This thoughtful volume explores the connections between philosophy and politics for questions of violence, war, and peace in an international context. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) identified in Leviathan the causes of quarrel as “competition, diffidence, and glory.” In his summary view the human condition entails a war of all against all, and only as individuals renounce their individual sovereignty and vest authority in an external sovereign can the certainty of civil war be avoided.
The international contributors to this volume begin with Hobbes’s theoretical formulations about human society and expand his critique to today’s global situation. They consider questions of power, competition, sovereignty, and nonviolence, and give a detailed analysis of the almost universal assumption that violence, competition, and war are constitutive of the human condition.
While the relationship of philosophy to politics, especially in American life, may sometimes seem tenuous, this volume elucidates the important role philosophical considerations played in the founding of the American Republic and might play again in today’s world. The mutual covenants established in the American Constitution form a model solution to Hobbes’s problem for a national context, and the contributors to this volume consider what kinds of solutions might be found to these questions in an international context. The role of philosophy in public life becomes especially important as we recognize the need to strike international balances between world government and regional government, old and new patterns of family life and population control, individualism and collectivism, and violence and negotiation.
Seeking for new ways to use the word “peace” without ideological overtones and to imbue it with positive content (rather than seeing it merely as the absence of war), the contributors to this unique book look to find new answers to the problems Hobbes raised nearly four hundred years ago.
Peter Caws is University Professor of Philosophy at the George Washington University and author of Science and Theory of Value and Sartre.