"Fish without bicycle"(1973); Gandhi's "eye for eye"(1982); Eyes/England(1943)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Jan 20 07:35:05 UTC 2005

On Thu, 20 Jan 2005 01:58:07 -0500, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU> wrote:

>>Did Gandhi really say this? The movie Gandhi did.
>Or was it Martin Luther King?
>Washington Post, Sep 21, 1958, p. E6
>[Review of _Stride Toward Freedom_ by Martin Luther King]
>Violence by Negroes, he says, is impractical: "The old law of an eye for
>an eye leaves everybody blind."
>New York Times, Jul 7, 1959, p. 30
>"Nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to people in the struggle
>for human dignity," Dr. King said. "The old eye-for-an-eye philosophy ends
>up leaving everybody blind."
>King was a student of Gandhi, of course (this is mentioned in the 1958
>review), but I don't know if he attributed the quote to him.

According to this article (available on JSTOR), King cribbed the line from
Harris Wofford, who was also studying Gandhian nonviolence:

"Composing Martin Luther King, Jr." by Keith D. Miller
PMLA Vol. 105, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 70-82
Several sentences of King's explication of nonviolence, including several
quotations from Gandhi, stem from Harris Wofford's "Non-violence and the
Law: The Law Needs Help."
Wofford: The old law of an eye-for-an-eye leaves everyone blind.
("Non-violence" 32)
King: The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. (_Stride_ 213)
[Citing: Wofford, Harris. "Non-violence and the Law: The Law Needs Help."
Journal of Religious Thought 15 (Autumn-Winter 1957-58): 25-36. Rpt. in
_Civil Disobedience: Theory and Practice_. Ed. Hugo Bedau. New York:
Pegasus, 1969. 59-71.]

The article notes that Wofford had traveled to India to study nonviolence,
so perhaps he'd heard the saying attributed to Gandhi there.

--Ben Zimmer

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