The Philosophy of War


Some philosophers define War as a conflict between states in which the use of force is necessary in order to achieve a political objective. Others, such as Carl von Clausewitz, argue that war is a continuance of politics by other means, and that it is inevitable if a state cannot successfully impose its national interests on the rest of the world by peaceful means. These views are not mutually exclusive, but reflect different approaches to determining the cause and nature of warfare.

Some philosophical theorists believe that the major causes of War are to be found in human psychological nature. This approach can range from very broad and intuitive assertions about human nature to complex analyses using concepts and techniques of modern psychology.

Still others, particularly those who are not committed to biological determinism, see the major causes of war in the structure and culture of nations or peoples. Such a view may be based on the assumption that war results from an inherently belligerent nature of human beings or that particular cultures are more prone to war than others.

In this view the problem of preventing war is largely a matter of educating nations and peoples to be more cautious in making statements that might be taken as threatening to start a war or that may seem to indicate a willingness to initiate military aggression. It is also a matter of ensuring that the international legal system has the means to prosecute war criminals once they have committed acts of aggression.

A third approach to the prevention of war focuses on economic penalties against countries that threaten or attempt aggression. It is generally believed that a country bent upon aggression will not carry out such an attack if it can no longer import manufactured goods, foodstuffs, raw materials and other necessities from the rest of the world. Thus it is hoped that if a large enough number of peace-desiring nations are willing to boycott any country that seeks to invade the territory of other nations, this will deter aggressive behavior.

Ultimately, the issue of preventing War is a philosophical issue and is settled by the will of the majority of a nation’s citizens. As such, it requires a great deal of careful thinking and discussion by citizens. It is not a topic to be left to those in power, especially those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the nation.

Whatever definition of War is used, it is clear that this is an extremely dangerous and deadly phenomenon. Yet it is one that can be prevented, if people are willing to do some hard thinking and discuss the issues involved thoroughly. If not, the current system of armed conflicts will continue to wreak havoc and blood, and those who live in this world must be ready to question the assumptions that underlie such conflicts and their justifications. This will not be easy or quick, but it is essential if peace is to be achieved in this world.