Evolution as a Mean to End War

Michelle K. Davis by Tadashi Harada

Only the dead have seen the end of war
George Santayana, 1922

SUZUKI : I was thinking about history…or in any case about war, and the only conclusion I could come to was that war will last as long as history. War is the dynamic force that drives history. The disappearance of war, factually speaking, is absolutely unthinkable. One can only conclude from this that ideas such as ‘the war to end the war’ are merely dreams. When one hears expressions such as this, one is left wondering what the cause of war is, an then concluding that the cause of war is peace. Among historians, Burckhardt is the one who most seriously came to grips with the problem of war. That is exactly what Burckhardt thought. In other words, the [human] condition without war is unimaginable. Not only that, war is a necessity; it is eternal. Particularly in the light of our earlier discussions about the elimination of the distinction between war and peace, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that the notion that war should be waged eternally is precisely the kind of understanding that is necessary today ?

In general, it is held that one fights wars to win peace. This was particularly true of the Great War. It was the war fought to end all wars. That was the idea. And this ambition was embedded in the Versailles peace treaty, and became its foundation. Furthermore, this same idea opened the way to the arms reduction conference that followed. It was in this manner that a war fought as war and for military reasons was transformed into a war that was fought for peace. That was the cry raised at the time. The conventional definition of war has sought the reasons for making war in ambitions or attaining peace, and has done so as a matter of [perceived] necessity. This [definition] is insufficient to our [present] needs. Doesn’t this represent one of the great [conceptual] weaknesses of the conventional idea of war ? The implication would be that war itself lacks definition an sich. That is how I arrived at my idea of ‘eternal war’…(laughter)…Now, having said this, I have been told authoritatively I shouldn’t… I think the problem was that I could not get him to understan what I meant by ‘eternity’. Or, to put the matter more seriously, to assert that wars will continue without limit does not really address the issue of what eternity means in this context. To say only that something continues indefinitely into the future is not in any way to justify defining it as ‘eternal’ [in the struct philosophic sense]. If one holds this strict position, I can only concede the point. I wasn’t that I had failed to understand what eternity meant; it was that I had not understood the implications of eternity for my argument. Eternity is something deeper, more profoundly absolute. In other words, if we are really going to think about war from the standpoint of eternity, then it follows that this [the present conflict] is the last war in the absolute sense of the term. It will be decisive because this war is the last war. But what I was calling the ‘last war’ does not qualify as this kind of truly absolute conflict that has to be fought to achieve decisive resolution against an obstructed self-consciousness. And that is why I was scolded (laughter).


Putting that whole business to one side, however. I believe that the conventional claim of Anglo-Saxon propaganda that the Americans and the British are fighting a war for peace – much as they claimed they fought the Great War to resist German militarism was an attempt to [conceptually] ground war simply in the notion of peace – is not a persuasive idea. This is a concept that cannot work. It will not be any more successful than the disarmament conferences after the Great War. These conferences reflected a superficial, indeed ethically sentimental, attitude towards war. At best, these ideas reflect a certain passivity of mind. At worst, they are merely negative [denials of reality]. In order to avoid the destructiveness of war, the search was for methods [of conflict resolution] that did not require war. But one cannot prevent wars by merely limiting the weapons of war. Or, to put it more bluntly, war itself cannot be legislated out of existence, an the failure of this disarmament effort proves it. From this fiasco I conclude that the Anglo-Saxon idea of peace as a cure for war is fundamentally flawed. War cannot be prevented by arguing that it is destructive. This is the truth of war. Conflict is unrivalled in its capacity for revealing the truths of history, as Kōsaka has argued in his essay ‘The Metaphysics of War’. This is the way war should be understood. This approach encourages us to think better and more deeply about the nature of war. Might this be the case ?

KŌSAKA : I think there is scope for this in what I have tried to propose. Given pause by that ‘kick’ you mentioned, I have been reflecting a little more carefully about what may have been unclear in my proposition. If the ‘eternalization’ of war meant nothing more than that, then obviously the idea had to be rejected. In the same way that the idea of eternal peace is a fiction, so there are limits to the idea of eternal war, limits arising from the realities of human nature. Nevertheless, might not the concept of war itself be understood in the light of the amended definition proposed by Suzuki, that is, not in terms of the eternalization of the conventional definition of war – definitely not that – but rather by viewing war and peace as conflicting ideas that are mutually transcending [in the Hegelian sense] : that is, as a concept incorporating a new creative and constructive dimension ? How about that ? At the least, this approach opens the way towards a better understanding of the shape of wars hereafter, while invalidating traditional approaches to thinking about the subject.

David Williams, The Philosophy of Japanese Wartime Resistance, 2014, p.278

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