Is war inevitable philosophy summary

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What was the substance of the letter? Freud was not an optimist by either natural or theoretical disposition. His vision of human nature was notoriously dark. He restates in his letter to Einstein the instinct theory he had developed twelve years earlier, largely in reaction to the unprecedented brutality of the First World War, in which 20, people were killed. Like every living being, Freud asserts, man is driven by two equally powerful instincts. One, erosis creative, unifying; the other, thanatos or the death instinctis aggressive and destructive.

In his reply to Einstein Freud says that what makes human beings so responsive to the drums of war is a natural passion for destruction, a primal urge to reduce life to inert matter. And when this death instinct can ally itself with the creative drive through a great purpose, as when war is unleashed for the purity of the Aryan race, or for the glory of the brotherhood of Allah — the combined instinctual gratification is well nigh irresistible.

Whatever the wretched lessons of history, whatever we have learned of the human psyche, its native lust for cruelty and destruction, we must keep alive the hope for peace, because resignation to the inevitability of war is now resignation to the endgame of humanity. Optimism in regard to peace was thus for Freud a moral necessity.

But if war has the overwhelming instinctual foundation Freud postulates for it, is it not invulnerable to any imaginable strategy for its elimination? If optimism in regard to peace is a moral obligation, what rational basis might we have for such a hope? In face of his own considerable contribution to our understanding of the naturalness of human depravity, is Freud not in fact hopelessly enjoining us to sustain an illusion, a willful blindness to the ineluctability of war?

Freud identifies two key sources of hope: we can defeat war either by strengthening the natural antidote to the death instinct, or by overcoming the instincts altogether in an evolution of the human psyche.

The first option would mean a strengthening of the bonds of eros among human beings, either by fostering actual affection from person to person, or by persuading them that what they share as human beings is stronger than what tears them apart as members of different tribes.

The history of human conflict offers no encouragement about either of these prospects. The strongest bonds of identity and love across large populations have invariably been forged in vengeance against a common enemy. And the dominance of instinct by critical intelligence has thus far been achieved in only a very small segment of humanity — and then not without the serious risks to mental health incurred by the introversion of aggression, as Freud recognized.

The resurgence of tribal fervor and bloodlust in recent history from Bosnia to Darfur, to the nascent civil war in Iraq, can only reinforce the judgment that the world is very far from either of these scenarios for peace. But it is not as though the passion for world peace is without its own powerful instinctual support. Freud has in a sense given us our charge as citizens of the 21st Century. We must help to forge the bonds of eros among our fellow humans, while increasing the power of our intelligence to channel our instinctual drives.

If we thought through how these two commitments might be enforced in our daily action, each of us would find an agenda for a lifetime. To say that it does is to give to history a wholly mythical power, for history has no such lessons of futility to teach. It is only by our present consent that the past can set limits to the future. So can we dare to hope for peace on earth?As far as we know, war has always been part of our human history, and it probably occurred from time to time, in one form or another, even throughout our prehistory, that is, for as far back as humans existed.

And even farther, since we now know that chimpanzees also wage a war of sorts, between bands, and they are our closest relatives. We have good reason to believe that five million years ago our own ancestors looked a lot like modern chimps, and presumably behaved like them. If neither this nor the proposition that chimps go on the warpath seems plausible to you, check out the book, Demonic Males, by Wrangham and Peterson. I shall structure my argument around a threeway division of human history and prehistory: 1 from the dawn of humanity up to the Neolithic; 2 from the development of agriculture and the beginning of complex societies ie the dawn of the Neolithic until the 20th century; and 3 from roughly the present time on into the future.

The first period was when human nature was forged. Our ancestors had always been social, banding together in small groups, like our chimp cousins.

As we developed speech and a capacity to make tools, these small bands gradually grew larger, more complex, and more efficient.

They were competing with each other, and from time to time such competition would become violent.

War \u0026 Human Nature: Crash Course World History 204

Bigger tribes usually prevailed over smaller ones, and the ones with greater internal cohesion had the edge over less disciplined groups. So there was a gradual evolution in a social or cultural sense toward larger groups with greater internal cohesion. But this evolution proceeded very slowly during the Paleolithic. There was very little technological development; for many thousands of years there would, for example, be no new breakthroughs in such techniques as flint knapping.

Our genetic inheritance, the DNA patterns which constituted the hard core of how we were constituted biologically, had time to adapt as our ways of living evolved.

