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Excerpt from The Question of Peace in Modern Political Thought edited by Toivo Koivukoski and David Edward Tabachnick

From the Foreword by John Gittings

The voice of philosophy has a lot to say about peace, and in the present age we need to hear it more than ever. In a world that is globalized in its economy but still far from cosmopolitan in its outlook, the forces of prejudice, intolerance, and misunderstanding increase tension and generate conflict, both between and within nations. War, or the danger of war, exists at many levels—quite literally: on the ground, where ethnic and religious enmities spill over into violence, and in the upper atmosphere, where the cloud of nuclear war still hangs over us. Philosophers may not be the legislators of the world, but they can help us to clarify moral principles, understand reality, and distinguish true from false knowledge. That is what they are good at. The advice that past philosophers have offered on war and peace is still relevant today.

A group of these were the itinerant Chinese philosophers of the Hundred Schools of Thought, who would sit at the city gate of some small principality during the Era of Warring States (475–221 BC). Their role was to advise the ruler on strategy, such as whether or not to take advantage of a neighbouring state’s weakness and invade. Most of the main Schools— the Confucians, the Mohists, and the Daoists (Taoists)—counselled against war, on both moral and practical grounds. Confucius’s disciple Mengzi (Mencius) warned that wars to capture cities or territory always lead to disaster: they are a way of “teaching the earth how to eat human flesh.” Mohists would cite Mozi (Mo Tzu) himself, who held that states should cooperate for their universal advantage: “If rulers love the states of others as their own, no one will commit aggression.” A Daoist might quote his Master Laozi (Lao Tzu): “The ideal relationship between states is one in which they are so close that they can hear their neighbour’s chickens squawk and dogs bark, and yet they leave each other alone.” All these philosophers would urge rulers not be seduced by the rival school of Strategists, who claimed to know the secret of victory.

From Chapter 1: By the Grace of God: Peace and Martin Luther’s Two Kingdoms by Jarrett A. Carty

The Reformation began in Germany with Martin Luther’s protest against the sale of indulgences in 1517, and shortly expanded into a general schism within the Western church. Reform, Luther soon discovered, needed the cooperation of government, in which the civil authorities had a crucial role. Luther also needed theoretical justification for his Reformation, and guidance on its proper jurisdiction and limits. He looked for this guidance to the Bible and to the time of the apostles, believing that temporal government had once been independent of spiritual authority—and that the political tumult of his age was the result of spiritual authority having usurped government. True and lasting peace, he felt, could only come about through a proper respect for both of the distinct yet complementary “two kingdoms.” The spiritual realm was ruled by Jesus Christ, through his Word; the secular realm was ruled by kings and civil authorities, through law and coercion. Its responsibilities were maintaining law and order, ensuring the protection of life and property, and promoting peace.

Luther held that wherever peace did not reign, and rebellion, war, or chaos, prevailed, the fault lay with the confusion of the two kingdoms— and the corruption of the spiritual by the temporal. The peace he sought, though, would prove to be tragically elusive. During his career, two major political controversies erupted: the Peasants’ War of 1525, and the Protestant resistance against the Holy Roman Empire that began in 1530. And after his death in 1546, his views were challenged by the hardening of confessional church doctrines, and by the civil control of the churches in the wake of the Peace of Augsburg (1555).