Myths Never Explained the World

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1734, acrylic on paper, 2012

Q: When I was growing up, in school they always explained the origin of myth as something  ancient civilizations used to explain  the world around them, that world of external phenomena.

ReeL: I never believed that. Even as a kid when a teacher told us that. I always thought that didn’t sound right.

It is what a hyper-materialist historian would be prone to think. Everything had to be reduced to some sort of attempt to deal with the material world, since that is all that exists for such a  materialist.

Humans have known better than that for a long time. Ancient Greece knew better, at least..

Q: Wait a minute. It was in explaining ancient Greek myths that  I remember being told that.

ReeL: It’s clear that at least by the Iron Age that wasn’t true.  Aristotle knew that  psyche is neither nous nor physic. He isn’t confused on that point.

But probably more importantly as far as the general culture thought, both Herodotus and Thucydides say things that suggest that the Greeks of their time were also not confused on that point. They clearly saw myths as something not about the real physical world, any more than modern teenagers  today would think X-men comic books explain our  physical reality. It’s absurd to think that reasonable men would think otherwise. They knew the difference between the stories they told and the world they lived in. They were not confused to that extent.

So that means as far back as we have a historical record thinking people knew the difference. But in school, we have hyper-materialist teachers who talk as if they didn’t. It’s complete rubbish to think they didn’t know the difference.

All good story tellers know the difference between reality and a really good story. I have a hard time believing human beings didn’t know otherwise at any time we’ve been human. It’s part of the machinery of deception and subterfuge that enables humans to survive and dominate.  I’m not sure we’d be human without it.

It remains to be seen whether robots, or artificial intelligences can know the difference. Right now, they are not even close. I suspect it is one of the areas they are farthest apart from us.

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