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Define "Warrior"

What is a “warrior”? Today, in answering this question, it is common to go to the root word, “war,” and say, “A warrior is someone that does war.” However, using etymology to define current social constructs, especially if translation is involved, is always extremely limited in bringing us a deeper or truer understanding of a word. Likewise as limiting is taking current social constructs as if they have no history to them. One has to balance both the linearity of a word through time as well as the breadth of a word as it disseminates through cultures. For example, if we continue the etymological investigation into the word “war,” if we look at the Proto-Indo-European etymological origins for the word, which is “wers,” we see that the word meant, “to mix up, confuse, beat, thresh.” By this etymological process, are we left with a deep or true understanding of the word “warrior” if we define it as, “a person that mixes up things, or brings confusion to things”? I would say, no.

Additionally, another mistake we make whenever we look for etymological solutions to semiotic problems is when we ask “What is a warrior?” we are not asking that question from the point of view of the countless etymologies and the countless histories and countless cultures that had an understanding for such a person different from ours but that have indeed over time come to influence and determine our own current linguistic/social construct for the word in question. Ethnocentrically using our own language’s etymology, as if the social construct at the end of that etymology was itself not influenced over time by other languages and other cultures, can only mislead us.

Instead, when we are asking for a singular understanding of the word “warrior,” different from an etymology of the English word, we are seeking an understanding that captures the most histories and the most cultures, the most etymologies, that has come to define the word today. Today, when we use the word “warrior,” we do not mean a person in war, let alone someone that acts to confuse things. In fact, culturally, we have meant something much more and and something much different since the time of Heraclitus, when he noted that the warrior stood outside of the person waging war, that the warrior stood apart from the numbers merely called to war, apart from the fodder in the ranks, and even apart from the fighters. To capture then the most etymologies, the most social constructs for the word “warrior,” I would say, “a warrior is a person that orients his/her life around the problematization of fear: The warrior is the person whose religion is the reconciliation of fear.” That is a warrior.


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