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Are Myths Valuable?
#1
Are Myths Valuable?
Most of us know that spiders did not originate from a bitter Athena after she lost a weaving contest. We know that the sun is a massive ball of fusing hydrogen, not the flaming wheel of a celestial chariot. Myths are (by definition) false. But do myths have truth value?

Of course, there are tons of stories, yarns, and fables out there. Many of them say something true or valuable. I'm not asking the question "at that level"... I mean something more like C.G. Jung meant. Jung thought that by examining ancient myths, one may find profound truths concerning the "inner reality" of the human psyche. Do you agree with Jung here?

If you do, I think a good followup question is: is it to modern humanity's detriment that it no longer creates mythologies?

I'm not being overly serious here. This is just a "food for thought" thread. I'd like to hear people's takes on the issue (or "non-issue" as I suspect some will take it to be). Science has wisened us so much that we have outgrown the ancient custom of inventing gods. But, though it's a piss poor way to explain natural phenomena, a little part of me thinks that inventing gods might be a worthwhile activity-- if anything just as a creative exercise, that we might through these created gods speak the ineffable.
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#2
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
We do create mythologies, we just call them movies.

I don’t generally agree with jung...but I think this was the factual detail he spun out trying to explain. That myths speak to profound inner truths, ones broadly shared. Yes.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a battle to commence then KPLOW, I hit em with the illness of my quill, Im endowed..with certain unalienable skills....  

-ERB


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#3
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
(July 26, 2019 at 10:16 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Most of us know that spiders did not originate from a bitter Athena after she lost a weaving contest. We know that the sun is a massive ball of fusing hydrogen, not the flaming wheel of a celestial chariot. Myths are (by definition) false. But do myths have truth value?

Of course, there are tons of stories, yarns, and fables out there. Many of them say something true or valuable. I'm not asking the question "at that level"... I mean something more like C.G. Jung meant. Jung thought that by examining ancient myths, one may find profound truths concerning the "inner reality" of the human psyche. Do you agree with Jung here?

If you do, I think a good followup question is: is it to modern humanity's detriment that it no longer creates mythologies?

I'm not being overly serious here. This is just a "food for thought" thread. I'd like to hear people's takes on the issue (or "non-issue" as I suspect some will take it to be). Science has wisened us so much that we have outgrown the ancient custom of inventing gods. But, though it's a piss poor way to explain natural phenomena, a little part of me thinks that inventing gods might be a worthwhile activity-- if anything just as a creative exercise, that we might through these created gods speak the ineffable.

I'd say there are good mythologies and bad mythologies. 

The good ones reveal us to ourselves, and the bad ones do the opposite. The good ones are like psychoanalysis, inventing stories which emotionally present and clarify -- though not necessarily resolve -- difficult things in life. The bad ones are reverse psychoanalysis, covering over the depths with easy answers. 

The myths in the Bible might well serve in both good and bad ways, depending on how they are read. If they are used to show that everything is peachy and if you pray you'll be fine, that's creating illusion. If they are meant to be puzzles we can't solve -- like the Book of Job -- I think they're good. 

Examples of bad myths are easier to name. Our collective myth that the US is a force for good in the world -- a liberator which brings democracy to the oppressed -- that's an evil myth. And the media correlative of this, Marvel movies, Star Wars, Star Trek, and similar dreck. These make us stupider by allowing us easy identification with the good guys, and fake moral dilemmas that are generally resolved by showing the best person to be the one who makes the most effective use of violence. 

I honestly can't think of many modern examples of good myths. Maybe we could divide these good ones into two categories: the Nietzschean type, which, as he writes in The Birth of Tragedy, honestly shows us the real chaos of the world in a way which makes it tolerable. I suspect that Homer, Virgil, many of the big names are in this. 

The other category would be something like Dante. Structures of symbols that give us the tools to think about ourselves.
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#4
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
Yes and no.

Myths are important in that they are part of our species history. But it is also important to not teach those myths as true.
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#5
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
Don't stories need to fade into the fog of time to be reborn as mythology?
Who can think of a recent myth? (not to be confused with local urban legend)
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#6
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
(July 27, 2019 at 3:06 am)ignoramus Wrote: Don't stories need to fade into the fog of time to be reborn as mythology?
Who can think of a recent myth? (not to be confused with local urban legend)

Reasonable questions. 

I guess if we want to do this seriously, we'd have to define our terms.

Is a myth any story that's widely told but not literally true? Does it have to have some kind of cultural history? Or some felt quality of "mythicness" -- like significant to society?
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#7
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
(July 26, 2019 at 10:16 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Most of us know that spiders did not originate from a bitter Athena after she lost a weaving contest. We know that the sun is a massive ball of fusing hydrogen, not the flaming wheel of a celestial chariot. Myths are (by definition) false. But do myths have truth value?

Of course, there are tons of stories, yarns, and fables out there. Many of them say something true or valuable. I'm not asking the question "at that level"... I mean something more like C.G. Jung meant. Jung thought that by examining ancient myths, one may find profound truths concerning the "inner reality" of the human psyche. Do you agree with Jung here?

If you do, I think a good followup question is: is it to modern humanity's detriment that it no longer creates mythologies?

