Evolution of the Disgraced Human Soul – From Swords to the Clubs of War

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1613
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Bachelor

The history of weapons began with the appearance of man on earth and the need to aggressively confront the outside world to survive in it. The first weapons were sharp stones, then humanity went through all the stages of formation associated with the use of one or another metal – copper, bronze, iron. Gunsmiths experimented with alloys, changing the shape and way of technical and tactical use of the primordial stone. However, in the 10th century, something new, a new weapon appeared in China, which was called a ‘shooting stick’ or a ‘shooting spear’ (“The Complete History of Guns”). This essay addresses the question of whether a gun can be beautiful, and if so, how can that beauty be reconciled with the purpose of that weapon.

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We must start with the fact that the first weapon, the mentioned primordial stone, was becoming more and more perfect in form along with the evolution of its tactical and technical application. Knights of all eras and kingdoms were trained in sword techniques and went into battles against endless enemies. The sword was considered a good weapon, and probably the most aesthetically perfect in all its forms, but warriors also used spears, axes, and other tools for defending and attack. Until, in one battle for the city in China, ‘firing spears’ were invented.

So, if we talk about the beauty of personal weapons, in the process of evolution it was becoming more and more beautiful. Moreover, in most countries there were cults of knights, that is, people who belonged to a higher class than, for example, merchants or peasants, since they did not need either land or money, but devoted their lives to the battle, which some of them called sacred. Often these were mercenaries who served the king and participated in wars in peacetime.

However, during the massive wars, the countries needed more extensive mobilization, and all members of tribes, communities, cities were forced to participate in fights. In particular, when guns were invented in China, they were used to capture cities and were seen as a significant advantage that could give an edge to a side with fewer soldiers, horses, and overall military strength (“The Complete History of Guns”). Soldiers of that time were trained warriors who devoted their lives to the art of war. However, with the advent of guns, commanders-in-chief could also mobilize untrained city dwellers as warriors to ensure superiority in the number of soldiers.

It was at this moment that an error crept into the evolution of weapons, which was reflected in the externally perceived appearance of guns. Any object can be called ugly or beautiful not due to its aesthetic qualities, or qualities of form, but due to the purpose that it serves. The moment the gun was invented, it began to serve the purpose of mobilizing people not trained as soldiers. Therefore, in the perception of a gun, there is something repulsive, something violent, and unnatural.

Later, from the 13th-17th century, when the Europeans learned the secret of gunpowder, they began to use it by loading hand cannons that were used in battle. The weapons became more sophisticated, on the inside of the barrel, there was a thread guiding the bullet in the same way as the plumage guides the arrows (“The Complete History of Guns”). Europeans wondered how to adapt hand cannons for personal use and in 1836 Colt invented a revolver that revolutionized the world of European firearms (“The Complete History of Guns”). Since then, the gun has gone through many modifications, was reissued in many designs and shapes, but its original concept remained the same.

Subsequently, humanity tried to return the lost beauty to guns using multiple techniques of aesthetic perfection. The Metropolitan Museum website and Autry’s collection have exquisite examples of pistols, and some of them look beautiful (“Visiting the Met?”, “The Autry’s Collection Online”). It can be assumed that Colt returned the guns to their original essence of the purpose since guns again became a means of personal defense or attack. At the same time, if we compare guns with swords, they lose to swords since they do not serve a higher purpose, such as guarding the motherland against external threats.

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The knights differed from the modern free man in that they had a higher goal – to wage a holy war and defend their homeland. This goal was at the same time the purpose of their weapon, imparting inner beauty to it. Presumably, having regained excellence in shooting techniques, modern people returned to the guns some of the beauty inherent in weapons. From this assumption, the beauty of a weapon is inextricably linked with beauty and freedom, which lies in the technically and strategically perfect use of force.

In other words, the beauty of a weapon – any weapon, including guns, lies in its purpose. Unfortunately, guns never acquired the same noble purpose that swords had. Today, no one defends their homeland with a gun of their own free will, or rather there is only a small percentage of such people, while the majority play the role of forced hostages of war, and do not serve a higher purpose, but obey the demands of those who create the laws of war.

