The nature and origins of war

He is a trained philosopher too.

The nature and origins of war

The first issue to be considered is what is war and what is its definition. The student of war needs to be careful in examining definitions of war, for like any social phenomena, definitions are varied, and often the proposed definition masks a particular political or philosophical stance paraded by the author.

This is as true of dictionary definitions as well as of articles on military or political history. Cicero defines war broadly as "a contention by force"; Hugo Grotius adds that "war is the state of contending parties, considered as such"; Thomas Hobbes notes that war is also an attitude: Each definition has its strengths and weaknesses, but often is the culmination of the writer's broader philosophical positions.

For example, the notion that wars only involve states-as Clausewitz implies-belies a strong political theory that assumes politics can only involve states and that war is in some manner or form a reflection of political activity.

This captures a particularly political-rationalistic account of war and warfare, i. We find Rousseau arguing this position: The military historian, John Keegan offers a useful characterization of the political-rationalist theory of war in his A History of War.

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It is assumed to be an orderly affair in which states are involved, in which there are declared beginnings and expected ends, easily identifiable combatants, and high levels of obedience by subordinates. The form of rational war is narrowly defined, as distinguished by the expectation of sieges, pitched battles, skirmishes, raids, reconnaissance, patrol and outpost duties, with each possessing their own conventions.

As such, Keegan notes the rationalist theory does not deal well with pre-state or non-state peoples and their warfare.

There are other schools of thought on war's nature other than the political-rationalist account, and the student of war must be careful, as noted above, not to incorporate a too narrow or normative account of war.

If war is defined as something that occurs only between states, then wars between nomadic groups should not be mentioned, nor would hostilities on the part of a displaced, non-state group against a state be considered war. An alternative definition of war is that it is an all-pervasive phenomenon of the universe.

Accordingly, battles are mere symptoms of the underlying belligerent nature of the universe; such a description corresponds with a Heraclitean or Hegelian philosophy in which change physical, social, political, economical, etc can only arise out of war or violent conflict.

Heraclitus decries that "war is the father of all things," and Hegel echoes his sentiments. Interestingly, even Voltaire, the embodiment of the Enlightenment, followed this line: All animals are perpetually at war with each other Air, earth and water are arenas of destruction.

Alternatively, the Oxford Dictionary expands the definition to include "any active hostility or struggle between living beings; a conflict between opposing forces or principles. This perhaps indicates a too broad definition, for trade is certainly a different kind of activity than war, although trade occurs in war, and trade often motivates wars.

The OED definition also seems to echo a Heraclitean metaphysics, in which opposing forces act on each other to generate change and in which war is the product of such a metaphysics. So from two popular and influential dictionaries, we have definitions that connote particular philosophical positions.

The plasticity and history of the English language also mean that commonly used definitions of war may incorporate and subsume meanings borrowed and derived from other, older languages: Such descriptions may linger in oral and literary depictions of war, for we read of war in poems, stories, anecdotes and histories that may encompass older conceptions of war.

Nonetheless, war's descriptions residing in the literature left by various writers and orators often possess similarities to modern conceptions. The differences arise from the writer's, poet's, or orator's judgement of war, which would suggest that an Ancient Greek conception of war is not so different from our own.

The Origins of War

Both could recognize the presence or absence of war. However, etymologically war's definition does refer to conceptions of war that have either been discarded or been imputed to the present definition, and a cursory review of the roots of the word war provides the philosopher with a glimpse into its conceptual status within communities and over time.

For example, the root of the English word 'war', werra, is Frankish-German, meaning confusion, discord, or strife, and the verb werran meaning to confuse or perplex. War certainly generates confusion, as Clausewitz noted calling it the "fog of war", but that does not discredit the notion that war is organized to begin with.

The Latin root of bellum gives us the word belligerent, and duel, an archaic form of bellum; the Greek root of war is polemos, which gives us polemical, implying an aggressive controversy.War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias.

The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War.

The nature and origins of war

Macmillan. The Nature of the Vietnam War THERE ARE NO CENSUS TAKERS of the barbarism of the 20th century, and there has been far too much of it to measure. TTiis assumption was also a definition of the nature of the world conflict, which prior to had always been between it was a war unlike any in modem history, and the Korean precedent.

The nature of the philosophy of war is complex and this article has sought to establish a broad vision of its landscape and the connections that are endemic to any philosophical analysis of the topic.

The nature of war changed with the rise of agriculture – which was accompanied by higher density populations. And there was the transition from societies of small bands of biologically related hunter-gathers to larger tribal societies without central authority, or with weak central authority, but which came together when they wanted to make war.

That is, war is paradoxically an expression of our basest animal nature and the exemplar of our most vaunted and valued civilized virtues. You will learn some basic military history and sociology in this course as a lens for the more important purpose of seeing the broader social themes and issues related to war.

The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War [David Livingstone Smith] on rutadeltambor.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

The nature and origins of war

Almost million human beings, mostly civilians, have died in wars over the last century, and there is no end of slaughter in sight/5(34).

The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War by David Livingstone Smith