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introduction
1. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Anthony Sean Neal Thurman and King as Transformative Philosophers of Life, Existence, and Community Development During Times of Unchecked Oppression
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feature
2. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Anthony Sean Neal, Michael Barber, Eddie O’Byrn Thurman’s Philosophical De-Mystified Mysticism: Author Meets Critics: Anthony Sean Neal, Author of Howard Thurman’s Philosophical Mysticism Meets Critics Michael Barber and Eddie O’Byrn
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In this author-meets critics discussion of Howard Thurman’s Philosophical Mysticism, Anthony Sean Neal argues that Thurman’s work requires systematic recognition of how he was rooted firmly within the Modern Era of the African American Freedom Struggle (1896–1975). Michael Barber suggests that Thurman may be understood in contrast to Levinas on two counts. Whereas Thurman develops the duty to love from within the one who must love, Levinas grasps the origin of love’s duty in the command of the one who is to be loved. And while Thurman’s mysticism yearns for oneness, Levinas warns that oneness is ethically problematic. Eddie O'Byrn challenges the symbolic validity of calling love a weapon, and asks why the book has not treated Thurman’s relations to Gandhi or King. Neal defends a provisional usage of the term weapon in relation to love and offers some preliminary considerations of Thurman’s relation to Gandhi and King, especially in the symbolic significance of "the dream."
articles
3. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Anthony Sean Neal “A Fulfillment So High”: New Directions in African American Philosophy for the Study of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Scholarship on Martin Luther King, Jr., and more recent works on Howard Thurman, have become widely appreciative of their contributions to a struggle for Black liberation. This study explicates how the philosophies of Thurman and King also contribute to a universal theme of self-transformation. To be sure, the challenge of self-transformation is aggravated by the oppressive circumstances faced by Black persons in a racist society; however, the resources offered by Thurman and King for personal transformation should be relevant to persons almost regardless of circumstance. This study presents four concepts shared in the personal-transformation philosophies of Thurman and King: (1) Existential Transformation, (2) Self-Altered Destiny, (3) Self Examination, and (4) Rejection of Irrelevance. These four concepts provide a new framework for reading Thurman’s and King’s writings in tandem with a view towards self-transformation and demonstrate why a philosophy of the Black experience would be of interest, and have benefit, for anyone.
4. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Larry Perry Beyond Black Churches: Toward an Understanding of the Black Spiritual Left, featuring Du Bois, Bethune, Thurman, and Black Lives Matter
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Drawing upon Leigh Schmidt’s work on the “spiritual left,” this article presents a genealogy of the Black Spiritual Left featuring W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Howard Thurman, and Black Lives Matter activists Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. Black Spiritual Leftists are defined as Black figures who separated from or were not part of Black churches and yet took on a spiritual orientation important to their progressive activism. Their faith is Spiritual, but not necessarily religious. In its most recent manifestation, the Black Spiritual Left argues—in opposition to some Black Church pastors—that defense of Black lives requires respect for marginalized Black women, LGBTQ, and criminalized Black men and boys.
5. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
J. Edward Hackett Kingian Personalism, Moral Emotions, and Emersonian Perfectionism: A Response to Paul C. Taylor
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In “Moral Perfectionism,” an essay in To Shape a New World, Paul C. Taylor explicitly mentions and openly avoids King’s personalism while advancing a type of Emersonian moral perfectionism motivated by a less than adequate reconstruction of King’s project. In this essay, I argue this is a mistake on two fronts. First, Taylor’s moral perfectionism gives pride of place to shame and self-loathing where the work of King makes central use of love. Second, by evading the personalist King, Taylor misses the importance of love as foundational to King’s theory of community, the Beloved Community. In effect, Taylor engages in hermeneutic violence regarding King’s work and self-description as a personalist. I offer an account of King’s love informed by personalism that better situates love and shows why it is central to King’s philosophy. In conclusion I argue the following: Love is a type of orientation, attitude, and standpoint one can take in relation to another person. Philia and eros forms of love are contingent and conditional. Agapic love opens up persons to see the eternal dignity we all possess and is restorative and generative of community. The Holy Spirit that animates King’s conception of history is made manifest or hindered by the choice to act on the agapic principle of love that animates the cosmos. In the end, I suggest that Taylor’s perfectionist insights might be applied to a supplemental development of Kingian moral philosophy in the direction of a fuller virtue ethics.
6. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Paul C. Taylor Reading King’s Personalism, Or Not: A Reply to Professor Hackett
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contributors
7. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Contributors
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acknowledgments
8. The Acorn: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1/2
Acknowledgments
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9. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Greg Moses Between Gandhi 150 and Sept. 11, 2021: Concepts of Peace Meet Pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and Winter Disaster
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features
10. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Douglas Allen, Sanjay Lal, Karsten Struhl Gandhi for the Twenty-First Century: Author Meets Critics: Douglas Allen, Author of Gandhi After 9/11, Meets Critics Sanjay Lal and Karsten Struhl
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In this author-meets-critics dialogue, Douglas Allen, author of argues that Gandhi-informed philosophies and practices, when creatively reformulated and applied, are essential for developing positions that are ethical, nonviolent, truthful, and sustainable, providing resources and hope for confronting our ‘Gandhi after 9/11’ crises. Critics Sanjay Lal and Karsten Struhl applaud Allen’s demonstration that Gandhi’s nonviolence is serious and broadly adaptable to the twenty-first century. Yet, Lal poses two philosophical challenges, arguing first that the nonviolent message of the Bhagavad Gita is perhaps more essential than Allen allows. Second, Lal raises difficulties involved in placing the needs of others first, especially in response to terrorism. Struhl wonders if the Gita is not more violent than Gandhi or Allen represent it to be. Struhl also questions whether relative claims are always resolved in the direction of Absolute Truth, as Gandhi and Allen assert. Finally, critic Struhl wonders how we can restrain institutions from escalating cycles of violence once we grant Gandhi-based exceptions that would allow violence to suppress terrorism. Against Lal’s objections, Allen defends a more open-ended reading of the Gita and agrees that our service to the needs of others cannot go so far as to embrace their terrorism. In response to Struhl, Allen agrees that there are indeed problems with a nonviolent reading of the Gita, but there are resources to support Gandhi’s view. Likewise, regarding relations between our limited truths and the Absolute, Allen grants that Struhl has identified real problems but that a final defense is possible, especially when we consider motivational factors. As for limiting cycles of violence, Allen argues that a Gandhi-informed use of violence implies considerations that limit its use.
11. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Sanjay Lal, Jeff Shawn Jose, Douglas Allen, Michael Allen Does Liberal Democracy Require a Gandhian Approach to Religion?: Author Meets Critics: Sanjay Lal, Author of Gandhi’s Thought and Liberal Democracy, Meets Critics Jeff Shawn Jose, Douglas Allen, and Michael Allen
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In this author-meets-critics dialogue, Sanjay Lal, author of , argues that Gandhian values of nonviolence raise aspirations of liberal democracy to a higher level. Since Gandhian values of nonviolence are closely associated with religious values, liberal democracy should make public commitments to religions on a non-sectarian basis, except for unreasonable religions. Critic Jeff Shawn Jose agrees that Gandhian values can strengthen liberal democracy. However, Jose finds a contradiction in Lal’s proposal that a liberal state should support reasonable religions only. A more consistent Gandhian approach would focus on everyday interactions between citizens and groups rather than state-directed preferences. Critic Douglas Allen also welcomes Lal’s project that brings Gandhian philosophy into relation with liberal democratic theory; however, he argues that universalizing the Absolute Truth of genuine religion is more complicated than Lal acknowledges. D. Allen argues for a Gandhian approach of relative truths, which cannot be evaluated apart from contingency or context, and he offers autobiographical evidence in support of his critical suspicion of genuine religion. Critic Michael Allen argues that Lal’s metaphysical approach to public justification violates a central commitment of political liberalism not to take sides on any metaphysical basis. M. Allen argues that democratic socialism is closer to Gandhi’s approach than is liberalism. Lal responds to critics by arguing that Gandhi’s evaluation of unreasonable religions depends upon an assessment of violence, which is not as problematic as critics charge, either from a Gandhian perspective or a liberal one. Furthermore, by excluding unreasonable or violent religions from state promotion, Lal argues that he is not advocating state suppression. Finally, Lal argues that Gandhian or Kingian metaphysics are worthy of support by liberal, democratic states seeking to educate individuals regarding peaceful unity in diversity.
