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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Paradoxes of War by Princeton University

674 ratings

About the Course

The Paradoxes of War teaches us to understand that war is not only a normal part of human existence, but is arguably one of the most important factors in making us who we are. Through this course, I hope that you will come to appreciate that war is both a natural expression of common human emotions and interactions and a constitutive part of how we cohere as groups. That is, war is paradoxically an expression of our basest animal nature and the exemplar of our most vaunted and valued civilized virtues. You will learn some basic military history and sociology in this course as a lens for the more important purpose of seeing the broader social themes and issues related to war. I want you to both learn about war, but more importantly, use it as way of understanding your everyday social world. So, for example, the discussion of war and gender will serve to start you thinking about how expectations of masculinity are created and our discussion of nationalism will make clear how easy “us-them” dichotomies can be established and (ab)used. I will suggest some readings for you to complement the class and assign some activities through which you will be able to apply the theoretical insights from the course to your observations of everyday life. At the end of the course, you will start to see war everywhere and come to appreciate how much it defines our life. All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion....

Top reviews


Mar 14, 2018

Very interesting topic and well-presented, too. Covers virtually every historic period in which there's been warfare (which, I guess, is every historic period in which there's been people).


Jan 11, 2020

Great course! This course has provided some great information and proposed some important philosophical questions. I wish there were exams and a certificate to go along with it too.

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1 - 25 of 163 Reviews for Paradoxes of War

By Wesley W

May 18, 2020

I served in the US Navy for 26 years, multiple deployments in two wars, and trained men and women for a third. Five weeks into the course it simply didn't resonate with my experience or the discussions I've had with the people I have served with, or the experiences of other veterans (WWII, Korea, Vietnam) I've known through the years. A better title would be "Paradoxes of the Mythology of War." The vision offered was just too foreign to someone who has "been there" to continue with it.

By James K W

Sep 7, 2017

As a Vietnam Veteran, I believe war is when humankind caves in upon itself. It brings out the very worst of humanity, destruction of humanity and societies, manipulation of humankind, including minorities, women, and children for production of war resources. War shows the resilience of humankind from the worst of events, experiences and horrors.

The only good of war is the good inside mankind. War involves the destruction of humans. I believe the concept of this course is lunacy. The US Military is deterrence and preparation for war to defend America. Nevertheless, only barbarians celebrate war. James Kirk Wiggins (MSGT, USAF, RET)

By Atta R

Jan 28, 2019

Lovely course. Wonderful understanding of the Professor about War and its related implications. Thank you Professor. For the first time I fully understood the horror of holocaust.

By Catherine H

Mar 12, 2019

This is a really interesting and unique class! The professor is extremely knowledgeable about his field, and does an amazing job at explaining the sociology behind war.

By Mark M

Aug 23, 2016

I appreciated the professor's clear and articulate lectures, together with the use of in-lecture questions to reinforce the main concepts.

I may not completely agree with all of the points raised by the good professor, but the perspective he offered on historical events was greatly appreciated.

I also appreciated that approaching the methods of war within different cultures would have required a much larger and longer course and so I am grateful to the professor for placing his focus where he did.

It is unfortunate that my timing in participating in this class reduced my ability to properly interact with other students during the progress of the lessons, but I have to accept responsibility for that aspect.

Still, I consider this to be one of the more exceptional courses offered by Coursera and credit that largely to the presentation skills of the good professor. I thank him for sharing his knowledge and this opportunity to consider a topic I would not ordinarily study in such detail.

By Jonathan G

Feb 29, 2016

Very well done. However, I disliked how the course itself and even the professor glorified positive aspects of war.

By Ricardo P A

Dec 22, 2015

Bom Dia

sou jornalista do terceiro site mais acessado do Brasil nas redes sócias na categoria geopolítica, o nome do meu site e Assuntos Militares ( ) e minha 6 tentativa de finalizar esse curso, que seria de extrema importância a no meu currículo, mais infelizmente não estou conseguindo, gostaria de deixa registrado

Ricardo Pereira Azevedo

Journalist and Photographer

Site Assuntos Militares (Military Affairs)

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By Joseph P W

Jan 12, 2020

Great course! This course has provided some great information and proposed some important philosophical questions. I wish there were exams and a certificate to go along with it too.

By kittikoon s

Aug 14, 2015

This course has changed my view of war. It's very exciting course!

By Bart S

Jun 4, 2016

The title of this course is Paradoxes of War. One of the paradoxes is how little paradox there is in war, after reviewing and reflecting on the lectures and the reading materials.

By Wylie К י

Aug 20, 2015

My initial impressions are of astounding mediocrity. Amazes me how academic careers are made these days.

By Michael L

May 16, 2022

This was one of the finest set of lectures on the topic of war and peace I have ever experienced.

The depth of coverage in the course was phenomenal. The scope of the topics was incredibly broad.

Most of all, the lectures answered a question I have long been wrestling with: why do otherwise rational humans see the need to kill each other? Why?

