Master Seminar Ethics Autumn Term 2012: Ethics and Religion: War and Peace

Masters Seminar ‘Ethics of Religion’ Autumn Term 2012

War and Peace

«Die wertvollste Erkenntnis, die aus der Schule des Krieges davongetragen wird, ist die, dass das Leben in seinem innersten Kerne ganz unzerstörbar ist.»

(“The most valuable insight born of the school of war is that life at its innermost core is entirely indestructible.”)

Ernst Jünger, ‘Das Unzerstörbare’, in: Politische Publizistik 1919-1933, p.613


Instructor: Dr. H.W. Sneller, Institute for Religious Studies, University of Leiden


tel.: 071  527 25 83

5 ects

Thursday, 11-13pm

First meeting: September, 13th, 2012.

Location: to be announced.

Please register by e-mail or telephone!

Caspar David Friedrich

War and peace are inextricably intertwined. In a two year sequence this master seminar deals with war and peace respectively. The focus of this seminar will be not so much on political and polemological questions as on the intra-psychic, or even metaphysical resonance of war and peace. Does warfare teach us something about a fundamental inner combat? Does it betray thorough ontological tensions? Can causes of war be derived from projective identifications invested with religious energy (e.g. Kosovo, ‘Palestine’, Jerusalem)? On what conditions can these questions be answered at all?

Starting with a reflection on the famous pre-combat conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Baghavad Gita, we will study several authors who connected war and destructivity to inner-human or even ontological tendencies: authors varying from analytical (Broad) and psychoanalytical thinkers (Spielrein, Freud and Fromm), post-modernists (Deleuze/Guattari, Glucksmann), existentialists (Gabriel Marcel), to theorists of violence like René Girard and a neo-Kantian Jewish philosopher like Hermann Cohen.

By discussing the phenomenon of war and the concept of peace within a psychological-metaphysical framework, this seminar aims at giving an alternative approach to this ineradicable tragedy of human history called ‘war’, but also to its presumed counter-part, ‘peace’.

English translations or substitutes are available, though German and French are highly recommended.

Survey of the seminar:

1. Introduction. Bhagavad-Gita.  

2. State, Nation and the Jewish People. Franz Rosenzweig, Stern der Erlösung, Frankfurt, 1990 (1921), §§ 352-363 (trans. The Star of Redemption) and ‚Vox Dei? Die Gewissensfrage der Demokratie’, in: Franz Rosenzweig, Der Mensch und sein Werk. Gesammelte Schriften 3, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1984.

3. Destruction and Human Nature I. Sabine Spielrein, ‘Die Destruktion als Ursache des Werdens’, in: Sämtliche Schriften, Giessen, Psychosozial-Verlag, 2002 (see also here, pp. 465-503).

4. Destruction and Human Nature II. Sigmund Freud, ‘Jenseits des Lustprinzips’, Gesammelte Werke. Bd. 13. Hg. v. Marie Bonaparte unter Mitarbeit von Anna Freud. Frankfurt am Main, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999 (1940) S. 3-69. (English translations can be found here.)

5. War Machine I. Gilles Deleuze/Félix Guattari, ‘Traité de nomadologie’, in:  Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2, Paris, Minuit, 1980, pp. 435-482 (until Proposition VI). Trans. A Thousand Plateaus. London and New York, Continuum, 2004. (A PDF of the translation can be found here).

6. War Machine II. Gilles Deleuze/Félix Guattari, ‘Traité de nomadologie’, in:  Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2, Paris, Minuit, 1980, pp. 483-527.

7. Speaking on War. André Glucksmann, Le discours de la guerre I, Paris, Grasset, 1979 (1967), (German trans. Krieg um den Frieden), 73-133.

8. Speaking in War. André Glucksmann, Le discours de la guerre II, 137-246.

9. Post-War Europe. André Glucksmann, Le discours de la guerre III, 11-68, 419-439.

10. War and the Sacred. René Girard, Achever Clausewitz. Entretiens avec Benoît Chantre, Paris, Champs, 2011 (2007), (Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, Michigan State University Press, 2009) Introductions, Chapters 1, 3, 4, epilogue.

11. Peace and Philosophy. Gabriel Marcel, ‘Le philosophe et la paix’, in : Paix sur la terre, Paris, Aubier, 1965, 41-60 + Erich Fromm, ‘Zur Theorie und Strategie des Friedens’, Gesamtausgabe V, 243-257 (see here for an audio version) + ‘Gedanken zum Frieden’, Gesamtausgabe V, 145-192.

12. Peace and the Messiah. Hermann Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, Chs. 13 and 22, Wiesbaden, Fourier Verlag, 1978 (1919) (trans. by Jehuda Melber, Hermann Cohen’s philosophy of Judaism : the religion of reason from the sources of Judaism, Ann Arbor, Mich, 1967).


The course will be taught in English except when all participants have a working knowledge of Dutch.

Procedure of the Seminar:

The participants of the seminar prepare themselves weekly by reading very carefully the texts that have been placed at their disposal beforehand, and by accomplishing several assignments. Those who read German or French will have to read the original text!

Final conclusion:

Weekly participation in and preparation for the courses is indispensable. The seminar has to be concluded by a written paper, containing 5-10 pages. Deadline January 31st, 2013.

The paper will have to be centered on some crucial or telling passage taken from one of the texts discussed. This passage will have to be considered and commented upon scrupulously. These are the criteria of evaluation:

1. originality and consistency of the argument
2. attested capability of integrating elements from the other texts into the argument
3. attested capability of actualizing the argument by referring to existing discussions and burning issues of today

Seminar: 4 ects. Paper: 1 ects.

Admission and requirements:

A satisfying knowledge of the history of philosophy, particularly of moral philosophy, is required and indispensable. This seminar is open to both master and bachelor students. Assignments can be reduced for BA-students.

Reading assignments:

Although texts may be available on the internet, students may wish to procure one or more books themselves. For antiquarian books, see or New: These are the relevant titles :

Bhagavad-Gita (many translations and editions available).
o Deleuze/Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2, Paris, Minuit, 1980.
o André Glucksmann, Le discours de la guerre, Paris, Grasset, 1979 (1967).
o René Girard, Achever Clausewitz. Entretiens avec Benoît Chantre, Paris, Champs, 2011 (2007).

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