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Gabriel Marcel: War is disaster from which no counterbalancing advantage can be reaped


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

Gabriel Marcel: Modern war is sin itself, the suicide of the human race

Gabriel Marcel: War depersonalizes enemy, dehumanizes self


Gabriel Marcel
From Man Against Mass Society
Translated by G. S. Fraser

Today there does exist an indissoluble connection between lying and war; to-day, I emphasize, for we are not asserting that there is some necessary and logical connection between the mere notions of lying and making war. But in the actual world we are living in it is impossible not to recognize that making war is linked to lying, and to lying in a double form: lying to others and lying to oneself; and these two forms themselves, for that matter, are very closely linked and perhaps not even ideally separable from each other.

A person who is not lying to himself can hardly fail to observe that in its modern forms war is a disaster from which no counterbalancing advantage can be reaped, except perhaps in the case of a purely aggressive war directed against an unarmed adversary; and even then there is no doubt the advantage is only an apparent one. However, in the case of such an act of aggression, war has ceased properly speaking to be war, and has degenerated into mere organized banditry, though people will no doubt attempt to camouflage this banditry by describing the aggression as “a punitive expedition”; the inexhaustible resources of propaganda will then be put to work to help this camouflage.


‘[The] originality of each local and national tradition in respect to every other one has been very far, throughout history, from excluding quarrels and wars; up to a certain point, it has even encouraged them. But these quarrels, these wars, however bloody they may have been, did retain a human character; they did not exclude mutual respect; they made real reconciliation possible. There is nothing in them which at all resembles these attempts at collective extermination of which I spoke…

[Today] the philosopher has to take a definite stand in regard to the wretchedness of a world whose complete destruction is not inconceivable. For my own part, I have frankly the conviction that we are in a situation without precedent, which I would define very briefly by saying that suicide has become possible on a mankind-wide scale…

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