Philosophy and Principles of Conflictology


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African Centre for Contemporary Studies www. Philosophy and Principles of Conflictology By Professor C.S. Momoh, Department of Philosophy and Dean of Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos Conflicts management is a stepping solve to conflict resolution. The expression conflict management gives the impression, an impression which is true, that conflict is a permanent feature of reality, and that the best man can ever accomplish is to strive to manage and contain it. On the other hand the expression conflict resolution gives the impression that conflict is sporadic or occasional event even though it is a fact of life. Since it is a sporadic or occasional event man can resolve it once and for all.

Both contention have their strengths. The thesis that conflict is a permanent feature if reality is ontological in the sense in which it can be taken to be a law of nature whereas the thesis that conflict is a fact of life is existential in the sense in which it can be taken to be a law of living. Any ontological thesis is general, stronger and superior to any existential thesis which is particular and


specific. The existential derives from the ontological. Life derives from nature. Living is an aspect of reality.

I coined the word conflictology which is the study of the nature of conflicts, kinds of conflicts, causes of conflict, causing conflict, principles of conflict management and resolution, and the resolution and management of conflicts based on these principles. Richard Nelson-Jones, in his book Human Relationship Skills, give the etymology of the `word conflict In latin it is know as conflicts a word two roots come meaning together and meaning to strike. As with any other concept, the word conflict: has a dictionary definition and an intellectual, academic or scholarly definition, One dictionary defines conflicts as a hostile encounter, antagonism, fight, battle, a clashing or sharp disagreement as between idea, interests or purpose. Thus Nelson-Jones says that dictionary definitions of conflict emphasis words like fight, struggle antagonism and sharp disagreement. Richard Nelson Jones isolates three elements common to dictionary definitions. 1. A difference or disagreement, (2) The disagreement is severe, and (3) There is ill will.

We observe that dictionary definitions are necessarily constrained by space, etymology and popular and popular usage. A dictionary has limited space and pages and so it cannot devote too much space to one word or concept. A standard dictionary always gives the etymology of a word or concept. A standard dictionary always gives the etymology of a word which can


influence its definition of that word. But the cotemporary usage of a word might be thousands of kilometers away from its etymological meaning. At the same time a dictionary definition of a word strives to do justice to popular usage of a word in its definition of that word. There are two problems in this respect. The first is the tension that can exist between the etymology of a word and its popular usage. The second problem is that the popular usage of a word is not as sharp and as condensed as a dictionary would want to make out.

All this is not to say that an academic or scholarly definition of conflict or any other concept can fare better but it is at least always crafted to suit the purpose at hand. Professor John pass more points out the generally accepted criticism of an academic definition of a concept to the extent that it is either often too narrow or too general; if it is too narrow it becomes severally exclusive and if it is too general, it becomes belatedly inclusive. We observe that defining a concept is one of the most tedious undertaking in scholarship and intellectualism. In fact authors, intellectually lazy authors, shy away from it these days. For example, David W. Johnson in his book entitled Reaching out: Inter Personal Effectiveness and Self-actualization, a book of over 300 pages devoted largely to conflict resolution or management shield away from defining the core concept of the work. Still we have two academic definitions of conflict to consider before we offer one. In their book entitled Groups In Context: Leadership and Participation in Small Groups, Gerald L. Wilson and


Michael S. Hanna, define conflict as a struggle involving opposing ideas, values, and/or limited resources. Morton Deutsch his own book The Resolution of Conflict defines conflict as an action that is incompatible with another (and it) prevents, obstructs, interferes, injuries, on in some way makes the latter less lively or less effective Wilson and Hanna also conceptualize conflict as a struggle over values and claims to secure status, scarce power, and/or some resources. The first definition too porous. A struggle by whom? Morton Deutschs definition is surprisingly silent on the conceptual spinal cord of conflict which is response. The definition gives the impression that conflict is passive whereby an injured person or party takes issues socratically stoically or philosophically. Conflict cannot exist in a passive state. There is conflict when the Law of action and reaction defines a state of affairs. We define conflict as a process of an emotional, verbal or physical response by am entity to a provocative act or state of affairs. For there to be conflict there must be what is perceived by a party to be an affront and a response to that affront.

The definition we have offered of conflict is formal and logical enough to accommodate interpersonal conflict. This is a situation where an individual quarrels with himself because there is no visible physical external factor to hold responsible for the glory of internal conflict. For unemployment, hunger, sickness can cause interpersonal conflict. A person might commit a mistake and thereby get despondent and be a in state of interpersonal conflict. An individual Might be sad over a missed opportunity and sulk over it. Sadness, 4

melancholy, anger, moodiness, drunkenness and even crying can be manifestations of states of interpersonal conflict. Time can resolve interpersonal conflict Social interaction can be helpful too. Prayers are also very effective in resolving intrapersonal conflict. Conflicting and discussing with trusted friends and elders can help to manage intrapersonal conflicts. A person can be in a prolonged or semi-permanent state of interpersonal conflicts because of injuries in nature, envy, pettiness or sense of failure.

Our notion of entity in the definition of conflicts is very elastic. It can mean an individual, a corporate body, a community, a race, an ethnic group, a union, an individual, a corporate body, a community, a race, an ethnic group, a union, an organization or indeed even a country. The response, as we said in the definition can be emotional, verbal or physical response, as we all know, can end in violence, terrorism on in war. We have defined conflictlogy. We now have to define the philosophy of conflictology. We point out that the philosophy of conflictology falls under rubic or the philosophy of the infrastructure of disciplines exemplified by Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Economic, etc. It is easy to define the philosophy of conflictology because we have an existing format for defining the philosophy of any discipline. Otherwise, it must be conceded that conflictology is yet to mature as some other disciplines. Now we define the Philosophy of Conflictology. The Philosophy of conflictology deals with the rigorous examination, criticism


and critique of the nature of conflictiology, the fundamental conepts of conflictology, and the claims of conflictologists, conflictoloigcal rival theories and cultural and spatio-temporal antecedents, limit, limitations of conflictology and the inter and intra relationship of conflictology to other disciplines and real life issues. Indeed, it is an all comers fields for now. There is no Department of Conflictology in any University but it is, in the name of conflict resolution or conflict management, treated, discussed and taught as a course on subtheme in the facilities of social sciences, arts and law. Many NGOs (New Government Organizations) and freelance consultants are also involves, one way on the other, in conflictology. By coning the name conflictology, we are only helping to establish and nurture a new discipline a role for which philosophy is traditionally known to excel.

THE NATURE OF CONFLICTOLOGY One fundamental point about the nature of conflictology is that nature itself is conflictology. Here we have in mind two conceptions of nature. The first conception is exaction and the second is the natural order of things. Conflict is inherent in creation but creation is conflictological that is to say, that there are also in-built mechanisms in creation to manage or resolve conflict. There is inequality in creation. There is disparity in creation. There is divergence and discrimination in respect of human and environmental endowments can, ab initio, constitute remote and immediate causes of conflict. But creation is also beauty, order, aesthetics, harmony and concord. There is some wonder, some yesterday in creation bur creation is largely rational and systematic. 6

Man is at the center of creation, and he is a conflictoloigcal animal; he can cause conflict but he can also manage and resolve conflict. Many philosophers argue that man possess freedom, man has free-will.

In matters of immediacy and contingency man can indeed be said to have free will but on fundamental issues of life, man is not free. Man, for example, did not create conflict. Conflict is ontological and exists in its own with right quite apart from any thing or element in nature. Man did not create creation. Cre