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Arvind Elangovan (Committee Member), Donovan Miyasaki (Committee Member), Valerie Stoker (Committee Member), Scott Wilson (Committee Chair)

Degree Name

Master of Humanities (MHum)


This thesis examines Mahatma Gandhi's ethical views on nonviolence from the perspective of contemporary philosophical ethics. Gandhian nonviolence is situated in the field of contemporary ethics by using the concepts and terminology from Shelly Kagan's work, Normative Ethics. Three questions are asked that classify and clarify Gandhian nonviolence. First, is nonviolence primarily instrumentally or intrinsically significant? This question is closely tied to the second, does Gandhian nonviolence belong to which type of ethical theory, consequentialism or deontology? And third, is nonviolence an absolutist constraint or a high threshold that allows for exceptions? Gandhi views nonviolence as both instrumentally and intrinsically valuable; however, of the two, Gandhi considers nonviolence to be primarily intrinsically significant. As such, Gandhian nonviolence is properly considered a deontological constraint. Even though he admits that nonviolence is often an impossible mandate, Gandhi considers the moral law of nonviolence to be absolute. This work concludes that Gandhian nonviolence should properly be considered as an absolutist deontological principle.

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