The Πόλεμος That Gathers All: Heraclitus on War

in Research in Phenomenology
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Heraclitus reportedly said that πόλεμος is “father of all, king of all” (Fragment B53). However, we should be cautious around the translation of πόλεμος as “war.” How to hear this term in its multifarious signification is precisely the theme of the present essay. The analysis of various Heraclitean fragments, furthermore, may call into question the view of politics as constitutively involving war and violence (thinkers as diverse as Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Hobbes, and Marx offer varying formulations of this position) and contribute to the task of understanding politics otherwise. Granted, the examination of Heraclitean texts may appear rather tangential, even remote, with respect to this question. And yet, however obliquely, this study points to a meditation on politics as genuinely and meaningfully resting on the practice of peace—or, one might say, on a radically other understanding of the word “war.”



Léon Robin, La Pensée grecque et les Origines de l’esprit scientifique (Paris: Renaissance du livre, 1923).


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