Heidegger and Gandhi: A Dialogue on Conflict and Enmity

  • Gregory Fried
Part of the Boston Studies in Philosophy, Religion and Public Life book series (BSPR, volume 1)


While Heidegger and Gandhi share the conviction that conflict is an inevitable feature of the human condition, they differ on what that conflict entails and what it may accomplish. For Gandhi, human finitude means that any individual and any culture will have only a partial perspective on the truth, whether in religious matters or in questions of justice, and therefore conflict is the necessary result of these differences. Although Heidegger also argues that we are finite beings, he would disagree with Gandhi’s view that we may critique ourselves and our institutions in the light of a truth that, if only partially glimpsed, transcends our particularity. For Heidegger, there is no transcendence to a world of timeless principles and ideals, only the immanence of historical belonging. This means that while Heidegger believes that conflict plays a role in refining a community’s sense of its own historical destiny, he would condemn as nihilism Gandhi’s view that conflict can invite us to transcend ourselves. For Heidegger, genuine conflict reveals the opponents as incommensurable enemies; for Gandhi, the goal of conflict must always be the possibility of reconciliation, and conflict must unfold in a way to promote this. The essay argues that Gandhi’s position on what I call soft enmity offers a more promising understanding of the dialectic between our rootedness in historical traditions and our need to judge those traditions by standards that go beyond them.


Constructive Conflict National Independence Conversational Exchange Western Metaphysic Historical Task 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



 I gratefully acknowledge the comments and critiques of Richard Polt and Joseph Prabhu, who read early drafts of this essay.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySuffolk UniversityBostonUSA

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