Several years ago, a noted Oxford professor speaking on the underlying causes of the First World War made the surprising comment, “Metaphysics matters.”1 “Metaphysics,” which literally means above or beyond physics, is a philosophical term that describes what is commonly referred to as worldview, or the foundational beliefs through which one sees the world, oneself, and others. The professor’s point was that the prevailing worldview in turn-of-the-century Germany was responsible for much of the agony that followed. In this case, a worldview that embraced power as the determinative element in foreign policy gave us the trenches.
1. Nigel Biggar, “What Should Military Ethics Learn from the First World War,” International Military Ethics Symposium (National Defense University Press, July 2018), 4.
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1954, 27.
3. The exchange occurred in 2008 while I was a student in the Navy’s Postgraduate Education Program.
4. Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (Boston: Beacon Press, 1976).
5. Howard Thurman, A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life, Walter Fluker and Catharine Tumber, ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 1.
6. Thurman, 172.
7. Thurman, 248.
8. Thurman, 176.
9. Thurman, 3.
10. Thurman, 182-183.
11. Martin Doblmeier, Video Documentary, "Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story,” PBS, February 2019.
12. Thurman, 184.