Few Fancy Greek Etymologies


In philosophy and critical theory, is a composite of three meanings: remedy, poison, and scapegoat.

The first two refer to the common sense in the context pharmacology/toxicology, while the third sense refers to the pharmakos ritual of human sacrifice.

As a remedy, it may also mean “a means of producing something”.

Jacques Derrida in “Plato’s Pharmacy” gives writing as a pharmakon. Whereas a straightforward view on Plato’s treatment of writing (in Phaedrus) suggests that writing is to be rejected as strictly poisonous to the ability to think for oneself in dialogue with others (i.e. to anamnesis).

In certain cases it may be appropriate to see a pharmakon as an example of anthropotechnics in Sloterdijk’s sense of the term – part a “project of treating human nature as an object of deliberate manipulation.” This is consistent with the way in which Plato’s “noble lie” is understood by Carl Page – namely, as a pharmakon, with the philosopher in the role of moral physician. Relatedly, pharmakon has been theorised in connection with a broader philosophy of technology, biotechnology, immunology, enhancement, and addiction.


The katechon (from Greek: τὸ κατέχον, “that which withholds”, or ὁ κατέχων, “the one who withholds”) is a biblical concept which has subsequently developed into a notion of political philosophy.

St. Paul then adds that the revelation of the Antichrist is conditional upon the removal of “something/someone that restrains him” and prevents him being fully manifested. Verse 6 uses the neuter gender, τὸ κατέχον; and verse 7 the masculine, ὁ κατέχων.

In Nomos of the Earth, German political thinker Carl Schmitt suggests the historical importance within traditional Christianity of the idea of the katechontic “restrainer” that allows for a Rome-centered Christianity, and that “meant the historical power to restrain the appearance of the Antichrist and the end of the present eon.” The katechon represents, for Schmitt, the intellectualization of the ancient Christianum Imperium, with all its police and military powers to enforce orthodox ethics (see Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen, trs., (New York: Telos, 2003), pp. 59–60.) In his posthumously published diary the entry from December 19, 1947 reads: “I believe in the katechon: it is for me the only possible way to understand Christian history and to find it meaningful” (Glossarium, p. 63). And Schmitt adds: “One must be able to name the katechon for every epoch of the last 1,948 years. The place has never been empty, or else we would no longer exist.”

Paolo Virno has a long discussion of the katechon in his book Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation. He refers to Schmitt’s discussion. Virno says that Schmitt views the katechon as something that impedes the coming of the Antichrist, but because the coming of the Antichrist is a condition for the redemption promised by the Messiah, the katechon also impedes the redemption. p. 60.


from Modern Latin miasma “noxious vapors,” from Greek miasma (genitive miasmatos) “stain, pollution, defilement, taint of guilt,” from stem of miainein “to pollute,” from possible PIE root *mai- (2) “to stain, soil, defile” (source of Old English mal “stain, mark”).

In Greek mythology, a miasma is “a contagious power … that has an independent life of its own. Until purged by the sacrificial death of the wrongdoer, society would be chronically infected by catastrophe.”

An example is Atreus who invited his brother Thyestes to a delicious stew containing the bodies of his own sons. A miasma contaminated the entire family of Atreus, where one violent crime led to another, providing fodder for many of the Greek heroic tales. Attempts to cleanse a city or a society from miasma may have the opposite effect of reinforcing it.


Autopoiesis (from Greek, Modern αὐτo- (auto-), meaning ‘self’, and ποίησις (poiesis), meaning ‘creation, production’) refers to a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself.


Written on May 17, 2019