A virtual dialogue between gandhi and levinas

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Mahatma Gandhi and Emmanuel Levinas have much in common. They interpret religion in a radical ethical way and develop an ethical hermeneutics of religious sources. Levinas’s thoughts on a holy history, not to be confused with history, are comparable with Gandhi’s swaraj as the spiritual independence and self-transformation of India. Escaping war logics, they maintain a “beyond the state” in the state and insert ethics in politics. Yet, Gandhi’s ethico-politics works with radical interrelatedness, whereas Levinas differentiates more between the self and the other. Gandhi trusted that, in the end, the good would vanquish evil. Levinas, in turn, did not venture into the future: the present was under “eschatological judgment.” Gandhi’s love of the enemy and his attempt to soften the opponent’s heart are absent in Levinas’s metaphysics. In addition, Levinas does not radically deconstruct the term self-defense, although Gandhi notoriously made also exceptions to his ahimsa. A dialogue can be established between Levinas’s ethical metaphysics and Gandhi’s ahimsa and satyagraha. Both thinkers make a radical critique of a peace based on rational contracts and equate peace with universal brother-and sisterhood. Without underestimating the many similarities between Levinas and Gandhi, I also highlight their dissimilarities. I argue that precisely the differences between both thinkers allow for a “trans-different” dialogue, which respects specificities and promotes communication, in a movement of hospitality and mutual learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number422
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Gandhi
  • Levinas
  • Virtual dialogue


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