[This is going to be a bit of a ramble, so don’t say you weren’t warned…]

Have you ever tried to define Peace? I don’t know that I’ve ever tried seriously to do so. I think generally my line of thought is “well, let’s see, it’s the absence of conflict. what’s conflict?” at which point the line quickly knots up and I say “ah, I know it when I feel it” or some other cop-out.

When I was thinking about trust recently, and said that people are almost always trustworthy, the image I had in my head was that of buying a soda at the convenience store or something. When I try to say exactly why that’s relevant in my mind, it’s fairly vague, oh well, but the example also popped into my mind when thinking about peace. If I mentally test the hypothesis “economic systems destroy peace” (a hypothesis worth testing if only because I’ve heard variations on it many times), the example is a possible refutation. Most economic transactions I have do no harm to my individual peace, and often they promote it.

That, then, got me thinking about the definition of peace as “the condition where one feels no distrust”. It’s easy to see that that’s at least somewhat different than the initial definition above, since, for example, I can have a technical debate about how to implement some software system (which is a conflict) without losing trust in my interlocutors. That case is important to me, too; technical debates are a sort of conflict that I wouldn’t want to remove in a quest for peace.

I don’t know how good that definition is in general, and of course, I don’t believe in definitions anyway, but I’m going to try it on for a while and see what I learn…

It’s worth noting that one advantage of that definition is that it’s more centered on the individual. I mean, speaking about either conflict or trust requires speaking about two entities, but in the case of conflict, it’s about two subjects, while in the case of trust, it’s a subject and direct object. For this sort of definitional problem, I far prefer definitions where internal perceptions have more weight than second-hand information.

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