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Reflection on Hume’s Speech and Lecture


It is reasonable to expect conflict when there are deviations in opinions, backgrounds, and attitudes. Disagreements have been an integral part of human history, and have led to massive acts of violence and bloodshed. However, disputes are possible to resolve without resorting to arms but with reaching agreement based on certain principles. In his 1998 Nobel Prize speech and lecture, John Hume, a renowned politician and a significant figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, explains how agreements can be reached and on what postulates they should be based. This paper will review the core ideas from Hume’s teachings and provide a reflection on the material.

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Hume’s Views of Conflict and Resolution

Conflicts emerge when there are opposing opinions and contrasting viewpoints. Hume (1998), however, suggests that the majority of disputes are fueled by elements that one may not control. For instance, people have no capacity to influence in what culture or race they are born into. Therefore, Hume claims that differences are an “accident of birth” (Nobel Prize, 2020). The 1998 Nobel Laureate believes that in a significant portion of circumstances, opposing sides have motivations different from what they are claiming. He provides an example regarding Protestants and Catholics in the ranks of Unionists and Nationalists, respectively (Nobel Prize, 2020). While some would suggest that the dispute was on the basis of religion, in reality, conflict emerged because of differing political motives. Both sides wanted to protect their identity, but this objective could not be achieved through violence (Nobel Prize, 2020). Hume sees agreements as the only way of resolving conflicts.

On Partnerships and Collaboration

An agreement means partnering with the opposing side and collaborating with them to devise an outcome that suits all participating parties. Without cooperation and shared work, Hume believes that it is not possible to resolve conflicts. “Humans can’t be brought together by guns and bombs,” but only by agreement (Nobel Prize, 2020). When people are divided, the land and territories they reside on lose their value, and violence only deteriorates the situation and intensifies differences even further. Hume espouses that collaboration is not likely when one of the sides starts favoring brutality and physical force. Inevitably, the other party will reply, and the outcome will be harmful to both participants (Nobel Prize, 2020). Therefore, it is significant to lay down arms and start cooperating on the issues that serve as the foundation for the conflict.

Principles and His Vision for Peace

For collaborations and partnerships to be successful, an agreement should be based on three principles. Hume states these as respect for differences and diversity, creation of institutions that promote those differences, and economic integration (Nobel Prize, 2020). By applying these principles, Hume believes that it is possible to resolve any conflict. His vision for peace is of a world where every person respects one another, and people spill “their sweat and not their blood” (Hume, 1998, para. 9). Hume believes that through common hard work, it is possible to make differences in race, religion, and nationality unimportant. When people concentrate on shared interests, all of the items on which parties disagree become insignificant.

My Personal Views

From the aforementioned principles, the Nobel Laureate emphasizes the third one – economic integration and free trade. I believe that economic interactions that benefit all sides are a foundation for mutual understanding. While Hume provides the European Union as an example, I can also recall many cases from American history. When there were continuous disagreements between colonists and Hispanics prior to the Texas Revolution, many Americas residing in borderlands found Mexicans to be reasonable people to do business with. The conflict was promoted by individuals with purely political motives. Sometimes I think about what would have happened if the government opted for economic collaboration instead of armed conflicts. In the business environment, there are many examples of companies that partner with their rivals to achieve common objectives. Bill Gates, when he was the CEO of Microsoft, invested in Apple when the latter was facing bankruptcy. I agree entirely with Hume and support his vision of ubiquitous economic collaboration and respect for differences. There are issues that affect all of humanity, and all opposing parties should come together to overcome these shared obstacles.


Peace is an important prerequisite for economic development and prosperity. At the same time, economic collaboration is an essential instrument for achieving peace. Hume states that by gathering opposing sides and providing them with common objectives to work on, it is possible to resolve conflicts without using arms. European Union, which serves as a platform for trade for all of its members, is a notable example of successful conflict resolution. There have been many cases in the history of the United States as well. American-Hispanic interactions in the frontiers and models from the contemporary business environment demonstrate that agreements can be reached through collaborations and partnerships. Differences should be valued and respected because they are not one’s choice to be born with.

Reference List

Hume, J. (1998) Nobel lecture. Web.

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Nobel Prize (2020) John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize 1998: “Our differences are an accident of birth.” Web.

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