Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


A survey of the actions and rhetoric of the most influential contemporary international governance organizations would suggest that the greatest possible attainment of world peace is the highest goal of the modern world. The largest strain of modern political philosophy tends to concur: Hobbes’ commonwealth’s existence is justified by its provision of an escape from the state of war, Locke too seeks peace to protect life, liberty and property, and Kant lays out most explicitly the project and conditions for perpetual peace. Courage, among other virtues associated with the act of war, falls out of favor in the moral philosophy of these authors; the person who perfectly follows the natural moral laws which Hobbes presents in Leviathan and De Cive is an easygoing, pacified citizen. However, there is a tradition of dissent to the praise of peace amongst the moderns. Rousseau excoriates the death of military virtue and argues for its importance for the political health of a society. Nietzsche, writing after Hegel, despises the deadening of human life within the pacified commercial societies of the modern world and returns courage to a place of preeminence. Even at the birth of modernity sits Machiavelli, who viewed war as necessary for the preservation of political vitality. It is this tradition which Hegel will draw on in order to answer the problem of legitimation which war poses to the modern liberal state.

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