Our first discussion is not from the Civil War itself, but from decades later: William James’s essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.”

James was one of the leading intellectuals of his era: he founded the field of academic psychology in the United States, and also popularized the idea of “pragmatism” as a philosophy for understanding the world.

This is one of his last writings, as he settled into the role of a national intellectual figure. As you read it, think about the following:

  • What does James think about pacifism as it exists around 1910? What does he think about men who espouse “the military temper?”
  • James was 19 years old when the Civil War broke out: how could his experience then have shaped his views on what a war could provide?
  • How big a war is necessary to provide the virtues James describes?
  • Seven years after this, the United States would enter its first total military conflict since the Civil War; from what you know of World War One or Two, do you

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