Thinkers At War


THINKERS AT WAR – Marcus Aurelius

Iain King looks as the philosophy of Emperor Marcus Aurelius One of Rome’s most remarkable rulers, Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) is commonly regarded as the last of ‘the five good emperors’. Along with his predecessors – Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antonius Pius – Marcus brought stability to an unstable empire. The five presided over almost […]


Thinkers at War: Chairman Mao

Iain King explores the military career of Chairman Mao Mao: revolutionary leader China’s official view of Mao is that he was ‘70% right and 30% wrong’. It is a generous compromise, particularly unfitting for a man who rarely offered generosity or compromise himself. Mao’s status as a thinker is beyond doubt. He had a direct and […]


Thinkers at War – John Rawls

‘To each according to his threat advantage does not count as a principle of justice.’ John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 1971 Born: 21 February 1921 Nationality: American Profession: Academic philosopher University: Harvard and Oxford Died: 24 November 2002 Enthusiastic and patriotic, John Rawls enlisted in the US Army in the middle of World War […]


THINKERS AT WAR – Clausewitz

‘War is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will. War is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds.’ Carl von Clausewitz, On War, 1832 Carl von Clausewitz was a complicated man: a loyal patriot who served a foreign army; a softly-spoken individual who expressed himself in resounding language; […]


THINKERS AT WAR – Wittgenstein

Cambridge philosopher Iain King discovers a First World War artilleryman with a revolutionary treatise in his backpack. Born in 1889 into the over-achieving family of Vienna’s richest industrial magnate, Ludwig Wittgenstein trained initially as an engineer. But he was soon drawn to the more fundamental issues on which mathematics and mechanics were based – issues […]



Cambridge philosopher Iain King continues his series on the relationship between war and thought. Was the founder of modern philosophy a spy in the pay of a Catholic king?   René Descartes (1596-1650) was one of a world’s greatest-ever thinkers. His innovations in mathematics inspired calculus. His approach to science prepared the world for the […]


Thinkers at War – Hitler

Iain King takes a hard look at how the First World War turned Hitler into a Fascist.  The ‘Great War’ had a profound effect on all the countries which took part. Most European empires were so shaken by the conflict that they changed their whole system of government. Perhaps the country which had most reason […]



Cambridge philosopher Iain King begins a new series looking at how great thinkers were shaped by war. He begins with Socrates, the 5th century Athenian intellectual considered the founder of Western philosophy. Socrates was once a soldier, and his military experiences certainly shaped his revolutionary approach to philosophy. But finding the truth about Socrates’ service […]