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Myths & Their Meaning
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  1. Myths & Their Meaning Part I: Theory and Method

  2. What are we asking? • Do myths have meaning? • Must we read myths as having meaning? • Myth and Theory (Myth, 10) • Can theories explain myth? • Do we need theories to explain myth? 2 2

  3. Cilicia Lycia Europa’s sons & lover Europa’s brothers

  4. Theories about myth • Scientific • Philosophy • Psychology, sociology • Literature • Religion and ritual

  5. Three questions (Myth, 2) • Three questions • Origin • Function (“need”) • Subject matter (“referent”) • Definition of Myth • A story (narrative, plot)... • ...about something significant... • ...in which the main figures are personalities. 5

  6. The Myth of Adonis • Descent from the Gods • The wrath (anger) of the gods • Aphrodite against children of Cinyras • Artemis against Adonis • Aphrodite against Smyrna (“weeping” myrrh)

  7. The Goddesses in the Myth • Aphrodite: sexual passion • Artemis: hunting • Persephone: underworld, cycle of spring and fall 8

  8. Adonis (in Ovid) • Myrrha encased at the end of her pregnancy; weeping • No conflict among the goddesses for Adonis • Venus • Meets Adonis as young man, not baby 9 9

  9. Causality • X causes Y • “laws”? (fixed connection) • I know whereever there is Y, there has been X prior to it

  10. David Hume on causality • I don’t see causes • Events coincide • They do so “most” of the time

  11. X ➵ Y • X ➵ not Y • Not X ➵ Y • Not X ➵ not Y

  12. .5% < 20%

  13. Has humanly produced carbon emissions caused global warming? • Not merely: is there global warming since humans have been around? • But: has there global warming without ACP? • Has the rate of global warming significantly increased since large-scale carbon emissions have occurred?

  14. Myth & Science (1) • Myth is really scientific • “creationism”, Feng shui, yoga • “true” vs. “modern” • “rationalizing” [pp. 11-12] 15 15

  15. Myth, Science, Logic(2) • “Primitive science” • “pre-”scientific explanation for events • Mythic and scientific explanations cannot be held simultaneously • Logic • Is myth a way of thinking or doing? • Is myth logical or non-logical? 16 16

  16. Theories (1) • Tylor • myth literal, but primitive, reading of physical events • if primitive, ➛animism • if modern, ➛philosophy • Frazer • myth explains the ritual, that effects events 18 18

  17. Theories (2) • Malinowski • myth happens when primitives can no longer control the world • reconcile to world • Lévy-Bruhl (25) • myth as “participation mystique”-- pre-logical • Do we feel connected to universe? • Detachment ➛ science or philosophy 19 19

  18. Religion vs. Science: Theoretical Distinctions (Myth, 32-33) • Religion • Horton: “closed” and uncritical • Popper: dogmatic • Science • Horton: open • Popper: second-order • Do open societies have myths? Are scientific theories myth-like? 20 20

  19. Tylor: science and myth are incompatible (pp. 17-18) 21 21

  20. Myth, science, personality (cont.) • Are personal causes empirical (31)? • although not scientific (Horton) • Is science better“truth”? • More effective“truth” • How do we explain the continuing co-existence of myth and science (24)? 21 21

  21. Is Myth Philosophical? • Paul Radin: yes: “ultimate components of reality” • Cassirer: no: myth emotional, “atavistic” • Myth deals with non-controllable world • The Frankforts: philosophical vs. “mythopoeic” thinking 22 22

  22. Plato against Myth (1) • Gyges’ ring • The traditional view of the gods and human action • What shapes human character: the gods or deeds? • Fate (Anthology, 366-7) • Ritual 23 23

  23. Plato against Myth (2) • Myths give a “bad image” of the gods (Anthology, 364-5) • What is this image (365)? • How does Plato know this is “bad”? 24 24

  24. Plato: Anthology 365-6 • God is good • How does Plato know this is true? 366 top • Contrary to the myths • What is his motivation? 25 25

  25. Philosophy beyond mythClassical Mythology, ch. 4 • Muthos and logos (Plato) • A myth about myth • Allegory and Mythology (p. 64) 26 26

  26. Allegory • Moralizing myth • “meaning something other than what is said” • Moral metaphors (##54, 69) • “Scientific” metaphors (#56) • Is there a truth to the story? 27 27

  27. Myth and the Human Sciences • How do myths help us interpret the human condition? • The Oedipal Myth (Apd M6; Hyg. 66-68) • Kingly son separated at birth • Attempt to avoid awful destiny • Ends up fulfilling destiny • Murders father; incest with mother 28 28

  28. The Oedipal Myth (2) • Maimed • Natural disasters • Savior become enemy • Cycle of “dysfunction” • Laios’ kidnapping of Chysippus 29 29

  29. The Oedipal Myth (3) • Fate • Oracles create the problem they try to stop • “Whom am I?” What is his role in the drama? 30 30

  30. Freud and Rank • Oedipal myth interpretative key • “vents Oedipal desires... (Myth, 94) • Is Oedipus a hero” (Rank)? • Victory over fate • Gaining infantile desires • Does it hinder development or enable (98, 100)?

  31. Joseph Campbell • Myth of the hero • Adult, not childhood identity • Basic pattern of “monomyth”: separation–initiation–return • What does the hero discover? 32 32

  32. Alternative myths for psychology • Jung: Puer-archetype vs. Hero • Antigone: ethics, gender equality • Cupid and Psyche • Awakening of the “Soul” to “Pleasure” 33 33

  33. Final Questions on Psychology • Which comes first, the myth or its interpretation? • Is the myth exhausted (fully disclosed) in the interpretation? • How do we know what myth to use? 34 34

  34. Myth & Society: Malinowski • “Unpleasantries” & “impositions” • Structures embody the system of social relations • Necessary to order • Ritual enacts • Control: science & myth 35 35

  35. Myth & Society: René Girard • Society constructed in violence • “scapegoat” chosen to end violence • Myth justifies projection of guilt on the sacrificial victim • “Villains” and Heroes 36 36

  36. How Myths “work” • Classical Mythology, pp. 28-32 • Architecture of Palatine Hill • Where Rome was founded • Portico of the Danaids • Cybele: ecstatic sexuality/castration • “Myth works relationally” (38) = “context” (32) 37 37

  37. Myth and Literature • Why tell stories? • The Grail myth: mystical oneness • The Hero myth: suffering–redemption • Story = narrative ? • Story vs. Philosophical “essence”? 38 38

  38. Finding “kernals of truth” • CM, 16: are stories always biased-- do they always have an agenda? • Does myth have a common plot (Myths, 88)? • What does the plot tell us? • Why tell a common story in so many variations? 39 39

  39. The Europa Myth • Classical Mythology, ch. 1 • See p. 7 • Roman imperial mythology: unified Europe • What part of the story do you focus on? 40

  40. Development of myth: Santa Claus • Retelling old stories in new ways • St. Nicholas or Odin? • Christian charity or gifts at “Yule”? • “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1823); The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) • Thomas Nast (1863); Coca-Cola (1930s)

  41. Myth and Literature: Summary • Self-conscious story, defines how community thinks of itself (Classical Mythology, 29) • Which narrative does one identify with? • If all myths are stories, are all stories myths?