Seminar: "Responding to difference: Ahimsa, Love, Samata and the Gift of Fearlessness" by Prof. Bindu Puri , Centre for Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
This lecture will argue that though many things Gandhi said and did are relevant to our contemporary predicaments the most important part of the Gandhian legacy is the concept of ahimsa/non-violence.It seems clear that Gandhi’s life and writing presents a non-violent/ ahimsanat and loving response to the ‘otherness’ of the different- frequently hostile- ‘other’.This ahimsanat response provides a powerful alternative to both liberal tolerance and non-liberal conflict as ways of responding to difference in the contemporary world. Since the contemporary world is characterized chiefly by pluralism and difference the relevance of Gandhian ahimsa and the gift of fearlessness to conflicting and hostile othersseems apparent. This lecture will philosophically unpack the ahimsanat Gandhian response to different and differing ‘others’ across three sections. The first section is entitled ‘Ahimsa: to own kinship with those most distant from oneself’.It will discuss the terms invoked by Gandhi in connection with ahimsa-swabhava kinship love compassion and the gift of fearlessness to all. The second section of this paper ‘Ahimsa and satya’will explore the philosophical significance of the Gandhian connection between truth/satya and non-violence/ahimsa . The third part of my lecture is entitled ‘To tolerate or to honour: liberalism and Gandhi’. Thissectionwill briefly examine the difference between Gandhi’s position on responding to difference with ahimsa and the liberal position on tolerance. The conclusion will recapitulate the different strands in the argument.
Bindu Puri is Professor of Philosophy at the Centre for Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She is also currently the Chairperson of the Centre. Her main interests in philosophy are in the areas of political philosophy, moral philosophy and contemporary Indian philosophy. She is a leading scholar on the thought and practice of Mahatma Gandhi. Professor Puri has published extensively in edited anthologies and philosophical and interdisciplinary journals. She has authored two books: Gandhi and the Moral Life (2004) and The Tagore-Gandhi Debate: On Matters of Truth and Untruth (Springer Publications in the series: Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures, January 2015). She has also edited five books including Mahatma Gandhi and his Contemporaries (IIAS Shimla 2001). She has co-edited (with Heiko Sievers) Reason Morality and Beauty; Essays on the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (Oxford University Press New Delhi 2007) Terror, Peace and Universalism. Essays on the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (Oxford University Press New Delhi 2007)andLiving with Religious Diversity (Routledge India 2016)with Sonia Sikkaand Lori Beaman. She has presented numerous papers at national and International seminars and has lectured extensively at Universities in India and abroad. Most recently Professor Puri has delivered the annual ‘M K Gandhi lecture on Peace and the Humanities 2017’for the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Council Of Ottawa, Canada and the Johnson and Hastings lectures at the University of Mount Allison, Sackville,Canada.