Home / Events / ‘The Nature of War’: concepts and challenges


‘The Nature of War’: concepts and challenges

20 jun 2023 09:30 - 18:00
Institut d'études avancées de Paris:
17 quai d'Anjou
75004, Paris

Conference organized by Alan James, historian at King's College London, 2022-2023 Paris IAS fellow.

Free entry with mandatory registration via the link at the bottom of the page.


The on-going conflict in Ukraine is a grim reminder that war poses a unique danger to humanity, and yet we seem to know very little about it. The causes, course, and consequences of war have always been unpredictable, and we simply cannot know how this conflict will unfold. This raises many practical problems, of course, but linked to these are fundamental conceptual challenges that must also be addressed.

Whether it is seen through the eyes of a society awakening to the motive power of heat and steam, the explosive potential of the atom, or which sees the hand of God at work in battle, war is affected by current perceptions of the natural world. Yet ‘the nature of war’ is not to be found in a direct, causal relationship between scientific innovation and the historical emergence of modern war. Indeed, all too often an emphasis by historians and practitioners on strictly material responses to the uncertainty of war in the past has shaped our very understanding of historical change and of war itself. Thus, the ‘nature of war’ in the title is also a reference to debates about definitions or timeless principles of war versus its changing character in different times or contexts. 

Overall, the aim of this conference is simply to better appreciate the complexity and challenges of war, that ‘veritable chameleon’ described by Clausewitz, by bringing together a unique range of academic and professional perspectives on a variety of key epistemological questions.


Arrival and registration 9:15-9:45

Alan James  (King’s College London)

SESSION 1 10:00-11:20
Beatrice Heuser (Professor of International Relations, University of Glasgow)
Do Changing Mentalities Change the Nature of War?

Julia Grignon (Professeure à l’Université de Laval, directrice scientifique de l’IRSEM)
La guerre vue du droit. Quels cadres juridiques pour quelles situations et pour quelles finalités ?

Coffee break 11:20-11:40

SESSION 2 11:40-13:00
Emmanuel Kreike  (Professor of History, University of Princeton / IEA Paris)
War as Environcide (title tbc)

Olivier Zajec (Professeur des universités en science politique, Université Jean Moulin   Lyon III)
« Ce qui s’oppose coopère » : La guerre comme syllogisme éristique

Lunch 13:00-14:15

SESSION 3 14:15-16:15
Silviya Lechner (Chair of the Department of Political Science, Anglo-American University, Prague)
Hobbes on War, Radical Disagreement, and Public Reason

Martin Motte (Directeur d'études à l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, université PSL)
Ibn Khaldûn, Joseph de Maistre, Clausewitz : trois visions convergentes de la guerre ?

 Jan-Cedric Hansen (Praticien hospitalier, vice president du conseil Européen de la médecine de catastrophe)
Conceptualisations cindyniques de la guerre

Coffee break 16:15-16:30

SESSION 4  16:30-17:50
Alan James (Department of War Studies, King’s College London)
Thermodynamics and the Emergence of Modern War

Brian Fleck (Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada)
The Case for a Quantitative Approach to War

Closing Words17:50-18:00
Jean-Philippe Carpentier (Avocat au Barreau de Paris, Consul honoraire du Grand Duché du Luxembourg pour la Normandie)


Date dépassée
The Nature of War: Reassessing the Historical Relationship between Science and War
01 September 2022 - 30 June 2023
20 Jun 2023 18:00
Alan James
Talks and lectures