan
(July 23, 1938), p. 192.

18. Gandhi, Women’s
Role in Society
, p. 8; cited in Iyer, Moral and Political Philosophy,
p. 37

19.  Gandhi, Harijan
(November 14, 1936), p. 316. "Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa
means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for
suffering" (Harijan [February 14, 1940] ).
AIf only the women
of the world would come together they could display such heroic nonviolence
as to kick away the atom bomb like a mere ball. . . . If the women of Asia
wake up, they will dazzle the world.  My experiment in nonviolence would be
instantly successful if I could secure women=s
help@ (AMessage
to Chinese Women, New Delhi, July 18, 1947, excerpted in Raghavan Iyer, ed.,
The Essential Writings of Mahatma Gandhi [New Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 1991, p. 387).

20. Pyarelal, The Last
, vol. 1,  p. 595. Pyarelal states that Gandhi once described
himself as Ahalf a
woman,@ and Mrs. Polak
noted a Atrait
of sexlessness@ even
in his South Africa day (Gandiji as We Know Him, ed. Ch. Shukla
[Bombay, 1945], p. 47). A Mrs. Shukla said that
Athere are some
things relating to our lives that we women can speak of . . . with no man.
But while speaking to Gandhiji we somehow forgot the fact that he was a man@
(C. Shukla, Gandhiji=s
View of Life
[Bombay, 1951], p. 199).

Pyarelal, The Last Phase, vol. 1,  p. 574.

22. Brian K. Smith,
"Eaters, Food, and Social Hierarchy in Ancient India," Journal of the
American Academy of Religion
58:2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 177, 178. 

23. Thomas B. Coburn,
Encountering the Goddess
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991), p. 222fn.

24. Gandhi, Selected
, ed. Shriman Narayan (Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1968), vol. 3, p. 223.

25.  Gandhi, Harijan
(July 23, 1938), p. 192. 

26. Kant, Religion
within the Limits of Religion Alone
, trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt
H. Hudson (New York: Harper & Row, 1960). p. 66.

27. Christine McKinnon,
Character, Virtue Theories, and the Vices (Peterborough, Ontario:
Broadview Press, 1999), p. 105.

28. The Rudolphs,
op. cit., p. 212.


29. Pyarelal, Mahatma
Gandhi: The Last Phase
(Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 2nd ed., 1966),
vol. 1, bk. 2, p. 192.

30.  Gandhi,

31.  Gandhi, Harijan
(June 10, 1939).

32.  Gandhi,  Selected
, vol. 4, p. 248.

33.  Ibid., p. 250.

34. Suman Khanna,
Gandhi and the Good Life
(Delhi: B. R. Publishing Corporation, 2nd
ed., 1996), p. 60.  I am indebted to Khanna for both insights and

35.  See V. M. Bedekar,
AThe Vrata in
Ancient Indian Culture and Gandhi@
in G. Ramachandran and T. K. Mahadevan, eds. Quest for Gandhi (New
Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1970), p. 15.

36. Khanna, p. 59.

37.  Gandhi, Selected
vol. 4, p. 248.

38.  Gandhi,
, III.8.

39.  Gandhi, Selected
Works, vol. 4, p. 248.

40.  Ibid., p. 226.

41. Gandhi, Harijan
(June 22 & 29, 1947), pp. 200, 212;  Autobiography III.7.

Quoted without reference in Khanna, p. 75.

43. Gandhi, Selected
, vol. 4, p. 256.

44.  Ibid.

45.  Ibid., p. 233.

46. Gandhi, Selections
from Gandhi
, ed,. Nirmal Kumar Bose (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing, 2nd
ed., 1957), p. 248.

47.  Ibid., p. 249.

48.  Ibid.

49. Pyarelal, The Last Phase, vol. 1, p. 591; Letter to Rajkumari
Amrit Kaur, March 18, 1947.

50. Thomas
Summa Theologiae

51. Gandhi, Selected
, vol. 4, p. 226.

AOne who takes no
food, physically speaking, is generally said to be fasting, but he is guilty
of theft as well as a breach of his fast, if he gives himself up to a mental
contemplation of pleasure, when he sees others taking their meals@
(ibid., p. 228).  It is a widely known fact that even the spiritual masters
have vivid hallucinations about devouring great amounts of food, a reaction
that appears to be completely involuntary.

53.  Ibid., p. 227.

54.  Khanna, p. 71.

55.  Gandhi, Selected
, vol. 4, p. 232.

56.  Gandhi, Collected
, vol. 37, p. 362; vol. 13, p. 225.; vol.10, p. 70.  See also
vol.10, pp. 206-07.

57.  Khanna, pp. 59-60.

58. Gandhi,  Hind
, ed. Anthony J. Parel (New Delhi, Foundation Books, 1997), note

59.  Gandhi,  Selected
, vol. 4, p.245.

60.  Ibid., p. 247.

Jean Porter, "Virtue and Sin:
The Connection of the Virtues and the Case of the Flawed Saint,"Journal
of Religion
75:4 (October, 1995), pp. 526-27.

Cited in ibid., p. 522.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1106a35.

64.  Gandhi,  Selected
, vol. 4, p. 226.

65.  Gandhi,
Young India
(January 19, 1921).

66.  The Rudolphs,
op. cit., p. 190.


Raghavan Iyer, The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi
(Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 69.

68. The Rudolphs,
op. cit., pp. 187ff.


69.  Gandhi, Collected
, vol. 13, p. 295.

70.  Josef Pieper,
AOn the Christian
Idea of Man,@ cited
in Gilbert Meilaender, On the Theory and Practice of Virtue (Notre
Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1984), p. 39.

71.  Ibid.

72.  Gandhi, Selected
, vol. 4, p. 245.

73.  Ibid., p. 246.

74.  Josef Pieper, The
Four Cardinal Virtues
, p. 147; cited in
Meilaender, p. 29.

75.  Robert C. Roberts,
"Will Power and the Virtues," Philosophical Review (April, 1984), pp.
227-247.  Excerpted and extensively revised in Christina and Fred Sommers,
eds., Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life (San Diego: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1989), p. 236.

77. Dalai Lama,
The Dalai
Lama at Harvard: Lectures on the Buddhist Path to Peace
(Ithaca, NY:
Snow Lion Publications, 1988), p. 61.


78. N. D. Bhargava, "Some Chief
Characteristics of the Jain Concept of Nonviolence" in

Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
, ed. R. C. Divivedi (New
Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975), p. 124.


79. Gandhi,

Collected Works
vol. 40, pp. 191-92.


 80. Gandhi,

From Yeravda Mandir

(Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1945), p. 8.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *