The midterm paper requirement may be satisfied in any one of several (five or six) ways, which will be posted at one-week intervals from mid-October to late November. In order to receive full credit for this portion of the course, you must write on one of them; but you shouldn’t write on more than one. One submission per student, please.
You are to write a very short (approximately two to four (2-4) pages, typed, double-spaced) essay on the following question.
Be sure to make and keep a copy of your work, and please be aware of the requirements of academic honesty in writing your paper. A digital copy of your essay will be due, via the “Assignment” link on the course iLearn page for this option, no later than midnight two weeks from this Friday night, on Friday, November 19, 2021.
Look at the recommended book for this course, Vaughn’s Writing Philosophy, and the pamphlet by Bennett, et al., Well-Reasoned Writing (portions of both have been posted on the course iLearn page) for some pointers on writing a philosophy essay, if you need further guidance.
In some respects Gandhi’s thought is of a piece with a long tradition of political philosophy in the West – that is, that in the final analysis a government maintains its legitimate authority vis-à-vis its citizens not by violence, or coercion more generally, nor by the mere threat of violence or coercion, but by acceptance and by voluntary cooperation. Gandhi advocates a refusal to cooperate with any authority – such as the colonial authorities and their local collaborators — that the citizens do not democratically control.
Is this refusal to cooperate effective only against a government that claims to respect some liberal human rights, such as freedom of speech and the right of peaceable assembly? Or can it be effective against less-liberal, less tolerant regimes than was British India in the 1920s and 1930s?
Gandhi held it might have been effective even against Nazi Germany in the pre-World War II era; other proponents of non-violent resistance, such as Gene Sharp (see There Are Realistic Alternatives for some discussion of this point) and Jonathan Schell argue that a campaign based on satyagraha can be effective against even some totalitarian and authoritarian regimes (such as the communist regimes in Eastern Europe in the 1980s), even if it couldn’t have worked in Nazi Germany by the late 1930s.
What do you think? Discuss critically.