Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Philosophy of War and Peace

S24_Philosophy of War and Piece


Course Schedule:

Wednesday 6:30pm – 9:30pm Berlin (UTC + 2)

Semester: Spring 2024 (January 29  – May 21)
HRA (Human Rights and Arts)
Course Level:
Number of Bard Credits:
Course Title:
Philosophy of War and Peace
Max Enrollment:
Schedule and dates:
Wed 6:30 – 9:30 PM Berlin (UTC + 2)
Language of Instruction:



War – polemos – is often considered among the most anti-intellectual human activities, but until the last century, it used to be a long-time favorite subject of philosophy. Western philosophy begins with Heraclitus’ dictum that war is the father of all. The idea that the truth does not lie ready out there, but is essentially contested, was in a way a huge step forward, allowing philosophers to see a two-sided, dynamic nature of reality. At the same time, philosophy strived to tame war by turning it into “polemics,” a heated dialogue, or what Plato called “a dialectic.” Moreover, throughout the history of philosophy, war kept returning philosophy’s reality, or its uncanny “Other.” This made philosophy a great tool to understand the war itself, in all its apparent irrationality and wildness. This is particularly true of the 20th and 21st centuries, when, in spite of causing aversion, in its dissociation into the rational and irrational, regular and irregular forms, war became a privileged subject of thought. To achieve peace, philosophers thought they needed to grasp the war on a deeper level. Subsequently, this course’s focus will be the war of the most recent kind. To understand it, we will be reading such philosophers and political theorists as Heraclitus, Plato, Grotius, Kant, Hegel, Klausewitz, Tolstoy, Melville, Proust, Schmitt, Junger, Deleuze, Hardt and Negri, and Girard.