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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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Aggressiveness and hostility have always marked
men's behavior, wanting only the labeling; and history
could be read as the progressively successful pursuit
of the technology and waging of war. In contrast, a
long, painful struggle was necessary before the notion
of peace could be formulated. This point is readily
enough illustrated in the emerging Greek tradition. The
concept of peace finds little place among the Homeric
Greeks. Hector, for example, bidding his wife farewell,
regrets the foolishness and injustice of the Trojan war
(from which the listener knows he will never return).
Then, gathering his son in his arms, he wishes for him
not the vocations of peace but the life of a warrior—
gladdening the heart of his mother by bringing home
as spoils the bloodied armor of his foes.

A more sophisticated appreciation of peace arises
in the classical period of Greek thought. Both the
tragedian Euripides and the comedian Aristophanes
voice general antiwar sentiment, though it is set in the
context of the then-current war between Athens and
Sparta. Aristophanes in the Acharnians has an Athenian
farmer make a private peace and sit gorging himself
on imported food while his fellow citizens look on
longingly, and in the Lysistrata the women are incited
to withhold their favors until men make peace.
Euripides in his Trojan Women offers an early version
of the humanitarian's disgust with the cruelties of war.

Plato, though writing to an ideal state, recognizes
the desirability of peace. He first describes a society
on a marginal level of existence without government
or strife. When this is rejected for lack of human
amenities from furniture to spice, Plato recasts the
republic in Spartan-like terms, so as to control the
internal aggression of human appetite in a world of
scarcity. Its simplicity makes it unappealing to an
external aggressor, and if attacked it can always secure
allies by letting them have the spoils. But Plato is too
pessimistic to conceive of a world of such republics
as his, and even expects human appetite to ensure the
corruption of the best state, for the appetites (symbol-
ized by the dragon) are bound to engender a class
struggle when the rulers inevitably make mistakes.

Aristotle too seems to regard war as inevitable, but
wants basic ethical and educational focus to be on the
pursuits and virtues of peace rather than on those of
war, and on the arts of leisure rather than those of
business. Appreciating the inevitability of social ten-
sions (especially between rich and poor), and accepting
the institution of slavery, Aristotle conceives men as
essentially social and plastic, in the sense that reason
can effectively guide them towards a stable polity.
Military training ought to be directed towards defense
alone; its purpose is to prevent enslavement of the
citizens by conquerors. The end of a just war is always

The revolutionary program that was implicit in
Zeno's doctrine of equality and fraternity dampened
as Stoicism matured. Even in the more law-oriented
Roman Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius a metaphysical
ideal of natural order and harmony led less to the
correction of those ills of society which resulted from
the imperfect realization of the logos, the rational order
of nature, than to the development of a personal moral
stance with which to confront evil. Even so, the view
of a single world community overriding distinctions
between Greek and barbarian, slave and master, man
and woman remained a powerful ingredient in the
history of ideas of peace. It was to some extent, at
least insofar as civil peace was guaranteed through a
centralized authority, exhibited in the Pax Romana,
and it was given a Christian statement in Saint Paul.

The Old Testament provides passages which easily
match the warlike stance of Homer and in which
Jehovah is virtually a Lord of War, jealous of his sover-
eignty and promising vengeance against the foes of
Israel. Yet there emerges, especially in the Prophets,
another aspect of God as the Father of all men, a Lord
of Peace, enjoining the pursuit of a peace for which
the price was sometimes thought to be the sufferings
of the Jews themselves. Most stirring and influential
of the prophetic utterances comes from Isaiah and is
repeated in Micah; it promises brotherhood of man,
benevolence of God, and an intimate fellowship with

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke
many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-
shares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not
lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
any more

(Isaiah 2:4).

Pacific themes pervade the Judaic tradition; we need
only remember that the daily prayers of the Jews for
more than three thousand years have concluded with
a petition of peace, while “Jerusalem” came, by folk
etymology, to mean “Vision of Peace.” This rabbinic
tradition was powerfully presented by Hillel who
placed love of man on a par with reverence toward
God. Hillel intended to include the whole community
of man, nonbelievers, the humble, and the poor as well
as the believers, the mighty, and the rich. “What is
unpleasant to thyself, that do not to thy neighbor; this
is the whole of the Law, all else is but exposition.”

