How do you understand Sun Tzu's concept of "Know the enemy and know yourself" and what is the significance of this concept in modern wars?

Essay by pilcomexUniversity, Bachelor'sA, February 2006

download word file, 4 pages 4.0

Downloaded 38 times


Sun Tzu's master piece "Art of War" has exercised a potent fascination over the minds of some of the greatest men in history. Beside military men, testimonies of pure literary men are even more remarkable. The following is an extract from the "Impartial Judgments in the Garden of Literature" by Cheng Hou:

"Sun Tzu's 13 chapters are not only the staple and base of all military men's training, but also compel the most careful attention of scholars and men of letters. His sayings are terse yet elegant, simple yet profound, perspicuous and eminently practical."

Sun Tzu is recognized as one of the first military thinkers to appreciate the importance of art of war for a nation, he says, "In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.

Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected..." But that does not mean that Sun Tzu advocates or encourages war, rather he emphasizes that supreme excellence lies in defeating an enemy without fighting.

Understanding and Significance of Sun Tzu's Concept of "Know the enemy and Know Yourself"

The Sun Tzu's concept of "Know the enemy and know yourself" is given in chapter III of his book. The title of this chapter is "Attack by Stratagem", and it introduces the central notion of "taking whole," whereby one "subdues the other's military without battle." Thus it remarks, "Taking a state whole is superior; destroying it is inferior to this. Taking an army whole is superior; destroying it is inferior to this..." and "To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking...