Defining "War"

Thu, 27 Oct 1994 14:16:07 CST

The thread on war interests me, and I have benefited from it. I share
S. Wilson's puzzlement, however, about why we should try to define "war"
so narrowly. A broad and simple definition is, "armed conflict between
societies (politically autonomous social groups)." If a narrower or more
complex definition is to be advocated, one would like to know why. Here
is a ubiquitous problem in the social sciences:the idea that definitions
can be improved, and made compelling, without reference to how
they will pay off scientifically--i.e., in terms
of that continuing interaction between evidence and reason which, we
have ample reason to believe, at its best yields a fuller and deeper
understanding of reality. Discussing definitions rises above
"quibbling" precisely to the extent that discussants relate their
definitions to possible contributions to scientific investigation.
--Bob Graber