Ethics & International Affairs Volume 4 (1990): Articles: Early Advocates of Lasting World Peace: Utopians or Realists? [Abstract]

Dec 2, 1990

This article reexamines the works of Erasmus, the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, Kant, and other pacifists who have advocated collective societal efforts toward a lasting world peace. In contrast to Thucydides' (Realist) view of the inevitability of war due to intrinsic human nature, the author presents the early Christian arguments of pacifism grounded in morality and religion, including the "just-war" views of Augustine and Sir Thomas Aquinas, who believed that war fought for self-defense, or other "justifiable" purposes, was morally and religiously grounded in efforts to punish wrongdoings and "convert unbelievers." Is the state of peace a natural one or one that must be achieved through practical steps within moral constraints by leaders of nations and their citizens? Realist thinkers who once rejected, on strictly normative grounds, the moral claims of the possibility of a lasting world peace now take the strategic position that the goal of attaining lasting world peace is clearly worth striving for, "however utopian it seemed when first advocated."

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