These attitudes are continued in the early Christian
rejection of the Lex Talionis, and the replacement of
negative commandments such as “Thou shalt not kill”
by the positive responsibilities of love. The classic


Christian formulation is of course the Sermon on the
Mount with its gentle advocacy of nonviolence, of the
love of one's neighbor, of the infinite value of the soul
and of humanitarian charity and benevolence. The
perplexing issue is why such straightforward and
unambiguous teaching came to be ignored, or at least
taken as a counsel of perfection impossible of realiza-
tion in this world. In any case, as the hope of an
immediate “Coming” receded, Christians began to
accommodate to the social realities of civil government,
military service, taxation, etc; and then to develop their
own political power. Yet the literal directives of the
Sermon were time-resistant and Christian pacifism has
not lacked for bold and uncompromising advocates in
such early Church Fathers as Clement, Justin, and
above all Origen, in sects such as the Quakers, Schwenk-
felders, and Doukhobors, and in such modern propo-
nents as Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Maritain, and A. J. Muste.
However, even this literal interpretation opens onto
two rather different constructions: sometimes the em-
phasis falls on the responsibility of men to each other
and sometimes, rather, on the relation between the
individual and God, in which case the duties of love
and charity are derivative.

This latter has much in common (not accidentally)
with a Stoic search for tranquility and peace of soul.
War, anger, hatred, and killing are renounced not so
much out of compassion for the suffering they entail,
but because they interfere with the individual's capac-
ity to respond to God. “But man is not to be loved
for his own sake, but whatever is in man is to be loved
for God's sake” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II,
Qu. 2, Art. 7). And in the seventeenth century, even
George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, gave
the peace testimony not (as members of the Friends
Service Committee sometimes forget) so much because
of the pain inflicted on the victims but because violence
mars the spiritual condition of the violent doer and
thereby his relation with the divine. The Quakers
sought to bring about nonviolently the kind of attitude
and condition which would remove the occasion of war
and inhumanity. Moral antagonism to war and slavery,
the advocacy of prison and hospital reform, and the
humane treatment of the insane thus all have a com-
mon base.

Christian pacifism could also be turned, we noted
above, directly toward humanitarian responsibility. In
this context, to love one's neighbor entailed obligations
of charity and benevolence, in an effort to seek the
Kingdom of God on earth. More prosaically this can
be regarded as a Christian utilitarianism which had
spokesmen among the Cambridge Platonists. Ralph
Cudworth, for example, thought that God had con-
structed the world for the good of man, and that there
fore God's imperative was to contribute to it. “The
greatest benevolence of every rational agent towards
all constitutes the happiest state of all, and therefore
the common good of all is the supreme law” (Treatise,
Ch. I, Sec. 4).

Yet historical Christianity generally compromised its
pacifist commitments. The ideal of the Pax Romana
of civil peace secured under a strong central authority
—was inherited by the church as it entered organic
relations with civil government and control. The issue
became not that of outlawing war but of distinguishing
just from unjust wars. Augustine translated the Roman
view into the new setting. Clearly the literal inter-
pretation of the sermon was inapplicable when all
Christendom was facing the barbarian. Defensive and
retributive wars and those undertaken by appointment
of God are justified when waged by a legitimate sover-
eign; but the ultimate objective of war must always
be peace. Aquinas was somewhat more explicit: offen-
sive wars may not be justly ventured merely, for exam-
ple, to increase territory; furthermore, the intention
must be morally well-formed, that is, that the good
sought and the justice to be vindicated must not exceed
the injustices committed in the securing of it. Robert
Bellarmine restated this last condition with even
stronger relevance for the present: war must not cause
greater evil in, for example, the destruction of life and
property than it was intended to remedy. Major
Protestant thinkers such as Martin Luther and John
Calvin for the most part followed this lead, although
the latter made an influential provision for revolt by
peoples under an unjust ruler or under one who
commanded unchristian behavior. Apart from this,
warfare and police under legitimate authority are
considered by Calvin to be essential to retributive

As the theoretical vision of a unified Europe was
shattered, and with the emergence of national states
and the revival of Roman law (which strengthened the
secular at the expense of religious power), it became
evident that there was no arbiter to legislate a war's
justification. A search was begun for a new kind of
authority to fill the vacuum. The choice lay between
alternatives: that of a Machiavelli or a Hobbes in which
individual sovereigns, owing allegiance only to might,
would entail an unending series of wars; or that of a
Grotius, which projected Roman Law onto relations
between nations. Grotius, doubtless motivated by the
horrors of the Thirty Years War, sought the ground
rules which might outlaw some of the barbarities. Thus
the treatment of prisoners of war or alien property
must not go beyond what is needed to break down
resistance or to obtain reparations. More optimistically
than the Stoics, he believed that there was a superior


moral order or “law of nature” beyond force and self-
interest which is accessible to reason. Grotius combines
the jus gentium, the laws and customs common to all
peoples, with jus inter gentes, the traditional laws
governing relations between peoples or nations. Thus,
in his view of international law, precedent and reason
coalesce as sources for a code to determine when a
war is just; but that wars are sometimes legitimate ways
of settling disputes is never put in question.

