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C O U R S E 
The Great War and Modern Philosophy
Nicolas de Warren, KU Leuven University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Carl von Clausewitz: On War
Notes taken on November 20, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
Prussian general
in his book "On War" tried to distill a concept of war
a book that would have lasting influence on thoughts about war in the 19th century and beyond
On War
unfinished masterpiece
a collection of puzzle pieces that don't add up to one unified image
struggled in his life to come to terms with the profound changes in warfare that he experienced in the Napoleonic wars
died in the cholera epidemic
tried to arrive at a systematic understanding of warfare
on the other hand, the fragmentary structure reflects the difficulty to write about the concept of war
war is on the one hand a chameleon, meaning it has different shapes, forms, and manifestations
war is a total phenomenon
encompasses a society
a unity phenomenon
can be brought under a single concept
a tension to arrive at a concept of war
yet has many various facets
five of the most important definitions of war
1. a duel
an antagonism in which two parties act on their will in order to compel the other to act in some way
an act act of force to compel the enemy to do our will
therefore is fundamentally an instrument of politics
2. distinction between absolute war and relative war
war is the organized application of violence, and there is no logical limit to the amount of violence that can be applied
in the concept of war as an antagonism, there is a natural dynamic which tends toward escalation of ever more extreme uses of force and violence
a. reciprocity
b. loss of control
sets up the idea of friction
c. mimetic principle
antagonistic parties will imitate each other because they are in a competitive relationship and by imitating each other this will have a natural escalation of violence towards an extreme
inhibit this tendency to the extremity towards violence
1. human psychology
human frailties and finitudes
bad judgement
lack of courage
2. asymmetry between attack and defense
3. anti-escalation
to break the cycle of mimetic imitation
3. war is the continuation of politics by other means
ambiguity of how to understand the word Politik
broad definition
existential meaning
the realization of the political
narrow definition
legitimate and rational instrument of policy
war is rational to the extent that it serves rational means
4. war as the holy trinity
a sociological organization
involves three different forms of agencies within a nation-state
1. professional army
2. national-state and sovereignty
declares the state of war and sends the army
3. the people
has to support the effort of war
people are not on the side of war
only the military is active but not the government
5. the importance of chance and fiction
war is the rational activity of the state
war is fundamentally predicated by friction and chance
war is a rational activity that tries to master chance
the form of war is to be a game, a war game
the attempt for different parties to master the game