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Barbarous philosophers: reflections on the nature of war from Heraclitus to Heisenberg

Coker, Christopher (2010) Barbarous philosophers: reflections on the nature of war from Heraclitus to Heisenberg. Hurst Publishers (London, England), London, UK. ISBN 9780231701983

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From Heraclitus in the sixth century B.C.E. to the twentieth-century philosopher-physicist Werner Heisenberg, intellectuals have struggled to make sense of war and its presence in human society. Yet Christopher Coker contends that philosophers are the ones who created the concept of war, largely by defining its rules and establishing an oppositional dialectic of peace. The Greeks were the first to outline what Blaise Pascal called the "rules of war," and through their description of its "nature," influenced the thinking of contemporary generals and military strategy. Nevertheless, Coker's book focuses less on the philosophical underpinnings of war and more on the particular problems we face while fighting war today. Guided by the work of sixteen major thinkers, it examines several paradoxes of combat: the belief that war is a continuation, rather than a negation, of politics by other means; the idea that we should respect those who don't respect us; the notion that war can help a soldier reaffirm his humanity; and the odd fact that the concept of peace is still contested. Coker draws on the work of philosophers who have tackled war directly and intensely in their writing. Each chapter begins with an epigram distilling the essence of a chosen philosopher's thinking on war and uses it as a prism through which to analyze aspects of war most relevant to contemporary combat. Barbarous Philosophers entirely reorients our understanding of armed conflict throughout human history.

Item Type: Book
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2010 the author
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2011 16:57
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 21:49

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