It was left to those writing in the context of an
eighteenth-century belief in the perfectibility of man
to conceive of the eliminability of war itself and to
challenge the morality of any use of force. Early in
the century the Abbé Saint-Pierre introduced the novel
suggestion that an intelligent understanding of social
processes and a true appraisal of the obstacles standing
in the way of progress might allow mankind to take
a hand in planning its own destiny. The major social
obstacle to progress, as the abbé saw it, was war, and
he set about planning its elimination. His “Projet de
traité pour rendre la paix perpétuelle entre les
souverains chrétiens” (1713) proposed an institution
much like an international court or society of nations.
This alliance was to be a federation of all European
states, which, after some adjustments as to boundaries,
was to hold to the status quo. The federation was to
establish an army from revenue provided by the mem-
ber states, and it would make civil wars impossible and
international wars preventable. Leibniz publicly ridi-
culed the Projet for its impracticability; it reminded
him of an inscription “Pax Perpetua” outside a grave-
yard, for only in death do men cease fighting. But
Emmerich de Vattel and Jean Jacques Rousseau took
the plan more seriously, for by their time commerce
and trade had already made European economic inter-
dependence a fact of life. Rousseau recognized the
dictates of reason which warned that international
security was a condition for further progress, but feared
the stupidity (rather than the immorality) of self-
interested national policy. In the end he concluded
pessimistically that only force could establish the
needed federation—and that at too horrible a cost.

Rousseau and Vattel provided much of the setting
for Kant's writings in these matters, but it was Kant's
work and prestige which vindicated Saint-Pierre by
giving respectability to the notion of international
peace. Kant undertook to show that peace was morally
and rationally imperative as well as empirically feasi-
ble. The individual's duty to seek peace would appear
to follow in the critical philosophy from the categorical
imperative, whether it is formulated in terms of ra-
tional autonomy, the universalization of maxims, or the
ultimate value of humanity. Yet Kant reaches far be-
yond his predecessors by projecting the rules of indi
vidual morality onto the social domain: nations are
moral entities standing in moral relation to one an-
other. States are obligated to develop those institutions
which will lead to the abandonment of irrational and
wasteful wars as instruments of policy; so much has
now become the indispensable condition for progress.
Kant's essays on “The Idea of a Universal History from
a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784), “On the Com-
mon Saying” (1793), and “Perpetual Peace” (1795) are
not only interesting for the issues at hand but also
because they add an empirical reference to his critical
ethics, relating the world of science to that of moral
behavior, happiness to duty, and integrating his view
of the moral agent with a Hobbesian view of human

Hobbes, it will be remembered, regarded human
nature when left to itself as egoistic, greedy, and ag-
gressive without limit. This is for Hobbes not a moral
reproach, since in his view the laws of human behavior
are derived from more general laws of bodies in mo-
tion; human bodies being a particular sort of object,
and that “artificial body,” the state, an extension of
human behavior under the pressure of needs and the
rational search to satisfy them. Hobbes backs up this
essentially deductive position by observations of ag-
gressive individual behavior when unrestrained by fear
and of the tendency of social groups to collapse into
anarchy whenever a controlling authority is lacking.
When he has his physiology well in mind, Hobbes even
demotes pleasure-seeking into a secondary place; what
is primary is the effort of the organism to preserve
itself for reason never alters this objective but merely
provides strategies for realizing it.

This ability to sacrifice immediate satisfactions for
greater long-term benefits, especially a peaceful order,
is what allows men to contract away some liberties
to a civil society and thereby avoid what would other-
wise be a war of each against all, a life that would
not only be “... nasty, brutish, and short” but which
would lack all the amenities of culture—agriculture,
navigation, science, etc. Once the civil society is con-
tracted, the imperative to seek peace is reasonable and
in force. Thus “Every man ought to seek peace, for
in a condition where every man can injure any man
as he pleases there can be no security, and everyone
seeks security both by necessity of his nature and by
natural right.” And, “Every man should renounce his
right to defend himself in so far as all agree to renounce
their rights to the extent they find it necessary for
peace.” On the other hand, such imperatives are
hypothetical, i.e., binding only when there is an effec-
tive authority to insure peace. “Every man, if he fails
to find peace, should defend himself as best he can in
war” (Leviathan, Book I, Ch. 13).