articles
12. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Sanjay Lal Revolutionary Nondualism: Simple Living and the Eradication of Poverty in Gandhi’s Philosophy of Nonviolence
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Among those who have worked for uplifting the poor, Mahatma Gandhi occupies a unique place. Although his reform efforts received ample financial support from well-off benefactors, Gandhi’s personal life exemplified ideals of voluntary poverty and renouncement. On Martha Nussbaum’s account of stoicism, Gandhi’s voluntary renouncement may imply morally unacceptable reasoning regarding nonviolence and the plight of the poor. Nussbaum argues that the stoic disparagement of external things of fortune implies that they cannot coherently oppose external harms such as torture or rape as unjust. Furthermore, on Nussbaum’s account, stoic flexibility regarding the duty to render material aid provides insufficient ethical grounds for relieving the injustice of poverty. Applying Nussbaum’s critique of stoicism to Gandhi, I ask if Gandhi’s personal-life renouncement of external things exposes his philosophy to vulnerabilities that Nussbaum finds in the stoics. I then respond to the critique. With the stoics, Gandhi does deny that states of simple living are genuinely bad; therefore, pursuing ethical life means seeking some states of poverty. Nevertheless, based on Gandhian values of freedom, equality, sustainability, service, and character, there are coherent ethical grounds in Gandhian thought for pursuing nonviolence (with its proscription of external harms) while fighting global poverty (with attention to material needs). I explicate a Gandhian view of social uplift that vitally connects individual character to social well-being. I also illuminate a Gandhian model of poverty eradication that reveals deficiencies in a model of poverty eradication that depends solely on the value of external things of fortune.
13. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Michael Allen Techno-Satyagraha: Integrating Economics and Life Goals through Gandhi’s ‘Back and Forth’ Method between Capitalists and Socialism
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Gandhi scholars agree that he was a critic of capitalism, if not capital or capitalists. Nevertheless, they disagree about his relationship to socialism. Some emphasize Gandhi’s claim that the modern Western canon of socialism is incompatible with the philosophy of nonviolence. Others emphasize his occasional affirmation that he is a socialist, regarding socialism as a beautiful ideal of equality. Gandhi moves back and forth between conditional endorsements of capitalists and socialism’s beautiful ideal. In this article, I ask why Gandhi never specifies any clear economic preference for the philosophy of nonviolence. Is he confused and incapable of reaching practical judgments about what nonviolence demands in terms of economics? I answer this question in two ways. First, I argue that passing back and forth over the partial and fallible viewpoints of capitalists and socialists of various stripes is consistent with Gandhi’s method of experiments in truth. The passing-over method extends from experiments in devotion to constructive experiments in economics, laying the foundation for integrating distinctively human life goals or puruṣārthas. Second, and perhaps more surprisingly, I consider the background to Gandhi’s use of this method as applied to economics in Kauṭilya’s classical Arthaśāstra. Scholars often characterize Kauṭilya as both a socialist and a realist. While establishing the world’s first welfare state, his Arthaśāstra is also tied deeply into the material-spiritual concerns of the puruṣārthas, combining economics with duty, earthly pleasure, and transcendence. In this latter respect, however, Kauṭilya’s realism concedes too much to the contextual realities of his time concerning imperial conquest and caste. Gandhi emerges from this inquiry as another kind of realist in his constructive experiments with diverse economic perspectives, equally attuned to the contextual realities of his age. Gandhi succeeded—where Kauṭilya failed—to integrate economics with the spiritual goals of the puruṣārthas. I contend that Gandhi’s back and forth method in economics provides contemporary Gandhians with a way to address new contextual realities of the digital or “gig” economy through techno-satyagraha.
14. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Federico Germán Abal Why Pacifist Leadership Overcomes the Over-Demandingness Objection
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Being a pacifist who refrains from lethal violence is considered a praiseworthy commitment but not morally obligatory. One reason for denying that pacifism is morally obligatory is the high cost that would be implied for agents under attack, who cannot defend their own lives. Thus, pacifists are usually seen as lambs between lions and, therefore, pacifism is seen as morally over-demanding. In this paper, I intend to clarify the over-demandingness objection and to show its limits against pacifism. First, I argue that the cost of an act is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to determine its obligatory nature. Second, arguing from an analogy to Batman, I maintain that there is a plausible moral obligation to never use lethal violence against another human being that arises from adopting a specific social role, namely, the leadership of a pacifist movement.
afterword
15. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Michael Allen, Sanjay Lal Gandhi’s Economics and the “Defund the Police” Movement: Solving our Crises of Poverty, Participation, and Character
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book reviews
16. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Gail Presbey Between Gandhi and Black Lives Matter: The Interreligious Roots of Civil Rights Activism: Review of Sarah Azaransky, This Worldwide Struggle: Religion and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement
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17. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Tom H. Hastings The Grotesque Cost of Militarism’s Syndemics: Review of Catherine Lutz and Andrea Mazzarino, editors, War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
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18. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Will Barnes Nonviolence as Manic Rupture of Individualism: Review of Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind
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19. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Contributors
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20. The Acorn: Volume > 19 > Issue: 2
Acknowledgments
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