Louis René Beres: Ancient Manuscripts and Modern Politics

tags: documents, Louis Beres, philosophy, ancient manuscripts, OUPblog



Louis René Beres, Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He is currently examining previously unexplored connections between human death fears and world politics. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II, Professor Beres is the author of ten books, and several hundred articles, on international relations and international law. He is a regular contributor to the OUPblog.

Oddly, perhaps, there are striking similarities between Western Epicureanism and Eastern Buddhism. Even a cursory glance at Lucretius, On The Nature of Things, reveals a characteristically “Buddhist” position on human oneness and human transience. Greek and Roman Stoicism, too, share this animating concept, a revealing vision of both interpersonal connectedness and civilizational impermanence.

But what has this understanding to do with current world affairs, especially patterns of globalization and interdependence? Consider that in their common passage from the ethereal to the corporeal, Epicureanism, Stoicism and Buddhism all acknowledge one great and indissoluble bond of everlasting being, an essential and harmonious conflation of self and world. While each instructs that the death of self is meaningless, even a delusion, all also agree that the commonality of death can overcome corrosive divisions. This recognized commonality can provide humankind with authentically optimal sources of global cooperation. Whether or not we can ever get beyond our fear of death, it is only this commonality that can ultimately lift us above planetary fragmentation and explosive disunity.

For political scientists, economists, and other world affairs specialists, such a “molecular” view can open new opportunities for the expanding study of globalization and international relations. Rather than focus narrowly on more traditional institutions and norms, this neglected perspective can now offer scholars a chance to look more penetratingly behind the news. The outer world of politics and statecraft is often a reflection of our innermost private selves....



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