Yet even within an instituted civil society stability
is threatened by the omnipresent causes of quarrel:
competition, which makes men war for gain; diffidence,
which makes men war for safety; and glory, which
makes them war for reputation. When the State (as
in civil war) loses that coercive power which makes
the breaking of promises more costly than the keeping
of them, society once again is plunged into war which
may be overt struggle or, what is almost as bad, “...
that intermittent state of active hostility, a ready dis-
position to fight, or a sustained preparation for conflict”
(ibid.). Nations severally have a primary responsibility
not only for maintaining internal security but also for
the defense against external threats; and since there
is no effective super-power, individual nations are in
the “state of nature” with respect to one another, that
is, in a condition of war of each against all. “Neither
if they cease from fighting, is it therefore to be called
peace; but rather a breathing time, in which one enemy
observing the motion and countenance of the other,
values his security not according to pacts, but the
forces and counsels of his adversary” (ibid.).

Kant takes the next and obvious step: mechanisms
similar to those that lead men to form civil societies
are also at work encouraging nations to form federa-
tions. Kant supports this thesis with two sorts of con-
siderations. The first, formal and legalistic, has roots
in his critical philosophy, and amounts to a projection
of the categorical imperative onto the political screen.
Here the moral considerations adduced are inde-
pendent of cultural development and expediency.
Whereas Hobbes had thought that morality is instituted
with a civil state, Kant held that the essentially con-
tractual relations that make a state possible depend
on a prior morality which makes those contracts
binding and (morally) validates political relations. Man
is free to realize the inner principle of perfection which
his own reason sets. Unfortunately, desires and inclina-
tions impede the realization of this self-imposed duty.
Civil societies arise to facilitate the realization of that
perfection (i.e., to enable the “good will,” in Kant's
sense, to fulfill the moral imperatives). This is the moral
justification of the state. Of all the historical forms of
government, the representative-republican best reflects
the moral relation in which men stand to one another.
In such a government the citizens are equal and they
are free because they are committed to laws internal-
ized by their own consent and expressed in legislation
of their own making. The state aims not at happiness
but at justice; it must support a value system which
is justified by reason not merely by anthropology.

The ideal of peace in a modern sense could not even
have arisen until the rise of republics. Representative
government further implements peace, since men are
not likely to consent to wage wars whose cost and
horror they must bear. Once a state has become a
republic it will bind itself to other states with cov-
enants in a network of moral obligations and rights.
After all, nonviolence among the citizens of a single
state would avail them little if they remain helpless
before the constant threat of international wars. This
view is legalistic: member states of the federation,
being moral entities, must also be autonomous and

Kant then sketches the rules of a practical science
of diplomacy which—given the will—would support
the establishment of perpetual peace. For example,
when at war nations must seek to minimize the hatred
and bitterness which would make final conciliation
difficult; when at peace they must avoid the evils of
secret diplomacy, avoid maintaining standing armies,
and preparing for war. They must cultivate those hos-
pitable attitudes and increase those commercial and
cultural activities which transcend national boundaries.
In all of these matters, Kant modestly remarks, no one
is more helpful than the philosopher, who ought there-
fore to be free to advise.

Kant advances considerations of a second sort to
show that perpetual peace is empirically feasible, and
therefore can serve as a practical and regulative ideal.
(Kant optimistically shifts Pax Perpetua from the
Leibnizean epitaph to a sign over a Dutch inn.) Human
nature is, at least in part, the unlovely and unsociable
attitude which Hobbes portrayed. Man prefers indo-
lence and would live instinctually if he could. His
natural inclinations are directed toward his own satis-
factions, and his love of possessions sets him in conflict
with his neighbor. Ironically, the very effort to outstrip
the neighbor drives him into society, which social state
he resents all the while. He spreads out and populates
the most inhospitable areas and adapts to the most
varied conditions. This very spread makes it possible
for him to survive and to form larger and larger social
groups. Yet man also is affiliative, though somewhat
reluctantly, and forges bonds of genuine feeling and
sentiment, wishes for peace, prepares to keep his con-
tracts; this mixed sociability introduces a new quality
to the happiness he can secure and a chance to plan
for it that would have been impossible in a primitive
society. The tension, this unsocial-sociability, is a criti-
cal part of the dynamics of progressive history and it
accounts for the rise of culture and civilization, Kant
claims. That men are reasonable is also an empirical
fact. Yet reason in this context develops over time and
through trial and error; thus it is cumulative, is bound
to the particular achievement of a culture—its social
forms and its science—and is a characteristic of the
species rather than merely of the individual. What is


