Freedom and the Dynamics of the Self and the 'Other'; Re-constructing the Debate Between Tagore and Gandhi

Sophia 52 (2):335-357 (2013)
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Abstract

Tagore and Gandhi shared a relationship across 26 years. They argued about many things including the means for the attainment of swaraj/freedom. In terms of this central concern with the nature of freedom they came fairly close to an issue that has perhaps dominated the (European) Enlightenment. For the Enlightenment has sought to clarify what is meant by individual freedom and attempted to secure such freedom to the individual. This article argues that the Tagore-Gandhi debate can perhaps be reconstructed around the issue of freedom and the collective. Gandhi was able to employ the idea of collective action with conceptual and practical ease. He seemed to have felt no tension between individual freedom and the notion of the collective of which an individual becomes a part in his/her attempt to deal with the contending ‘other’ and secure his /her freedom/swaraj. To understand Tagore’s opposition to the Gandhian idea of swaraj this article draws a philosophical parallel between Tagore and Kant on individual freedom as primarily the freedom to reason. Tagore’s argument seemed to have centered on the insight that the location of the individual in a collective hypostatized self in order to protect his or her freedom from ‘others’ reaffirms the self other divide. The insider-outsider exclusionary dynamics that are generated not only consolidate such distinctions as external to (and outside of) the collective self, but they also initiate internal dynamics that create the ‘silenced insider.’

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Bindu Puri
Jawaharlal Nehru University

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