“War is Justice” (on Heraclitus)

Note for the Process-Oriented Philosophy Seminar

Session of 3 May 2018


We start with this Fragment from Heraclitus.

“We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being through strife necessarily.” Heraclitus, Fragment B80

We are speaking of becoming as “coming into being”.

Not just flowing, not just passing, but coming into being.

There seems to be a qualitative change here, between non-being and being.

What does it mean to be a being?

Does it have to do with matter?

Does Heraclitus mean that material things are the result of conflict?

It seems that we are also talking about not-yet-being.

The strife itself seems to operate in a realm before being, since things come into being through strife.

We are distinguishing a state of pre-being.

Heraclitus says that strife, conflict is the spiritual (not-a-being) engine of coming into being.

Strife seems to be a state of affairs before things come into being, since they come into being through strife.

Unless we are talking about a recombination of things into other things.

Unless we are talking about strife as the encounter between entities, points of contact.

But Heraclitus is talking about the Logos, about God, about the absolute.

He is not an empiricist.

Heraclitus says that strife is justice. And war common to all.

Which means that war is the universal common ground.

Being a universal, strife is not only a thing itself, and it is not simply the mere contact between things

Or if it is this contact, it is as a universal relation between things.

Strife, even as relation, is an idea, and moreover it is a universal idea, an absolute.

Which means that strife itself does not change.

This is why Heraclitus says that he speaks of the One.

“The waking have one common world.” Fragment B89.

Logos is One. “It rests by changing.” Fragment B84.

Hence the idea of necessity, which means that we are not talking about pure randomness.

For Heraclitus, the Logos, or God, is War as an absolute.

It is the contradiction itself, the idea of opposition.

This might seem to be logically contradictory for the following reason:

The idea of war supposes a dualism.

If you only had the One, how could it be at war with itself?

If you hold the proposition that God as One is Strife, then you might lose the idea of Unity, since the idea of war supposes A and B, at least an antagonism, a non-identity, a difference.

But there is a possible solution here to the apparent contradiction:

The idea that One and the Multiple are the same.

The idea that God or the Logos is at the same time One and Multiple.

And if all things are necessarily produced by such a God, it might mean that beings are themselves at the same time one and multiple.

That seems to be the essence of the strife that Heraclitus describes.

War is Justice and War is God seems to mean that One and the Multiple are the same.

That One and the Multiple are the same is perhaps the logic of all process philosophies.

Are we used today, in everyday life, to that way of thinking?

We are used to count.

And when we count, we distinguish one and the multiple.

When we count, the multiple becomes a sum. And one becomes a unit, a digit.

A digit seems to be different from a sum of digits.

Let’s now for the sake of heuristics try to apply Heraclitus to the way of thinking that counts.

To say that the One and the Multiple are the same, transposed to the realm of numbers and things, would be to say that one object is the same as many other objects.

Let’s say something apparently absurd for the sake of thinking forward:

One umbrella is the same as twenty cars and five baguettes.

How could we accept such an equation?

1 umbrella = 20 cars and 5 baguettes

This seems absurd.

But not completely. In fact, we are familiar with one mode of thought in which this equation is not surprising.

Imagine that the umbrella is entirely made of pure gold and that its value in dollars is $400 000. And imagine that we are talking about a specific model of car that costs $19,999 on the market. Both suppositions are very probable.

Then the equation would be true, in the world of money and exchange-value, which is a way of thinking among others.

Ways of thinking create acceptable worlds on premises that might appear absurd from the perspective of another way of thinking.

What I wanted to show here is that process philosophy is a way of thinking, in which the one and the multiple are the same, and in which there is becoming in the form of a coming into being, which means that there is a constant movement between non-being and being.

Sometimes Heraclitus calls this multiple a surfeit, an excess, that which is overabundant. I called it the Creal.

The philosopher Gilbert Simondon speaks of supersaturation for the multiple and crystallisation for individualisation, and we will come back to this later in the seminar. Alain Badiou also tried to think the one and the multiple, and so did Deleuze, and others. We will meet some of them in due course.

Let’s remain with the Greeks for the moment. How can non-being become being?

For Parmenides, this was impossible, because being is and non-being is not. For Plato, this was possible because in fact all beings related to ideal eternal paradigms that modelled their evolution. Think about the human foetus that develops a program that seems to be predesigned and yet we do not know here it is predesigned that the foetus will become a baby with, if all goes normally, two arms and two eyes, etc. For Aristotle, the passage between non-being into being was allowed because of the distinction between the potential and the actual.

But can we point to a very precise moment were the potential is becoming actual? Isn’t it like Achilles and the Tortoise, impossible to distinguish?

In the history of philosophy, all of these explanations were shown to contain logical flaws.

Today we can say that the problem is the following:

If we are to think that one and the multiple are the same, can we think it in a manner that remains multiple?

If we build a system of thought to explain how things come into being, that system will be one, it will be proposed as a fixed unified explanation, itself outside of becoming, and therefore suggested to war and conflict of ideas, and ultimately obsolescence.

Can we move into a way of thinking that would at the same time be one and multiple?

Shouldn’t we look for a style of thinking rather than a system.

I call crealectics this style of thinking. Not only from creative dialectics, but also from Creal and ectics: Ecto in Greek means outside.

There is a movement from the inside to the outside.

Creal-ectics looks at how the invisible-multiple becomes exteriorised as beings.

Perhaps is it not even a style of thinking.

Perhaps it is a way, in the manner that oriental spiritualities have ways.

The way of the warrior, the way of the monk, the way of empathy, the way of thinking.

We have just landed in a common space that is perhaps a new way of thinking.

Or perhaps just the desire of a new way of thinking.

A desire is already much.



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