true of science and culture generally holds for morals.
History has a moral dimension; it is teleological and
evolutionary. Beneath the erratic and uneven move-
ment of history the plan of nature can be discerned
and the laws of historical development formulated. The
ideal of peace has already emerged. Retrospectively,
wars are seen to have served local and parochial ends;
they may have stimulated industry and inventiveness
and even freedom of inquiry which, since it knows no
boundaries, must extend to religion. Wars, or more
often force, have had their role in the creating of states,
republics, and now, federations. Yet wars and all that
they entail prepare the ground for their own tran-
scendence. As wars become more widespread and
effective, the fear and fatigue of the people make them
progressively reluctant to fight and more prepared to
seek other remedies. The ideal of peace as realizable
in history arises, and the striving to realize it enters
as a new factor in history—a factor which must in time
breed its own consequences. Just as religious wars in
his day had become anachronistic, Kant foresaw the
time when the irrationality of war would also become
generally apparent; and peace, which would be no
mere truce between powers, no temporary secession
of hostilities, but a way of civilized life, would become
so rooted that appeal to violence would be inconceiv-
able. The plan of nature with its laws of human and
social development does not guarantee peace as inevi-
table but as sufficiently feasible to make its pursuit
reasonable and obligatory.

Kant's influence extended differently through both
the legal and the empirical-historical emphases. The
legalistic arguments climaxed the continental tradition.
English translations of Kant's political writings were
popular on both sides of the Atlantic, even in the
eighteenth century, and in the nineteenth century,
were discussed by Transcendentalists. Many appeared
in Frederick H. Hedges' Prose Writers' of Germany
(1848). Francis Lieber, while teaching Americans the
Kantian moral philosophy, worked the premisses of
Perpetual Peace into the code for the conduct of armies
which President Lincoln commissioned. This last was
only one of the ways that Kant's proposals were
shepherded into the international law of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries. Laissez-faire cosmopolitans
such as David Hume and Adam Smith had had the
same objectives as Kant, if not his metaphysics. They
appreciated the interdependence of one nation's pros-
perity with that of others, and they thought that the
peace necessary to wealth could be furthered by those
cooperative policies that were in line with the laws
of economics.

Jeremy Bentham, with greater faith in legal reform,
refashioned these attitudes into concrete proposals for
international peace. Bentham's test of an institution by
use of the calculus of “the greatest happiness of the
greatest number,” would have been unacceptable to
Kant, but both were equally committed to a federation
of nations. Utilitarian concern for public good and
happiness extends to the “habitable limits of the globe.”
Thus international law has as its objective the securing
of the common good for all nations. It aims not merely
at minimizing evils during times of war, but has a
positive task—to maximize benefits across national
boundaries—a task which, for Bentham, requires the
searching out of the causes of war and a Plan for an
Universal and Perpetual Peace.
Most wars, according
to Bentham, are caused by passion or ambition and
in either case the remedy lies basically in an appeal
to reason, supplemented in the first instance by justice
and in the second by self-interest (wars are not com-
patible with enlightened self-interest). Bentham distin-
guishes two functions of international institutions: a
court without coercive powers beyond those of justice
and an international legislature supported by public
sanctions, which latter would lead to disarmament, to
the publicity of treaties and negotiations, and to the
emancipation of colonies (which so often are causes
of hostility).

Eighteenth-century America provided a model as
well as theorists. For example, James Wilson cast the
problem of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as
quite literally one of uniting states not through power
but through the multiplicity of interests of the people
taken individually. More importantly, the United States
provided a heartening example to those concerned
about peace; as James Wilson put it, “The United
States exhibited to the world the first instance of a
nation unattacked by external force, unconvulsed by
domestic insurrections, assembling voluntarily, delib-
erating fully and deciding calmly concerning that sys-
tem of government under which they and their poster-
ity should live” (speech in Convention, Nov. 24, 1787).

Now it is important to note that the posing of the
problem in terms of a relation between nations has
important consequences. The area of conflict, the
conceptual space in which war and peace operate are
thereby defined, and the relevant uses of “war” and
“peace” implicitly determined. War and peace become
identifiable states separated by a fairly well-marked
line. Strictly speaking, the sovereignty of a nation is
unbreachable; domestic injustice, civil strife, and the
most rampant abuse of nationals by their own govern-
ments cannot legally be touched; this also applies to
the American and French revolutionists. Equally,
commitments to geographically-bounded sovereignty
forecloses treatment of the larger-than-national con-
flicts between races, ideologies, or classes unless they


are refashioned in national terms. In fact these com-
mitments also close out the notion of a peace guaran-
teed by a single sovereign to which some aspects of
their position might have led them.

Hegel did move toward such a super-state, building
on Kant's dynamics of historical growth but in large
measure destroying the pacific conclusions. There is
an inevitability to the progressive replacements of
powers throughout history. Each nation emerges as a
self-contained moral personality without obligations of
any sort to other nations. Thus, might certifies right,
and war is a legitimate expression of the dominant
power of the moment; but war is more than that—it
is a force for the good of the state since it discourages
internal dissent and corruption, and fosters the spiritual
cement of patriotism. Hegel thus lent support to the
rising nationalism, justifying at the same time the need
for a strong military caste.

