Mahatma Gandhi was a ‘nonconsequentialist’ in his beliefs because he rejected consequential philosophy which insinuates that consequences of actions can appreciably justify the means. ‘Nonconsequentialism’ views morality from the actions and not the consequences.
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According to nonconsequential theory, one’s morality lies in his/her actions and not consequences of his/her actions for nothing good can come from immoral actions. Therefore, actions are ether right or wrong independent of the consequences, as good ends cannot justify any corrupt means.
Allen argues that, “Gandhi is well known for his emphasis on the integral, mutually reinforcing relationship between means and ends because one cannot use impure or immoral means to achieve worthy goals” (3). Gandhi did not believe that an action is right if it promotes greatest good for the greatest number of people; far from it, he believed in moral actions that lead to the greatest good for all and this simple outright belief passes Gandhi for a nonconsequentialist.
Deontological theory supports Mahatma Gandhi view of morality for it states that morality depends on the actions or motives of the people. The deontological theory is a nonconsequential theory that does not assess morality from the point of consequences rather it assesses morality from the actions or omissions.
According to this theory, actions and rules are primary in determining morality in the society for deontologists argue that, actions are morally right or wrong based on commands from higher power or divine. In this case, Gandhi believed in divine obedience as a way of attaining the highest state of morality. Libertarian theory is also nonconsequential theory that supports Gandhi’s beliefs and arguments concerning morality.
The theory posits that policies are only morally right if they protect life, property and liberty of the people. Libertarians hold that freedom is inherent right of humanity, which guarantees life and property ownership, hence equality. Like libertarian theory, egalitarian theory supports the welfare of all in the society as depicted in the lifestyle of Gandhi when he fought for the freedom of the Indian masses.
Gandhi is a virtue ethicist who observed virtues from the nonconsequential perspective. He believed that actions define morality in the society as depicted by his life philosophies. Gandhi informed many people about their rights, advocated for a peaceful society, demanded for equality, taught about goodwill living and divine morals.
Gandhi argues that, “if I am accumulating wealth and power, my neighbor is in great need, and I do nothing to help alleviate the suffering of the other, then I contribute to and am complicit in the violence of the status quo” (Allen 4). In the argument, Gandhi implies that it is immoral to amass wealth in the society without helping the unprivileged for it propagates inequality.
In his argument that he does not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number, but greatest good for all, Gandhi depicts that he is a nonconsequentialist. This argument sets him apart from the consequential theorists who argue that any action is morally right if the end justify the means or satisfy greatest number of people. Consequential theories define morality from the consequences emanating from the actions for it does not matter whether the actions are morally right or wrong.
Examining Gandhi’s life, he was a man who dedicated his life for the benefit of all humanity because he struggled to instill ethics in all aspects of society such as economic, political, social and spiritual spheres. He believed that ethics are fundamental principles that keep the society together for the benefit of all members.
Allen, Douglas. “Mahatma Gandhi.” Routldge Philosophy. (203): 1-12