Even sadder is the fate of those who use weapons for personal purposes. Not knowing how to use it correctly, such people create many problems for themselves and others, endangering their children and their environment. For example, according to statistics, in the United States in 2015, 36,252 people died from firearms (Kaufman 692). Of this number, 22,018 used pistols to commit suicide, and another 12,979 became victims of murders (Kaufman 692).

In addition, the percentage of children who harmed themselves as a result of accidental gunshots is growing slowly but steadily (Hatchimonji 402). Remarkably, overall, about half of suicides and two-thirds of homicides are committed with the use of firearms. Equally terrible are the consequences of using guns and other firing vehicles such as cannons, machine guns, and anti-aircraft defense vehicles in wars. Here the number of victims is measured not in thousands, but millions of people.

Given the history of the gun origin, it has a lot in common with cannons and their later modifications. Of course, given the purpose of the guns, there is little beauty in them, although some models can look quite graceful. Another difference between swords and guns is that almost every sword bears a unique story of the person who owned it. At the same time, most of the pistols are intended for service purposes. In ancient times, warriors even gave names to their swords, while most guns only have serial and work numbers. For example, every gun owned by police officers or soldiers has its own serial and service number.

Therefore, the narrative approaches a new turn, and the final thesis: a weapon is beautiful if there is a story behind it. Dueling weapons, for example, look almost pretty, if only their aesthetics weren’t tainted by associations with ‘shooting sticks.’ The service guns used by detectives in popular action films, especially if the detective is portrayed by an attractive TV actor, look even more beautiful. And the reason for this beauty is in the story behind the use of these weapons. If a gun is used to catch a criminal, then it becomes, as it were, another character in the story.

If we consider the topic of the beauty of guns using the ideas presented by Scruton, then we can distinguish human and natural beauty in them. From the perspective of human beauty, guns eventually acquired a beautiful soul and received the body modified to the maximum aesthetic state. Moreover, sometimes guns even acquire a sacred beauty, mainly characteristic of more ancient weapons. From the perspective of natural beauty, guns contain the idea of murder, which cannot be beautiful, since it is violence against nature.

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This rule, however, contains an exception, because murder and violence are not always used to the detriment of nature, but can also serve its evolutionary development or the preservation of the integrity of life. Therefore, in those cases when guns are used to protect nature or destroy its painful manifestations, they are a tool for realizing the potential of beauty. Remarkably, in this context, guns also realize their universal meaning.

Not surprisingly, guns have also become art objects, especially for those people who saw them as personal weapons used for self-defense. Many aristocrats who owned guns of exquisite shape endowed them with an artificial and a whole range of romantic meanings. For example, dueling pistols are traditionally perceived as a piece of art and stimulate the interest of collectors and admirers. This is because dueling pistols, especially those belonging to historical figures, carry the idea of an untold story of love or hatred, struggle or death. Such weapons can be exhibited in museums as a piece of art that is not analogous to a natural object.

Thus, a gun can be a beautiful object if its purpose is reconciled as much as possible with the human ethics of life and death. In particular, if a weapon, including a gun, is used by a person within the framework of his free choice and for a noble purpose, this weapon looks great in the eyes of the beholder. Then, if a weapon is a tool for the implementation of free choice with an existing goal and at the same time such implementation does not lead to destructive consequences, this weapon looks beautiful from the viewer’s perspective. Finally, if a gun carries a story that is remarkable, truthful, and has its inner meaning, such a weapon can be called an object of art.

Works Cited

Hatchimonji, Justin S., et al. “Pediatric Firearm Mortality in the United States, 2010 to 2016: A National Trauma Data Bank Analysis.” Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 88.3 (2020): 402-407.

Kaufman, Elinore J., et al. “State Firearm Laws and Interstate Firearm Deaths from Homicide and Suicide in the United States: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Data by County.” JAMA Internal Medicine 178.5 (2018): 692-700.

Scruton, Roger. Beauty: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2009.

“The Autry’s Collection Online,”. Web.

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“The Complete History of Guns.” History Cooperative. 2019. Web.

“Visiting the Met?,”. Web.