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Journal of Indian Philosophy and Religion

Volume 26, December 2021

Michael Allen
Pages 31-54

Gandhi’s Metaphysics as Encountering the 'Unreasonable'
Liberal Multiculturalism, Self-Suffering, and the Comedy-Satyagrahi

In this article, I reconsider Gandhi's relationship to liberal democracy. I argue that a properly Gandhian approach to this relationship should emphasize the role of the satyagrahi facilitating conflict resolutions and progress in truth. Above all, this approach calls upon courageous, exemplary individuals to pass over and join the viewpoints of 'unreasonables' marginalized by the liberal state. However, I also argue that contemporary Gandhians should explore cultural adaptations of the satyagrahi-role appropriate to highly materialistic, multicultural liberal-democracies. In these societies, the traditional figure of the ascetic or saint may lack popular cultural resonance. Moreover, moral learning and spiritual insight often derives from popular culture and entertainment as much as religious traditions, or devotional practices. Contemporary Gandhi’s scholars should thus consider the prospects for 'alternative satyagrahis' embracing some materialist values and cultural motifs, as appropriate sources spiritual growth and soul-force.