Later writers, in expanding their view of social
evolution, often go beyond political categories, and
view peace as a concomitant of a future more progres-
sive state of the world. Herbert Spencer, for example,
distinguished a militaristic state of society which is now
giving way to the industrial; in the latter cooperation
has selective value in the evolution of man. Security
and peace are the necessary conditions for international
trade in Spencer's laissez-faire individualism, and he
was outraged by the emergence of corporate imperial-
ism. Karl Marx too saw war as a special form, part
of an exploitative class society under given conditions
of production. Hence war cannot be eliminated and
genuine peace secured until a world of socialism based
on unleashed productive power has eliminated exploi-
tation. And this socialistic solution of course was not
possible till recent times when technology and the
organization of production have made possible the
elimination of scarcity.

The anarchistic view of history also, as for example
in P. A. Kropotkin, emphasized a basic human relation
of mutual aid and cooperation as the natural state of
man. This is aborted by the emergence of power moti-
vations and institutional power establishments which
constitute the source of war. Ultimately the restoration
of the basic values of mutual aid will break through
the power barrier to establish cooperative organiza-
tional forms, federational rather than central in spirit.

The twentieth century has brought with it violence
of unprecedented intensity and scope. Earlier wars,
although centrally important, were isolable phenom-
ena; now even the quality of peacetime life has been
modified by the demands and the anxieties of un-
declared wars, cold wars, and military preparations.
R. G. Hawtrey early appreciated what is now a com-
monplace: war is an industry which contributes to the
economic prosperity and technological development
of a nation. Even apart from standing armies, commu-
nications must be organized, railroads and factories
maintained, skills taught, and popular attitudes and
traditions shaped with a view to future wars. War has
become an integral part of the organization of society.

But if total war has been consolidated into the social
structure, and is making its bid for supremacy in human
life, the twentieth century is not without heirs to the
accumulated tradition of the idea of peace. The reli-
gious tradition had its strong and radical statement in
Tolstoy and Gandhi; theologians such as Maritain and
Muste denied the justice of any war, while Freud,
Einstein, and Russell deepened the insights of Hobbes
and Kant.

Tolstoy sought, in a literal reexamination of the
Sermon on the Mount, for the knowledge of how one
ought to live. “Resist not evil” means not only that
evil is not to be repaid by evil, but that all use of
physical force is immoral. From this central imperative
other pacifistic injunctions follow as theorems: for
example, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” means
that Christians should take no part even in legal prose-
cution for it is our laws that make criminals. “Live
in peace with all men” and “Love your enemies” also
require respect for each man (never regarding him as
a “fool”) regardless of national loyalties, competing
patriotisms, and similarly divisive passions.

Tolstoy's utter rejection of violence does not take
root in mere humanism; the wrongness of violence lies
in its rupture of the relationship between the individual
and God. Men can change their attitudes; violence can
be replaced by love if only the obstacles created by
the iniquitous socioeconomic structure of society are
done away with. Technological advance depends on
morally horrendous factories, prisons, prostitution, and
serfdom; our material enjoyments are purchased at too
high a moral price. In modern society, the forces of
love (the Judeo-Christian tradition) are in continual and
equal conflict with those of violence (represented by
the power-holders, the armies which support them, the
courts which rule in their behalf, etc.).

Tolstoy's position was also grounded in personal
experience. In his youth he had seen the banalities and
excesses of aristocratic life, juxtaposed with the misery
of the serf, and he concluded, in the manner of
Rousseau, that the simplicity of the latter was to be
preferred. Tolstoy's encounter with military justice in
the Crimea was a turning point; he witnessed soldiers
dying heroically for a regime that offered them noth-
ing, fighting those against whom there was no com-
plaint. One of them, a young volunteer, had been
flogged for a clerical error and had retaliated by strik-
ing out at the captain. The uninjured officer forced


a court martial which resulted, in spite of Tolstoy's
defense, in execution. Tolstoy, even in those youthful
moments, was sickened by a social order which per-
mitted the captain's action, the soldier's behavior, as
well as the punishment. What was needed was a
reconstitution of society to eradicate violence.