As those individuals best at manipulating culture reproduce more successfully than their neighbors, genes for deft intellect spread faster. This, in turn, speeds up cultural evolution, which further speeds up genetic evolution, and so on: yet another form of progressive evolution via positive feedback.

is war inevitable philosophy summary

But when our ancestors invented agriculture and a host of related new techniques, population densities in favored areas went sky-high and all hell broke loose. The cultural rabbit started evolving so rapidly that it left the genetic turtle spinning in the dust. Here is how E. There was time enough, as one millenium passed into another, for the genes and epigenetic rules to evolve in concert with culture.

By Upper Paleolithic times, however, from about 40, to 10, years before the present, the tempo of cultural evolution quickened.Adam Frank. Is war just what humans do? Library of Congress hide caption.

Is War Inevitable?

Everyone claims to hate war, its cruelty and its waste. Yet collectively we jump into armed conflicts at the drop of a hat, or the drop of an insult, or a threat, or the perception of riches. Some wars seem "good," with solid justification for the call to arms, while others clearly spring from baser motives. In either case, war seems to be something we are stuck with as a species.

In a pair of Discover magazine articles, biologist E. Both positions make for fascinating reading, but there is another possibility that, I believe, comes only by looking at life in its largest, planetary systems context. Let's begin with Wilson, who looks at our evolutionary history and finds reasons to be less than optimistic:. In prehistory, group selection that is, the competition between tribes instead of between individuals lifted the hominids that became territorial carnivores to heights of solidarity, to genius, to enterprise—and to fear.

Each tribe knew with justification that if it was not armed and ready, its very existence was imperiled. According to Wilson, the record of organized human aggression stretches far back into pre-history. It may even reach to the origins of the entire hominid line. He points to patterns of chimp violence in male raiding parties as an argument that our warlike nature might be the eons-old "gift" of a common ancestor.

John Horgan disagrees. In his view, this "killer-ape" theory of human warlike origins doesn't hold up to more careful scrutiny:. Between andresearchers counted a total of 29 deaths from raids, which comes to one killing for every seven years of observation of a community.

Even Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, a leading chimpanzee researcher and prominent advocate of the deep-roots theory of war, acknowledges that 'coalitionary killing' is 'certainly rare. In addition, Horgan says, the evidence for war in human culture doesn't date back millions of years, but only 10 or so millennia.

Both authors make strong arguments defining the endpoints of a spectrum. Either war is in our evolution and hence in our genes, or war is a cultural invention that also can be un-invented. I think there is another perspective, and it comes from taking the long view — the view from the stars.

Astrobiology is a relatively new field that attempts to put life, its origin and its evolution into a planetary perspective.Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy. If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access.

Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition. Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay, as the budgets of all nations show us.

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Our bloody nature, it can now be argued in the context of modern biology, is ingrained because group-versus-group competition was a principal driving force that made us what we are. In prehistory, group selection that is, the competition between tribes instead of between individuals lifted the hominids that became territorial carnivores to heights of solidarity, to genius, to enterprise—and to fear. Each tribe knew with justification that if it was not armed and ready, its very existence was imperiled.

Throughout history, the escalation of a large part of technology has had combat as its central purpose. Today the calendars of nations are punctuated by holidays to celebrate wars won and to perform memorial services for those who died waging them.

is war inevitable philosophy summary

Public support is best fired up by appeal to the emotions of deadly combat, over which the amygdala—a center for primary emotion in the brain—is grandmaster. Wherever there is an enemy, animate or inanimate, there must be a victory. You must prevail at the front, no matter how high the cost at home. Any excuse for a real war will do, so long as it is seen as necessary to protect the tribe.

The remembrance of past horrors has no effect. From April to June inkillers from the Hutu majority in Rwanda set out to exterminate the Tutsi minoritywhich at that time ruled the country.

In a hundred days of unrestrained slaughter by knife and gun,people died, mostly Tutsi. The total Rwandan population was reduced by 10 percent. When a halt was finally called, 2 million Hutu fled the country, fearing retribution. The immediate causes for the bloodbath were political and social grievances, but they all stemmed from one root cause: Rwanda was the most overcrowded country in Africa.

For a relentlessly growing population, the per capita arable land was shrinking toward its limit. The deadly argument was over which tribe would own and control the whole of it.

Once a group has been split off from other groups and sufficiently dehumanized, any brutality can be justified, at any level, and at any size of the victimized group up to and including race and nation.

And so it has ever been. A familiar fable is told to symbolize this pitiless dark angel of human nature. A scorpion asks a frog to ferry it across a stream.Just War Theory has a long history in the western intellectual tradition. Augustine commented on the morality of war from a Christian perspective, as did several Arabic commentators from the 9th to the 12th centuries.

But St. Thomas Aquinas provided the most celebrated and still discussed the main outlines of just war theory. Just War Theory traditionally has two sets of criteria.

