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In summary, while the Eastern and Western intellectual traditions historically have construed peace differently, there are certain characteristics that appear to transcend culture and that are held in common, even if the emphasis varies. There persists a spiritual notion of peace that represents inner calm, wholeness, contentment, and selflessness. The internal condition tends to affect the external so that if individuals are not at peace with themselves, they are unlikely to engender temporal peace. On the contrary, they are more apt to participate in wars, since conflict among peoples usually comes from a dissatisfaction with the current state of being (or affairs) that needs redress, perhaps even violently. In most cultural traditions, peace is the natural state of the universe, and throughout history one of the most universal endeavors of humankind has been the quest to end strife and to restore a beneficial order and tranquility. In linking these various but complementary aspects of what it means to be at peace, peace scholar Gerald James Larson has concluded:

To be at peace with oneself is to accept what or who one is and to have stopped warring with oneself. To be at peace in community is to make an agreement to end hostility, to live together in harmony, accepting the presence of one another. To be at peace in the cosmos is to accept, largely on faith, that the universe is benign, a more or less fitting habitat for the sorts of beings and forces that dwell or operate within it. (Rouner, p. 138)


Bainton, Roland H. Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation. New York: Abingdon Press, 1960.

Dyck, Harvey L., ed. The Pacifist Impulse in Historical Perspective. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. Includes many good essays, including Roy C. Amore's "Peace and Nonviolence in Buddhism," Klaus K. Klostermaier's "Himsā and Ahimsā Traditions in Hinduism," and Charles Chatfield's "Thinking about Peace in History."

Gallie, W. B. Philosophers of Peace and War: Kant, Clausewitz, Marx, Engels, and Tolstoy. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Johnson, James Turner. The Quest for Peace: Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Kalupahana, David J. The Buddha and the Concept of Peace. Sri Lanka: Vishva Lekha Publishers, 1999.

Kelsay, John, and James Turner Johnson, eds. Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions. New York: Greenwood, 1991.

Lowe, Ben. Imagining Peace: A History of Early English Pacifist Ideas, 1340–1560. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

Rouner, Leroy S., ed. Celebrating Peace. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990. A number of excellent essays, including Sissela Bok's "Early Advocates of Lasting World Peace: Utopians or Realists?," Gerald James Larson's "The Rope of Violence and the Snake of Peace: Conflict and Harmony in Classical India," and Bhikhu Parekh's "Gandhi's Quest for a Nonviolent Political Philosophy."

Zampaglione, Gerardo. The Idea of Peace in Antiquity. Translated by Richard Dunn. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973.

Ben Lowe

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPeace - Ancient And Early Christian West, Western Middle Ages, Renaissance And Reformation, The Modern West