Gandhi and Hitler: Two Moral Opposites

Essay by memyselfCollege, Undergraduate October 2008

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One was one of humankind's biggest enemies; the other was a great soul. These two men provide a clear understanding of Plato's concept of harmony and how it relates to the cardinal virtues. Plato viewed harmony as the salvation of the state and the individual, while division encouraged by the inconsistency of personal interests with those of the state is the devastation of the same (Dunkle, 1986). He also believed that the way to make the most of ourselves as individuals is to rid ourselves of certain desires that are of the "want" nature and that are contrary to the principles of courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice: Plato's cardinal virtues (Denise, White, and Peterfreund, 2008, p. 14). In this essay I will demonstrate that Plato's theory can still be applied to modern society.

The first man is Adolph Hitler. Hitler ruled Germany from 1933, as appointed chancellor until he committed suicide in 1945.

Hitler's beliefs led to the killing of over 11 million Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Afro-Europeans, Polish citizens, Gypsies, and disabled people (Schwartz, 1997). According to Plato's view, Hitler never achieved harmony as an individual. He failed to balance justice, wisdom, temperance, and courage. He did a disservice to himself and to his country. He was unable to control his desires and let justice take its place. His idea of a pure race filled with perfect (genetically and physically) people led to one of the worst genocides in human history: the holocaust. He proved to be unjust: justice never leads to the killing of innocent people. He proved to be a carrier of no knowledge of Good or restraint: without justice, Good is incomplete. His last act of taking his life proved him to be a coward. Hitler was unable to die for his beliefs. Rather, he died not to face the consequences of his wrongdoing.

The other man is Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was an Indian nationalist and spiritual leader who ultimately led India to freedom from English rule without a single act of violence on his part and his true followers. His emphasis was upon the force of truth and non-violence in the struggle against evil. He started a movement of civil disobedience rather than using weapons in order to get his message across: Indians would no longer allow England to steal, fleece, oppress and impose authority over India. We can clearly see in Gandhi a man of strong beliefs and whose beliefs, originating from "Good", led to more "Good". Gandhi is an exemplar of justice, wisdom, temperance, and courage and of what those virtues in balance can create. Justice is proven by the choices he makes and the means in which he chooses to execute those choices; wisdom is shown by his very belief of Indian belonging to Indians; temperance is shown by his loyalty to his principles, never once going for the easy way of appealing to weapons; and courage is shown by his audacity in standing up for the whole nation of India in becoming the face of the Indian Independence Movement. He is one of the greatest contributors to modern India (state) in terms of freedom. By meeting all the cardinal virtues one can only come to the logical conclusion that Mr. Gandhi reached harmony according to Plato's view. Even to his death he kept his integrity and morality.

It is clear the influence of Plato's idea in modern society. One can plainly see Plato's principle of harmony and how it relates to the cardinal virtues by the comparison of Hitler and Gandhi and the way they chose to live their lives. One is able to see the two extreme end results of having or not having harmony according to Plato. Justice and injustice are like "disease and health; being in the soul just what disease and health are in the body… That which is healthy causes health, and that which is unhealthy causes disease…" (Denise, White, and Peterfreund, 2008, p. 15).

Works CitedDatta, V. (2006, October 8). Spectrum. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from The Tribune Web site:, T., White, N., & Peterfreund, S. (2008). Great Traditions in Ethics. Thompsom Wadsworth.

Dunkle, Roger (1986). Republic. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from AbleMedia Web site:, T. (1997). Holocaust Forgotten. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from Holocaust Forgotten Web site: