War and Peace, Again

28 May 2009


After thinking through again what I wrote yesterday about the possibility of political, eschatological, and catastrophic philosophies of peace, I am convinced of the methodological value of seeking parallel formulations of conceptual pairs like war and peace, as well as classic philosophical oppositions such as truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, good and evil. I find that, though initially unlikely, it is after all a salutary conceptual exercise to force the mind to think unfamiliar thoughts such as philosophies of peace that mirror philosophies of war.

On reflection, it seems obvious that eschatological wars are started and fought with the desire to establish an eschatological peace, and that political wars are started and perpetuated with the end in mind of the establishment of a political peace. For fatalists, who believe that events befall unfortunate man, catastrophic war follows catastrophic peace, and so on iterating the pattern through history, without any regard to human action or desire. These are ways of viewing the world — the political, the eschatological, and the catastrophic — and they are expressed in war and peace alike. (I do not hold that Rapoport’s tripartite division of wars is an adequate typology, but it does have something to recommend it: it has proved food for thought, at very least.)

The Principle of Conceptual Parallelism (explicitly formulated yesterday, but only now called by this name) proves itself in this meditation upon war and peace, and suggests its application more generally. It is a dialectical principle: the thesis is the original formulation of a theoretical context for a given concept; the antithesis is the parallel formulation of a theoretical context for the antithesis of the originally given concept; the synthesis is the broader, more comprehensive, and hopefully more coherent perspective that results from systematically expanding our conceptual scope and horizons.

That war, as a human institution, should force this explicit formulation of the Principle of Conceptual Parallelism upon me, ironically proves the conceptual fruitfulness of war. And this is but a start, an initial suggestion. I cannot regard the Principle of Conceptual Parallelism as finished in any sense. There remains the difficult question of defining the initial conceptual pair that enters into the dialectic of the principle, and other problems as well are to be expected. But it is at least a start.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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