Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Hopes for a Changing World, Chapter Two

“Three Kinds of Conflict,” pages 12-14

The three section titles of New Hopes for a Changing World, it turns out, also serve to delineate the three kinds of conflict: man and nature; man and man; and, man and himself. The arenas and weapons associated with these conflicts vary among the conflicts and over time; for instance, the inner conflict used to be addressed primarily with religion, though some now believe (Russell does not fully agree) that advances in psychology can transfer personal turmoil from the religious to the scientific realm.

Not losing the struggle against nature is a prerequisite to engaging in the other conflicts. Social relations grow in importance as mastery over nature builds: first, improved mastery itself requires inputs from many people, and second, the resources released by the diminishing threat from nature can be redirected towards engaging in conflict with other people.

As technology develops, eventually the perceived payoff to a social group will be greater by cooperating with others than by attempting to kill them. “When this stage is reached what may be called the demands of technique require a cessation, or at least mitigation, of the conflicts of man with man [p. 13].” The next conflict that needs to be resolved then will be – as it is now – the internal conflict. This conflict traditionally expresses itself by one part of a psyche labeling another part sinful, and seeking (but failing) to extirpate it. The internal dissension starts as a reflection of the constant external war, but when external war diminishes, the atavistic internal conflict stokes external conflict: enemies are deemed to be wholly sinful. War with others cloaks the real, internal war. Resolving the inner war becomes necessary for external peace.

The resolution of each of these wars is harmonious co-existence. For wars among men, the harmony will take the form of a world government. But even this institution will not prove stable without inner peace. “This, in a nutshell, is the history of man – past, present, and (I hope) future [p. 14].” This brief chapter ends with the promise that the remainder of the book intends to fill in the details of this broad-stroke illustration of the development of human history.

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