Adler On

War and Peace

The word "war" in everyday discourse usually means actual warfare, fighting with whatever weapons are available at the time and place, and the word "peace" usually means the opposite, the absence of violent warfare.

But, considered philosophically, we must take account of a more complex set of meanings. In the first place we must distinguish between the state of war and actual warfare. Sovereign princes or sovereign states in relation to one another are in a condition of anarchy. In this century we have a new name for this condition. We have called it the "cold war," as opposed to the hot condition of actual warfare, In the "cold war" with each other, sovereign states may be either friendly or hostile, but that relationship can change from time to time.

The word "peace," in addition to its negative meaning as an absence of the violence of actual warfare, has a positive meaning. Civil peace is enjoyed by a people who can settle all their conflicts and disputes by means of the instrumentalities of government and law, and so they do not have to resort to the violence of actual warfare.

We owe to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes this more precise understanding of war and peace. It is this more precise understanding that leads us to the conclusion that, in the absence of government, which is anarchy, we cannot have civil peace, locally, nationally, or in the world of international relations. Permanent world peace without world civil government is impossible.

How to Think About War and Peace (1944,1995)
World Government
The Common Sense of Politics (1971,1996), Chapter 16.
Recommended Readings on Politics: Man and the State
World Government

The New World of the Twenty-first Century: USDR
The Seeds of the Future in the Past
The Understanding of War and Peace
The Necessity of Civil Government for Civil Peace
The Four Major Obstacles to World Government
The Motivation Needed to Overcome the Emotional Obstacle
On the Meanings of the Words "War" and "Peace"
On World Peace Through World Government
Haves Without Have-Nots (1991), Part Six
The Necessity of Government
from A Vision of the Future (1984), Chapter 6
War and Peace
from A Vision of the Future (1984), Chapter 6

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)
Great Ideas from the Great Books (1963)
by Mortimer J. Adler

Revised 27 February 2001