I was an Army Officer in an Infantry Battalion (1968-73) and I can never remember a single soldier or officer ever question why were serving in uniform. It was never a topic for us. We all felt it was our duty, except ffor many of the draftees. We fought not for our country as much as for each other.

I sure wish I had been able to study this course before entering the Army. But now, I can see why men and women go off to war: because it is what we do.

By Ε Σ

Jun 29, 2016

Paradoxes of War was maybe one of the most interesting course I've enrolled in Coursera.

I can say for sure that I've learned a lot via Prof. Miguel Centeno through all those weeks. I admire him for his passion and his knowledge. I was really surprised to watch how many things he knows about Ancient Greek history and Mythology and most of all I was really pleased to listen to him using a great deal of "hellenic vocabulary". That amazed me!

I would like to thank him personally about this course.

I am looking forward to take another class of yours again in the future.

Thank you!

Elizabeth (Greece)

By Ning J

Mar 29, 2016

Great lectures. The course material spans from ancient warfare and tactics all the way to modern wars that involve atomic bombs and guerrillas. He not only introduces us to the history of western warfare, but more importantly he focuses on the relationship of war and society -- on how wars arise from societal needs or conflicts as well as on how wars shape and transform society. He strikes a good balance between addressing the paradoxes of war and avoiding getting too much in politics and ideologies of war.

By Dalibor K

May 29, 2016

Thank you for this brilliant insight about the nature of war. I am now "20.000 leagues" closer to understand the nature of war. In other words "Aha!". Sure, this course isn´t to replace real studies in sociology of warfare. Nevertheless: "How can I know what I say, until I see what I say." --- Thinking, speaking, acting --> makes us ethical blind or brings us to freedom and peace, changing everyday life in peace. Knowing to defend our planet, even to be in war with clashing ideology.

By Gene P

Mar 29, 2016

Excellent course. I really enjoyed it! My most recent educational experience (I am 72 and a vet of the vietnam era) has been with the Great Courses from the Learning Company. This rates with the best of those many courses I have taken. I really appreciate the quizzes at the end of every lesson since they help to reinforce the key points (they also remind me of my college experience and the philosophy that every cadet will be graded in every class, everyday!)

Kudos to the Prof!

By Beatriz m d

Dec 19, 2023

Paradojas de la guerra No he estado de acuerdo con el profesor en muchos temas,sobre todo en lo referente a mi país,España.Porejemplo,en una de las últimas conferencias habla de que Cataluña se podría separar de España.Imposible,A diferencia del UK,España tiene una Constitución que no permite la separación de los reinos,hoy comunidades de España.Me hubiera gustado comentarlo en los foros,pero no habia foros.En lo que se refiere al objetivo de estudiar este curso,lo he logrado.

By Evgenia C

Nov 11, 2015

Very interesting course. It helped me gain a more profound understanding of the methods of warmaking and the power an organised, well-coordinated action of a group of people has in general. The teaching approach of the professor Miguel Centeno has been one of the basic reasons for which this couse has been both so delightful and enriching. I would strongly recomend this course to everyone that is interested in the field of international affairs.

By Timothy G

Jun 12, 2018

Thank you, Miguel. I watched your videos with great interest. You and I are the same age so it was interesting hearing your perspectives on things. I have spent most of my life in the Defense industry, both in uniform and now as a contractor. While having never served in combat or seen it from up close, I found your research and application of the sociological aspects of war on a civilization as extraordinarily fascinating. Thank you! Tim

By Nichols A

Aug 4, 2020

Great class according to its objective, to study wars from a sociological point of view. There is perhaps a need for a deeper review from the military point of view and the eastern form of conflict, but such matters are beyond the scope of the course as the teacher says. It aroused curiosity on various subjects and will certainly help me in the masters!

By Hyunsook K

Oct 7, 2021

Thanks to this course, I could have deeper and wider view of human history and society in overall. I used to think war is only devilish and should be removed. Even though I still think we should be avoid war as possible as we could, I am grateful that I am able to understand why and how humans had involved war owing to this course.

By Maren M

Aug 20, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed the course. Professor Centeno guided us through history to show that even wars can make some positive contributions to societies and to soldiers. You do not have to agree with him to notice that he is a very good online lecturer. It was my first MOOC where I felt I'm in an auditorium and not at my computer.

By William M

Oct 5, 2017

This is an outstanding course. I was not sure that I would be interested in the topic, but it turned out to be a very interesting course. It is a course about the sociology of war, but it also covers some military history, philosophy of war and psychology of war, which gives it an intriguing interdisciplinary spirit.

By Mladen V

Aug 16, 2015

Nice course with broad overview, appropriate to wide audience concern to warfare, politics, defense and security. Also, literature is very interesting and suggested books have reasonable price. Topics of discussions are inspiring and ingratiating. Teaching style is relaxed, well pointed and very interesting.

By Kathy C

Aug 1, 2021

Very good course, and well-presented. I especially thought the possible futures at the end were interesting, I'd never considered those before. My only suggestion: this course is about "Western War", which implies that there is a/many other forms; I'm curious as to what they are!