Honor In The Peloponnesian War

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For better or worse, war is a part of human nature (Walzer, 337). Throughout history, men have taken up arms against one another; initially in individual combat, as society progressed in tribal battles, and eventually in international war. Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant theorized that the “unsocial sociability” of mankind brings people together as a society but also drives them apart. The basic human need to be with others creates great societies, however the essential need for balance leads to warfare, which drives them apart. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian General and historian, Thucydides describes this concept in terms of fear, honor, and interests (Thucydides, 43). The theory that individuals, and by extension…show more content…
From describing purity to conveying esteem, the word is used numerous different ways. Thucydides primarily describes honor in two ways, the need to stand by an agreement (233) and as a sense of nationalistic pride in service to the nation (307). These two uses of the word honor directly relate to the factors, which led to the outbreak of WWI. Nationalism was a powerful force throughout the continent of Europe leading the populace of several nations to feel the need to go to war to defend their honor and prestige. Additionally, a series of treaties and alliances formed over the 75 years that precipitated WWI drove nations to embrace war in order to honor their…show more content…
Nationalism, can benefit a nation and unite its citizens, but it can also lead to biases that cause a false sense of superiority and disdain towards other nations. In the early 1900s nationalism gave both normal citizens and European leaders an overabundance of confidence in the strength of their nation, their governments and their military strength. In Germany, the nationalist believed that war was a “biological necessity” and that it was the right and the obligation of Germans to expand their empire as the “head of all progress in culture” (Tuchman, 14). In concert with fear, nationalistic honor contributed to a mass delusion that made a European war seem both necessary and winnable by all parties. At the outbreak of WWI, other than France, no major European power had been defeated in war for decades and Europe had enjoyed relative peace (Rockoff, 102). The general population was unaffected by small-battles fought in faraway colonies and grew indifferent to war. This indifference to war, along with the arms race, and rousing speeches about the greatness of their respective nations contributed to a growing delusion of
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