Gandhi, character consequentialism, and the virtue of nonviolence

Abstract

This paper has been extracted from a book manuscript that attempts to interpret Gandhi’s ethics of nonviolence ahimsa) in terms of virtue theory. The first section addresses the issue of virtue theory’s relationship to consequentialism and concludes that there is no way to avoid the fact that the virtues developed because of their consequences. Therefore, I will join Gandhi’s virtue ethics with P. J. Ivanhoe’s character consequentialism. Particularly significant in distinguishing utilitarianism from virtue theory is the relationship of means to ends. Character consequentialism will insist that moral ends are always internally related to the virtues as means. In the second section I will explicate the distinction between enabling and substantive virtues, discuss the enabling virtues of self-control, patience, and courage, and conclude that the virtue of nonviolence forms an alliance with these enabling virtues.

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