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Introduction to Peace and Conflict III

Introduction into Transrational Peaces and Elicitive Conflict Transformation
UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies
University of Innsbruck
Wolfgang Dietrich

Modernity – The World as Machine

Dietrich suggests that the Modernist belief that the world works as a machine was formed mainly from the teachings of philosophers and scientists such as Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton.

Hobbes’ famous saying the man’s the man’s wolf affirms that men are doing horrible things to each other. His observation then led to the need of domesticating these humanoid “wild animals”. The main instrument of domestication was the nation-state, in which there is one strong ruler, many rules, and the central institution – the army. A nation-state organized around the army protects the people inside from the “wild animals” outside. The problem of this approach is: all aspects of the state are organized around and are like the army. The product is then the school system that follows the system of the army. Why? Well, to give orders in the army, first you need to educate the future soldier in a way that he will be able to understand what the army officer orders him. Generally, this then leads to the notions of “us” and “them” – nation-states organized around the army are therefore one of the first problematic steps of Modernity that obstruct peaces up to today.

To go further, Descartes’ famous quote I think, therefore I am is a reflection of rational thinking predominant in his work and time. Perhaps we know this exclusive notion is wrong – yet we follow it, “like a religion.” With that, we separate the most important aspects of life: human and nature. Nature and culture separated man-made and naturally-grown products, thus making a strong distinction between the mind (“the good”) and the body (“the bad”). This reduces our thinking to boxes of subject and object – a thinking that we make experiences, and not that experiences make us, alienating ourselves all the further from ourselves, and the nature which is that.

To talk about Newton extensively is perhaps at this point unnecessary – his philosophy is that we can calculate whatever we want if we know all the determinants. His Modernist research and perception of our world turns it into a machine, creating further problems in human thinking about ourselves, nature and the notion of peace(s).


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