Building a New Science on Classical Foundations

By Kimberly Syphrett

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #83
Center for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 3–6, 2008
(see list of papers from #83)

    The first premises of the normative field of peace studies can be said to be that "conflict is natural" and, as such, conflict is held to be necessary, inherent, basic, essential, beneficial and inevitable. Moreover, conflict is considered "right" and "common." Therefore, it is held to be both "universal" and a "normal rule of behavior." In popular opinion the aim of the fields of peace research, peace studies and conflict intervention (e.g., conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation, peace-building, peacekeeping, et cetera) is to eliminate conflict.

    However, in these fields, the affirmed aim is to eliminate or to reduce violence: Conflict is conceived as life itself, whereas violence is viewed as an interruption of that life. However, Bahá'u'lláh said, "conflict and contention are categorically forbidden" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-`Ahd [Book of the Covenant], 1988: 221) and, elsewhere, conflict is "strictly prohibited." In the Bahá'í teachings, peace is life. This normative orientation to conflict and to life is intrinsic to "modernist" and "postmodernist" thought originating with a line of thinkers implicitly challenged by the prophet-founder of the Bahá'í Faith when affirming the Empedocles, Pythagoras, Heraclitus (the physician), Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

    This work is the first step in declaring a new field of peace research, studies, and intervention. The work is divided into two parts. The first introduces shifts in orientation to research and practice in normative and contemporary peace and conflict-intervention fields. The first shift is to locate peace in the context of the history of science. The second is to identify peace as the master-science rather than as a subordinate and marginal program of studies within the Academy. The third is to recognize that peace is expressed as a universal law and this has implications for comprehension in the natural as well as the social sciences. The final shift is to indicate the location of a new science of peace in the history of the development of education. The second part of this work provides a literature survey focused on the first principles of the contemporary and normative field. The work is constructed with reference to studies of classical Arabic philosophy as well as to classical Greek, modernist, and postmodernist philosophy and science. It is in thanks to Laura Clifford Barney's efforts to correspond the Bahá'í teachings to her vast reading in modernist thought and her final compilation of her findings when at table with 'Abdu'l-Bahá on these many essential topics that this research was made possible.

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