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European Journal of Business &

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ISSN: 2235-767X

Volume 07 Issue 01

January 2019

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Gandhi’s Epistemology in Post-Modernist Context


Assistant Professor

Department of Political Science

Dayanand College, Hisar, Haryana


“I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after truth I have

discarded many ideas and learnt many new things.”

M.K. Gandhi

Harijan, 29-4-1933, P.2.

Usually, Gandhian thoughts on modernity are seen in the traditional or pre- modern lights. As inadequacy of modernity and modern civilization has been

brought to the fore by many crisis situations in the twentieth century,

therefore, it is imperative in the present times to see Gandhi’s thought in Post- Modern lights. Epistemologically, Gandhi’s adoption of the Jain doctrine of

‘anekantavada’ (many-sidedness of truth) aptly shows the post-modernist

notion that challenges the ‘philosophical foundationalism’ of Modernism.

Gandhi himself discards the notion of universal or absolute truth and

emphasized that no general theory can be formed and experiences of truth and

reality is situational, thereby, adopts similar stance of Post-Modernist denial

of ‘meta-narratives’.

Key Words: Epistemology, Post-Modernism, Meta-Narratives, Satyagraha

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European Journal of Business &

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ISSN: 2235-767X

Volume 07 Issue 01

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Gandhi has been considered as one of the most significant thinkers, philosophers or political

activists of the twentieth century although he himself denied all theses labels to categorize him

with any of labels mentioned above. It is not hidden that Gandhi’s way of working, to

emancipate human beings from suffering, had considerable success in his times. His modes of

action, in order to provide justice to those who were denied, were termed by himself as

‘Satyagraha’ or ‘Soul Force’. ‘Satyagraha’ was considerably successful in South Africa as well

as in India when he used it as a weapon of the justice. But Gandhi’s philosophy and his mode of

working were being charged with traditionalism by his critics. Some critics pointed out that it

was not suitable to those circumstances or partially suitable for that particular period of time

when India was in transition phase from a much more feudalistic society towards modern

society. Therefore, Gandhi has been considered by his critics, even including Nehru, as a

propagator of traditionalism. Another question also arises here is whether Gandhian Philosophy

has any relevance for contemporary generation or future generation to come. Answer to this

question lies in the successfully defending Gandhi from the charge of traditionalism and

highlighting his ideas in ‘Post-Modern’ context. Therefore, a proposition has been made to show

Gandhi as a ‘Post-Modern’ thinker and the arguments have been constructed along

epistemological lines. Epistemologically Gandhian thought on religion, non-violence, human

nature and ‘Satyagraha’ have been contextualized in Post-Modern context.

Gandhi as a ‘Post-Modern’ Thinker:

In order to locate Gandhian views in the light of ‘Post-Modernism’, it is imperative to start with

seeking to explore the meaning of ‘Post-Modernism’. “Post-Modernism is basically a late 20th

century philosophical movement which is characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism and

relativism; a general suspicion of reason and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in

asserting and maintaining political and economic power.”1

In other words, “It is largely

1 Post-Modernism, [Online: Web] Accessed on 28 December 2018, URL:

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European Journal of Business &

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ISSN: 2235-767X

Volume 07 Issue 01

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considered as a challenge to values and assumptions of modern period and denies the

philosophical viewpoints of enlightenment that was considered as absolute truth.”2

Also, Post-Modernism has also been defined as "the adoption or adaptation of Western

developmental models to indigenous systems"; or alternatively a "synthesis of old and new

which is qualitatively new from the old and the new".3

Gandhi as a Post-Modern on the basis of Epistemology:

In order to locate Gandhian thought epistemologically alongside Post-Modern lines it essential

to explore his ideas. Therefore Gandhi’s concept of religion, Human Nature and Satyagraha has

been discussed and contextualized around post-modernism philosophy.

Gandhi’s Concept of Religion:

Gandhi was deeply religious person and almost all the religion of the world had a profound

influence on him. Even though Gandhi was full of reverence for all the religion in the world yet

his concept of religion is somewhat unique where he regarded ‘Truth as a God’. And for him

realizing truth is purely a matter of subjective experience therefore it cannot be defined in terms

of objective reality. Therefore, “Gandhi emphasized that in order to experience this reality, as it

could not amply be demonstrated rationally, one should be willing to undergo through spiritual

training and has to become a pure soul.”4

Since existence of this reality cannot be defined solely by rationally, therefore, Gandhi proceeds

towards the realm of faith, another dimension of human life and emphasized that without faith

human life cannot progress. But Gandhi differentiated between blind faith and rational faith and



3 Gier, Nicholas F. (2003), The Virtue of Non-Violence: From Gautama to Gandhi, New York: SUNY Press,


4 Parekh, Bhikhu (2001), Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: OUP, p.39. See also, Rudolph, Lloyd. I.

and Susanne, H. Rudolph (2006), Postmodern Gandhi and Other Essays, New Delhi: OUP.