Gandhi was influenced by the Sermon on the Mount,
especially Tolstoy's interpretation of it, by corre-
spondence with him, and by Thoreau's Civil Disobe-
But Gandhi goes far beyond Christian
anarchism in his distinctive welding of Western
humanism and ahimsa (“non-injury”) which had been
for centuries a part of Buddhism and Jainism. Non-
injury is much more than a refusal to kill or do harm;
it requires the avoidance even of the wish to harm or
embarrass, and the seeking of positive human values
which violence, even in intent, destroys. All men in-
cluding the adversary and the wrongdoer are reasona-
ble and at least latently moral—thus either they can
be persuaded by rational argument, or conscience can
be aroused by the example of suffering and by non-
violent coercion, which last does not mean demon-
strations for the sake of harrassment. One turns the
other cheek because this may provoke reflection and
call forth from the opponent the soul force.

Non-violence is the law of our species, as violence is the
law of the brute.... The dignity of man requires obedi-
ence to a higher law—to the strength of the spirit

p. 62).

Nonviolence was also worked into an effective po-
litical tool. Like Tolstoy, Gandhi saw, in industrializa-
tion and the concentration of power, sources of the
destruction of the moral individual. He wanted a moral
reawakening that required a return to the simplicity
and asceticism of peasant life. India was to provide
the model by which all governments resting on vio-
lence and exploitation were to be overwhelmed. It was
not that India was so weak she could not win her
independence by arms, but that she morally ought not
to do so. Internationalism would come, but only after
the future member-states had achieved some measure
of self-reliance and self-respect. This future federation
must be founded not on compromise, but on the forging
of genuinely common interests; the peace it serves is
a trans-historical and cosmic force.

Bertrand Russell starts with a basically Hobbesian
view of human nature as self-interested, aggressive, and
above all, fearful; yet he adds the Enlightenment's faith
that reason can show a way out of the impending
disaster. In the first place self-interest does not neces-
sarily mean total selfishness, and further, although
ineradicably aggressive, those passions can be
channeled constructively by social institutions. Fear
produces the three domains of conflict. The fear of
nature that was justified under primitive conditions is
less and less reasonable as science converts mere
acceptance of the natural world into control of it.
Technology could provide the means to satisfy the
material needs of the present population and to render
less frightening the spectre of over-population and the
despoiling of the planet, thus removing a major cause
of wars. Fear of others, that was also inevitable under
conditions of scarcity, still atavistically and irrationally
determines some of our present attitudes, and is the
basis of nationalism, racism, class antagonisms, and
religious intolerance. These could be largely erased by
the understanding of their origin and the recognition
that mankind's basic interests are not only consistent
but mutually self-serving. Yet modern social institu-
tions, above all governments, aggravate such fears and
institutionalize aggression, when what is needed are
new social designs and a new and creative source of
political power that will diffuse prosperity and science,
control population, and enforce peace.

Rather paradoxically, Russell, like some other advo-
cates of an authoritative international agency, justifies
special cases of the display of armed power; for exam-
ple, he thought the United States, when it was the sole
possessor of the bomb, should have forced the rest of
the world to disarm under the threat of nuclear pun-
ishment. Yet social controls are at best stopgaps; our
fear of one another, turned inward as guilt and intra-
personal strife, projected outward in war and conflict,
remains. A profound reconstruction of personality is
required—the replacement of destructive tendencies,
such as deep-seated resentment, hostility, and anger
(which have their military use), by the expansive,
joyous, and generous attitudes appropriate to citizens
in a world of peace. Man must discover

... how to live in freedom and joy, at peace with himself
and therefore with all mankind. This will happen if men
will choose joy rather than sorrow. If not, eternal death
will bury man in deserved oblivion

(Russell [1951], p. 213).

Einstein, Freud, and Dewey are in general agree-
ment with Russell, although they write less compre-
hensively on the issues. Einstein, in his correspondence
with Freud (1932), also thought that governments in-
stitutionalize aggressiveness, and are embarked on a
cataclysmic course. “The unleashed power of the atom
has changed everything save our modes of thinking
...” If we do not achieve peace, we are faced by
nuclear destruction hitherto unimagined. Yet peace
cannot, in the modern world, be achieved on a merely
national level. An economy built on planning for “se-
curity” is inherently pernicious: a society organized
for “defense” is one in which war is engendered.
Speaking of the United States, Einstein declared: “...
our own rearmament, through the reaction of other


nations to it, will bring about that very situation on
which its advocates seek to base their proposals.”
Einstein calls upon the intellectual community to op-
pose the advocates of militarism and to find a means
of protecting mankind from the curse of war.

Freud responded, adding psychological observations
to Einstein's pacifism. Conflicts of interest are in-
evitably settled by violence, the superior individual
being the winner until the weak learn that unified they
can outmatch the strength of any individual. Yet the
sovereign power of the community thus formed, the
enforcement of its rules and regulations, still rests on
potential and/or actual violence. Further, the commu-
nity still has internal conflicts resulting from the
unequal strength of its members. Court decisions and
common law tend to reflect the interest of the strong,
who are ever on the alert to better their situation;
while the weak or exploited press steadily, and some-
times turbulently, for justice. At the same time, com-
munities also develop strongly supportive emotional
and social bonds.

The divisive and affiliative forces which society ex-
hibits are to be found also in the destructive and
death-dealing instincts on the one hand, and the uniting
and erotic instincts on the other. In some combination,
externalized or internalized, these are ineradicably
present in all human behavior. The problem cannot
be the extirpating of aggression but as William James
had proposed in “The Moral Equivalent of War,” the
diverting of it to legitimate outlets other than war, and
the counterbalancing of it by reinforced impulses to-
ward loved objects and those uniting forces upon which
society already rests.

There is yet another factor of importance—that of
the evolution of culture with its accompanying psychic
modifications. The most striking of these have been the
progressive control of instinct by intelligence, and the
internalization of aggression. War is the grossest affront
to cultural achievement and the psychical attitudes
which this achievement has bred; the pacifist's com-
mitment is thus grounded more profoundly than even
an intellectual and emotional repudiation of war.

Writers in the latter half of the twentieth century
challenged such views as too individualistic, negative,
or simplistic. For the most part, modern warfare has
only the remotest and most indirect connection with
the individual's hostility, either as a cause of war or
as an outlet for aggression; thus the fostering of good
will, love, sublimation, is an abysmally inadequate
remedy. As Dewey recognized, the causes of war are
multiple and socio-institutional; a total reconstruction
of society and of the consequent interrelation between
individual and social determinants is required. Further,
a defensive campaign directed merely at the avoidance
of war obscures the need for the constructive and
creative uses of human resources for which peace is
a necessary condition.

Finally, war and peace are complex not only by
virtue of the variety of their causes but their multiple
connections with the whole fabric of human life. Wars
will not be prevented until we have eliminated the
overwhelming problems of poverty, population, pollu-
tion. Furthermore, war is a possible outgrowth of all
the phenomena of conflict that permeate life today.
While the forecasts of doom waken us to the newer
intensity of our problems, what is needed is an ethics
of peace based on the full potential of both the physical
and the social sciences.


The following are the editions used in the text: Jeremy
Bentham, Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace, ed.
C. Colombos (London, 1927). John Dewey, “Does Human
Nature Change?” The Rotarian (1938), reprinted in D. J.
Bronstein, Y. H. Krikonan, and P. P. Wiener, Basic Problems
of Philosophy
(New York, 1922). A. Einstein and S. Freud,
“Why War?” International Institute of Intellectual
Cooperation, League of Nations (Paris, 1933). Eric Erikson,
Gandhi's Truth (New York, 1969). M. Gandhi, An Auto-
biography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth

(Washington, 1948 and reprints). Hugo Grotius, De jure belli
ac pacis,
trans. W. Knight (1625; London, 1922). R. G.
Hawtrey, Economic Aspects of Sovereignty (London and
New York, 1930). William James, “The Moral Equivalent
of War,” International Concilium, No. 27, (Feb. 1910).
G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, trans. W. Knox (1821;
Oxford, 1942). Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: a Philo-
sophical Sketch,
trans. M. Smith, with an extensive intro-
duction (1795; London, 1903); idem, The Idea of a Universal
History from a Cosmo-political Plan
(1784), trans. T. de
Quincy, London Magazine (Oct. 1824). For Leibniz, “Ob-
servations sur le projet d'une paix perpétuelle de M. l'Abbé
de St. Pierre,” see Opera omnia, ed. L. Dutens, 6 vols.
(Geneva, 1768), V, 56; 20, 21; 65-66. A. J. Muste, “War,
Politics and Normative Principle,” Ecumenical Review, 7
(1954). Bertrand Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World
(London and New York, 1951); idem, Human Society in
Ethics and Politics
(London and New York, 1955); idem,
Why Men Fight (New York, 1916). Abbé de Saint-Pierre,
Abrégé du projet de paix perpétuelle, trans. H. Bellot (1713;
London, 1927). Leo Tolstoy The Kingdom of God is Within
(various editions). Of general interest are: Irving
Horowitz, War and Peace in Contemporary Philosophy (New
York, 1957). Herbert Schneider, “Peace as Scientific Problem
and as Personal Experience,” Mensch und Frieden (Zurich,
1959). See also the Grotius Society Publications, Texts for
Students of International Relations.


[See also Constitutionalism; Enlightenment; Liberalism;
Nationalism; Peace, International; Perfectibility; Progress;
Utilitarianism; War and Militarism.]