War as Pure Negation: Positivity in the Mode of War

Robert Stammitti


Defined existentially, war is the mode in which one orients oneself entirely toward destruction. I consider that existence in this mode poses a paradox to the individual: if one submits to the logic of war in order to survive, one must contend with the dilemma of resolving two disparate identities—the identity one held before war, and the identity one held while within the mode of war. The paper illustrates the ways in which the latter involves a logical rejection of the former, and consequently that a resolution of the two seems at best to be undesirable, and at worst, impossible. “Survival” in the mode of war, then, involves a profound dismissal of the self as one truly defines oneself, and is ultimately not survival at all. Therefore, I argue, a rejection of the logic of war—and, as a result, a rejection of destruction overall—is necessary in order to properly retain one’s individual identity. I explore this argument through the lenses of Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber’s philosophies of alterity, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential conundrums, and the contemporary socio-political conflict described in the journalistic fiction of Slavenka Drakulic.


philosophy; war;

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