I'm not being overly serious here. This is just a "food for thought" thread. I'd like to hear people's takes on the issue (or "non-issue" as I suspect some will take it to be). Science has wisened us so much that we have outgrown the ancient custom of inventing gods. But, though it's a piss poor way to explain natural phenomena, a little part of me thinks that inventing gods might be a worthwhile activity-- if anything just as a creative exercise, that we might through these created gods speak the ineffable.

I'd say myths are not valuable in the way scientific accounts are valuable. But they are valuable in the way that the genre they most resemble, like novels, stories, poetry, art are valuable. 

They are not as concerned with the way things are, as they are with the way things out to be. They're less concerned with objective facts of reality, and more concerned with being, how we live in this world of ours. Less interested in questions of finding ways to survive, and more interested in finding something to live for. 

They're more interested in what I pass on to my daughters, what values and meaning I instill in them, than whatever sort of scientific facts they acquire from school and elsewhere. 

If science is about means, myths, religions are about ends.

I think the fact that myths are so prevalent in human history, is suggestive of how indispensable they are. They won't disappear or diminish as time goes on, they'll just take on different forms.

I think there's a variety of beliefs some atheists operate on, that resemble myths, regardless if they are true or not, such as the view atheism is a matter of honesty and truth, and religion as delusions, and untruths. The view of disbelief as something worthy of being spread, encouraged endorsed, to rid ourselves of the stains of religion. The God Delusion, that End of Faith, the underlying motivations that are being peddled, the sort of heroic scientist, the idea of objective man, the removed observer, observing reality for what it truly is, are all parts of this mythology. It's not all the mere expressions of facts, but the selling of a story, a narrative however loosely formed it may be.
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#8
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Henry Thoreau wrote:

"To some extent, mythology is only the most ancient history and biography. So far from being false or fabulous in the common sense, it contains only enduring and essential truth, the I and you, the here and there, the now and then, being omitted. Either time or rare wisdom writes it."

But then again, Thoreau did have a tendency to confuse what is poetic with what is truthful.

I can't think of a single example of a myth which could stand for a truth, independent of humanity. Does anyone have any examples?

Instead, certain bits of mythology can make good metaphors for human psychology: flying too close to the sun, falling in love with one's own reflection, being held prisoner in a maze, and so on. Myths are not about the world, they are about us -- when they are not just pure storytelling.
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#9
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
(July 27, 2019 at 6:51 am)Acrobat Wrote: They are not as concerned with the way things are, as they are with the way things out to be. They're less concerned with objective facts of reality, and more concerned with being, how we live in this world of ours. Less interested in questions of finding ways to survive, and more interested in finding something to live for. 

This is key, I think.

Remember that part in the Phaedrus where the title character and Socrates are walking along in the countryside. Phaedrus asks if this is the spot where the wind god abducted a girl, and Socrates says no, it's over there. Then Phaedrus asks if Socrates believes the myth is true. 

Socrates says well, maybe it's true, or maybe a windstorm knocked the girl down, or maybe something else. He says he leaves that to experts, and asks instead what he can learn of himself from myths. I find this significant. 

It's reported that Socrates was in natural philosophy when he was younger -- like what we'd call science today. But he decided that science doesn't mean much if we're bad people, and he chose to work on that instead. (oversimplifying here) So investigating the myth of the wind god is for others -- they can test windspeeds and look at weather records and conduct tests -- but he'll stick with humanity. 

I find that Bible literalists don't grasp this kind of thing very well. Both literalist Christians and the atheists who hate them treat myths as science, when the difference was well known a long time ago. Ancient people were often smarter than we are. 

Quote:I think there's a variety of beliefs some atheists operate on, that resemble myths, regardless if they are true or not, such as the view atheism is a matter of honesty and truth, and religion as delusions, and untruths. The view of disbelief as something worthy of being spread, encouraged endorsed, to rid ourselves of the stains of religion. The God Delusion, that End of Faith,  the underlying motivations that are being peddled, the sort of heroic scientist, the idea of objective man, the removed observer, observing reality for what it truly is, are all parts of this mythology. It's not all the mere expressions of facts, but the selling of a story, a narrative however loosely formed it may be.

Hear hear. 

Though this may be a slightly different kind of myth than what Vulcan is addressing here (in the sense that's it's a false belief rather than a symbolic story) it is a damaging fiction. It has its own heroes and villains, and historical facts seem barely to be tolerated. 

Trying to get past such a myth with those who believe it is tough. I've learned a lot about how people think by discussing this stuff.

(July 27, 2019 at 7:27 am)Alan V Wrote: I can't think of a single example of a myth which could stand for a truth, independent of humanity.  Does anyone have any examples?

Instead, certain bits of mythology can make good metaphors for human psychology: flying too close to the sun, falling in love with one's own reflection, being held prisoner in a maze, and so on.  Myths are not about the world, they are about us -- when they are not just pure storytelling.

Yeah, I don't think myths are meant to operate independent of humanity. They are about us.
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#10
RE: Are Myths Valuable?
(July 27, 2019 at 7:27 am)Alan V Wrote: But then again, Thoreau did have a tendency to confuse what is poetic with what is truthful.

I think the real dilemma is, some people's inability to recognize that it's "poetic" truths, that are really worthy of the title "truth".

Absent of that we might as well just call things, useful, rather than truthful.

Atheists tend to overemphasize the importance of recognizing scientific facts, when in reality such facts are among the most superficial and shallow things we hold.
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