Сергей Форкош
Ukrainian Thinker, Doctor of Philosophy, translator
7 minutes for reading

PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY: time of weapons

PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY: time of weapons
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We know a lot about the history of weapons and the role of weapons in the formation of civilization, but we know very little about the essence of weapons. The topic is complex, multidimensional, and requires fresh approaches. I offer to examine the genealogy of weapons through the prism of concepts such as «boundary», «territory» and «place».




A territory — is a dynamically changing land/hard surface plane that acquires meaning through its boundaries. Boundaries can be defined by natural factors such as mountains, seas, rivers, forests, canyons, etc., but also by people.

The expansion or contraction of boundaries is determined either by material or cultural factors. The form of boundary definition is a clash or a treaty. A clash can lead to confrontation, and confrontation can lead to war. War, in this sense — is the redefinition of territory by moving borders.

Territory (territorium) — is a surface that is defined by boundaries, which means that its definition includes both «on» territory, within the territory, and «behind» a territory. So, it is characterized by both self and non-self, by something beyond its boundaries. A borderless plain would not be a territory. But territory emerges as something fundamental to man only when he moves, when he relocates, yes, when he crosses borders. Consequently, movement and territory are connected in an essential way.

A boundary — is a line that has no size; it represents the «place» where real territory takes on an ideal integrity. The battle for the border — is partly a struggle for the meaning of territory, in other words, for the possibility of formation/development/movement.




Things look different when we try to define the concept of «place». Place, according to the ancient tradition, — is the absolute boundary for movable bodies. Thus, we can say that territory manifests a relative boundary, while place manifests an absolute boundary.

We always occupy a place, and to occupy a place implies the exclusion of the «other» in that place. Place is where one’s lifeworld is constructed and developed.

The place serves as an obvious support/ground for construction/development/germination. «I am not you», and this already implies confrontation/boundary. The very limitation, framing, and closure already imply exclusion, extrusion, and withdrawal.




By pushing away from ourselves, we make the place to be able to be where we are. We can push away, strike, scratch, squeeze, but we can also threaten.

Threatening is only possible after a precedent of violence. By raising our fists upwards, we demonstrate that we will use our hands to harm our opponent if he approaches us. The hand has many functions — with our hands we create, we work, but we also destroy, we fight.

The distance of an outstretched arm is our personal space. If we have a sword in our hands, the space expands, and the boundaries are pushed back. If we have a bow in our hands, then although the distance of the boundary increases significantly, it becomes more challenging to hold the perimeter of such a boundary, and therefore, the hand/sword can be taken as a particular invariant of personal space.




Most objects are suitable for use as weapons. A stone has more solidity and weight than the bones of the hand; a stick also has the necessary weight and length to be used as a weapon. Sand can damage the enemy’s vision at a distance; any thrown object can distract the enemy, making a surprise attack possible. The world of things can become a world of weapons.


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There is a gap between the spear and the bow. The spear — is the last and ultimate weapon for a pre-technical culture. The spear extends the distance as far as possible using only the capabilities of the body.

The bow, on the other hand, is a revolutionary shift to mediated ways of extending the boundary. Weapons at the stage of the bow begin a development in which man himself gradually becomes a tool.

With the emergence of the mediated way of expanding the boundary, the weapon technique itself shows its «own» logic of development. The bowstring, which determines the speed of the arrow by mediating the power of the hand, replaces the human body in the formation of territory by defining its boundaries.

There are still muscles needed to tension the bowstring, but soon, they too will be reduced to the muscles of the index finger.




The sword, among other things, has exceptional aesthetic properties. It dominates the hand in everything, especially in weight and hardness. The sword possesses brilliance, it also possesses an internal symmetry of balance to realize the swing, it is sharpened, which is the opposite of the soft tissues of the hand.

The sword is also difficult to destroy, and for this reason, the sword becomes a symbol of resilience and strength. In general, the sword for a long time acted as a perfect object that combined strength and danger, brutality and perfection. It could be valued as a work of art, but it could also have a sacred meaning.

Although we no longer use swords for their intended purpose, it still takes an even more extended period of time, a distance, to see clearly what a sword is in itself and what role it plays in the formation of culture.




The discovery of gunpowder optimized the bow with an explosion. The explosion, moving from point to periphery in the most compressed time possible, is the perfect example of boundary expansion. But in exploding, propelling lead, gunpowder explodes time itself.

If the hand, spear, sword, and even the bow served as a means of preserving or expanding territory (space), gunpowder does the same with time. If the spear or even the arrow of the bow could be «noticed», the bullet can no longer be noticed.

We hear the explosion (gunshot) and feel/see the penetration of lead into the body. The explosion is the sign/sound of an expanding boundary. The boundary expands both inside the cartridge case and through the sighting range of the shot. Time that is destroyed by the explosion cannot be rebuilt/reassembled.

Bullets fly along trajectories that can only be judged by the direction of the weapon, so if sound is excluded, the battle of soldiers with rifles looks like a form of cursing by some of the others by pointing the weapon at the victim of the curse.

The explosion itself is pure motion, pure extensiveness. The explosion does not stop or subside; it blows itself apart and annihilates itself within a compressed time. If we speak about the boundaries of the explosion, we are talking about those boundaries where the explosive force does not reach so that we can speak about the explosion only outside the explosion itself, not inside it. In short, the explosion has a place but no territory. The explosion has no future; the explosion is the pit of rupture.

It is important to note that the explosion is also a pure transition of matter from one state to another, and it is the transition itself that is important here, which does not appear to be a linear movement, which would be accompanied by transformations, but is, as it were, the destruction of the distinction each substance possessed before the explosion.

Of course, it is impossible to use the explosion, and only the incredible naivety and vanity of man could lead him to think that the invention of gunpowder would lead to the possibility of controlling the explosion by directing it at his command.

Gunpowder explodes instantly, but gunpowder, as a possibility of explosion, explodes constantly, changing only the intensity. This causes a person to feel as if explosions only occur when the person needs them to. For example, the sun is an almost infinite explosion of exceptional intensity.

The nuclear explosion, as the quintessential development of weapons, is, according to its internal logic, fundamentally uncontrollable. All we can do is postpone the explosion, but we have no power to avoid it.

The explosion is only lurking and awaiting its final hour…


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