The first establishing jus ad bellumthe right to go to war; the second establishing jus in belloright conduct within war. In fact, looking at the history of slaughter that defines our species, we might all do better to think clearly about when, if ever, violence is justified. Jus ad bellum. In addition, innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.

Some theorists such as Brian Orend omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions. This principle is also known as the principle of macro-proportionality, so as to distinguish it from the jus in bello principle of proportionality. Once war has begun, just war theory also directs how combatants are to act:.

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Jus in bello. The acts of war should be directed towards enemy combatants, and not towards non-combatants caught in circumstances they did not create. The prohibited acts include bombing civilian residential areas that include no military target and committing acts of terrorism or reprisal against civilians. An attack cannot be launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage principle of proportionality.

An attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy, it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction. Jus post bellum. Jus post bellum concerns justice after a war, including peace treatiesreconstructionwar crimes trials, and war reparations.

Orend, for instance, proposes the following principles:. These terms of surrender include a formal apology, compensations, war crimes trials and perhaps rehabilitation. Alternatively, a state may end a war if it becomes clear that any just goals of the war cannot be reached at all or cannot be reached without using excessive force. Revenge is not permitted. The victor state must also be willing to apply the same level of objectivity and investigation into any war crimes its armed forces may have committed.

Punitive measures are to be limited to those directly responsible for the conflict.

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Truth and reconciliation may sometimes be more important than punishing war crimes. Draconian measures, absolutionist crusades and any attempt at denying the surrendered country the right to participate in the world community are not permitted.Related posts. If war were inevitable, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued.

And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side. In fact, governments do just this, but their premise is in error. War is not inevitable. Even violence on a small scale is not inevitable, but the incredibly difficult task of ending violence is a million miles past the simpler, if still challenging, task of ending organized mass slaughter.

War is not something created by the heat of passion. It takes years of preparation and indoctrination, weapons production and training. War is not ubiquitous. Nothing resembling current forms of war existed centuries or even decades ago. War, which has existed in almost completely different forms, has been mostly absent throughout human history and prehistory.

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While it is very popular to remark that there has always been a war somewhere on earth, there has always been the absence of war a great many somewheres on earth. Societies and even modern nations have gone decades and centuries without war. Anthropologists debate whether anything even resembling war was found in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, in which humans evolved for most of our evolution.

Quite a few nations have chosen to have no military. Institutions that lasted for many years, and which were labeled inevitable, natural, essential, and various other terms of similarly dubious import, have been ended in various societies.

These include cannibalism, human sacrifice, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, polygamy, capital punishment, and slavery. Yes, some of these practices still exist in greatly reduced form, misleading claims are often made about the prevalance of slavery, and a single slave is too many.

And, yes, war is one of the most troublesome institutions about which to be satisfied with only mostly ending. But war is dependent on major institutions like those that have been fully ended in some of these other cases, and war is not the most effective tool for eliminating smaller scale violence or terrorism. A nuclear arsenal does not deter and can facilitate a terrorist attack, but police, justice, education, aid, nonviolence — all of these tools can complete the elimination of war. But scaling the U.

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War, as anthropologists like Douglas Fry argue, has likely only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. But we did evolve with habits of cooperation and altruism.

During this most recent 10, years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war.

is war inevitable philosophy summary

Some have known it and then abandoned it. Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things.Brian has asked you, his listeners, and dozens of guests: is war inevitable? Watch Brian, author John Horgan, U. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and a panel of refugees, peace builders and veterans of war.

is war inevitable philosophy summary

Live video starts at 10am on Wednesday, June 13th, with a conversation about the European debt crisis. The End of War conversation begins at More on the Brian Lehrer Show site here. After a lifetime objecting to war I conclude: either we end war or war will end us. We debate endlessly the madness of war, yet almost never start with the madness of each of us. Responsibility and blame are dumped on enemies, leaders, arms-dealers, military and religious fanatics.

Anyone but you and me. It is time to own up. I am a democrat who claims a share in my nation's actions. I prove it by voting, paying taxes and yelling at my television screen. Without millions like me our wars could not start. Hanan Matrud would still be alive, instead of a dead eight-year-old girl, shot by a British soldier outside her home in Iraq.

The usual cop-out and a lie. To send an army far away to a foreign land and kill a little girl is no mistake. Her death is a crime of the first magnitude.

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Refusal to kill anyone at all, for any reason, seems like wild idealism in a deluded age. Yet it is the key to a barbaric prison. Outside is a new civilisation based on respect for life. A memorial for Hanan and untold millions. War is crime.

Let's wake up. Killing people is wrong, any time, anywhere, whatever cannibal chiefs may say.


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