I Kill, Therefore I Am: War and Killing as Structures of Human Spirit

Stefan Sonderling


This article uncovers the function of war and killing as the primary and primordial formative structure of human spirituality and religious experience. Tracing the representations of war in texts of philosophers and social thinkers from ancient Greece to the present, reveals a tradition of thought that considers war as the defining characteristic of humanity and as the foundation for constructing human and divine identities. While war is a social and collective activity, at its core are the actions of fighting and killing that are forms of interpersonal engagement. It is this interpersonal engagement that many thinkers imagine as being the source of human consciousness, identity and meaning; as Heraclitus put it: war creates both men and gods, making mortals immortal and immortals mortal.


Heraclitus; Aristotle; Nietzsche; war; polemos; Hegel; immortals; killing; consciousness; noble-savage

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