War and Existence: A Philosophical Inquiry

War and Existence: A Philosophical Inquiry

War and Existence: A Philosophical Inquiry

War and Existence: A Philosophical Inquiry

Synopsis

Michael Gelven not only identifies what the fundamental principles are, but he also extracts from the history of philosophy the arguments and analyses of the concepts that explain how we think about it.

Excerpt

This is a philosophical inquiry into the nature and meaning of war. It is not primarily concerned with the moral question whether war ought ever to be waged, and only indirectly concerned with the military question how war ought to be carried out. Rather it is solely concerned with what war is or what the truth about war is. In one sense, of course, we already know what war is, in the same way we already know what justice or love is; yet this does not stop philosophers from writing books about justice and love. We know enough about war to be able to identify it, spot it, define it, and even describe it. But one can still question how we think about it, and hence what the fundamental principles are and how it relates to the broader picture of our meaning and truth.

Because this is an inquiry and not a treatise, the procedure necessarily begins with a development of the question. It is important to understand why war is problematic at all and what the puzzles and paradoxes of this vast phenomenon might be, lest in providing overly quick answers one miss some vital and essential point. Being an inquiry, the approach is from darkness to light; that is, from a vague and generalized description of how we seem to think about war to the final isolation of principles and reasons; the argument traces backward from the phenomenon to what explains the phenomenon, as is revealed by a glance at the Contents.

Because this inquiry is philosophical, the sole purpose of the tortuous analyses is truth, truth for its own sake. The inquiry is carried out in order better to understand a seemingly puzzling, if not incoherent, occurrence, to make what is conceptual disorder into relatively ordered comprehension. Because it is truth alone that matters, the effects of such understanding, though important in many ways, cannot detract from the philosophical rigor required to illuminate what is otherwise a beguiling darkness. This focus on the nature of war places the inquiry somewhat outside the present mainstream of publications. There are countless articles and books on the moral-

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