Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Myth of Myths

Follow me here on a little trip from myth to reality and the strange fantasies of realists... I'm afraid I'm not in one of my cheerier moods... but it may still be worth your while.

A Little Knowledge…
I've been listening to a lecture on Myths and at the beginning of them, the lecturer does a bit of the standard dividing of myths into categories, one being Etiological myths or 'just so' stories, which, he explains, explain the gaps in peoples knowledge with doings of gods, and the other form of myth being heroic adventure' stories, where he explains, relate exciting quests that are accomplished, and problems are resolved, and probably have roots in long forgotten actual deeds, that have grown in the telling down through the ages.

Sadly, illustrating the 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' truism, this is the starting and ending point of most people in considering myth, poetry, religion - the first answer being taken as the entire, whole and complete answer. You gotta wonder if they've ever eaten an onion, and if so, how.

Hades Abducts Persephone
As examples of these two types of myths, for the first he cites the story of Persephone being abducted by Hades. Hades, jealous of the other Gods having mates, as Zeus with Hera (can you imagine someone being jealous of a wife like Hera?), but no one is eager to pair up with Hades, being the god of the unseemly underworld and the dead. Hades is ticked off, mounts his chariot and cruises to get a mate the old fashioned way, dragging her off by the hair, sees Persephone, and abducts her to the underworld. Persephone's mother, Demeter (Mother Nature) demands that Zeus make his brother return her daughter, Zeus says no, give Hades a break, fuhgeddaboudit. Demeter doesn't, and withholds her life giving powers from the earth and it even begins to drift away from the reach of the sun, plunging it into the first winter, one that she says will never end. Zeus gets the picture, no life, no people, no worshippers... no upside. He convinces Hades and Demeter to compromise, Hades gets Persephone for six months, Demeter gets to reunite with Persephone for six months, and viola!, the Seasons are born.

For the adventure myth, he gives the instance of Odysseus entering the cave of the Cyclops, finding food, and wanting to linger around and meet the owner. Unfortunately the owner is a Cyclops, recognizes no rules of hospitality, resents Odysseus and his men eating his food, closes the entry with a great stone, and begins eating Odysseus's men. Wiley E. Odysseus, who had cautiously gave his name as "Nobody" to the Cyclops, tricks him into drinking wine till he drops, then burns his one eye out with a flaming branch. The monster must let it's sheep out to graze, but knowing Odysseus will try to escape, guards the opening and ensures that
Cyclops, Polyphemus, blinded by Odysseus only it's sheep leave. But Odysseus and his men manage to slip out of the blinded Cyclops's cave by clinging to the underside of his sheep when he lets them out to graze. Odysseus, wanting to get in a dig, hollers back "Nyah-Nyahh!", the Cyclops rages, his neighbors poke their heads out and holler what's the problem, and the Cyclops hollers back "Nobody has blinded me!", they shake their heads at the fool, and go back in their caves. Odysseus rubs it in again, gets a few boulders thrown in the direction of his voice, killing a few more of his men and almost sinks his ship, but nevertheless escapes, somewhat wiser.

The flat thinker see’s these as nothing but ‘just so’ stories and action movie-ish tales. Now... what's the problem with that? Well, the problem is that it gives "A" answer as "The only" answer, to the question of "What is a myth" (I'm only partially into the lectures, maybe, hopefully, he'll do the deeper digging later on), but this is the sole and dismissive explanation typical of scientistic modernity, they hear the tales of myth and religion, and go no further into them than the surface "Talking Snake" story level, and leave those who innocently thought they knew what they were talking about, deeply impoverished and truthfully wounded by their explanations.

"What more is there?" they ask, teacher and student alike, smiling the sneer of the intelligently stupid, "It's fantasy, false and childishly foolish on the face of it... do you mean to say that you believe in Mother Nature, Hades and Cyclops's?!", and my answer is... yes... yes I do, but to see them, you have to look beyond the ignorant conception of them which you are too willfully blind to see beyond.

Two Additional Layers
Let me give two further views for these two myths... note these are not 'alternative answers' - a very misleading phrase - deeper would be better, the surface reading is still there and perfectly valid, as far as they go... but as doorways, not rooms. They only point the way beyond the impoverished adolescence of the intelligently stupid, but you have to be willing to accept them and enter through them, in order to begin examining the many rooms of the mansion.

I'm not going to go for too much here, I'll stick to a Joseph Campbell, pop culture-ish, first layer of the Onion deeper explanation, but it's enough to make the point... I hope it’s a start anyway.

Look at the 'myth of the seasons'. Rephrasing it a tad, this is a tale of the core Gods, the three brothers, Zeus, god of the air and thunder, Poseidon, god of the waters and oceans, and Hades, god of the underworld. The underworld is the home of the dead, of shadow, of things uncomfortable and preferably forgotten, not very nice to associate with, things. Hades resentful of his surroundings and envious of his more glamorous and popular brothers, refuses to remain shunned and alone, invades their world and takes from it that which is most valued and adored of what makes their world possible, returning to his frightful abode with their prize.

One view is that when you neglect to attend to what is important, though uncomfortable, what you do value and prefer, may be unexpectedly compromised, withdrawn from you, perhaps even fatally, as an unexpected consequence of the avoided issue, and which itself causes another unforeseen action, and unless you learn to face your issues and responsibilities and deal with them as required, you risk losing all.

Another thing to consider, is that, as with the seasons, you can't avoid doing this... you can't outsmart or ignore the consequences of your actions… you can only choose to face them and make the best of them, and learn, as with Oedipus, that running from them will only bring you for forcibly into contact with them.

How about Odysseus and the Cave? Well... see if you can imagine some symbolic meanings for a lusty adventurer who enters a dark cave seeking after forbidden delights... if that's not Freudian enough for you, ask the nearest teenager what comes to their mind when you say "One eyed Monster". That one eyed monster of a Cyclops, tall erect and unwilling to see in perspective, powerful; it will, especially if you aren't careful and give it control over you, it will seek to keep you forever enwombed... er... entombed... in that cave, to the detriment of your friends and your voyages and your future, eventually consuming you as well, unless you master it. That Cyclops, ravenous as it is for it's delights, can be ruined by intoxication, blinded and unable to identify it's foes.

You, the trespasser, if you master your own lusts and fears, you can overcome the monster, and not become consumed by, one with, it… and make no mistake, one of the messages of myth, in that you can become one or both – Odysseus, the Cyclops, or both at the same time… but that’s a different story.

And more, those passive wooly lambs, kids, children, may not only enable you to exit the confines of your lustful prison, but give you freedom in the truest sense. The reckless adventurer and the one eyed monster of appetite both enter the cave, only forethought, Prometheus, will enable you to leave, but not alone... had you attempted to leave on your own two feet, it would have detected you and destroyed you. But holding on to the belly of the kids, subordinating yourself to your children, putting them over you, only by doing that can you gain your freedom.

There's more... what of the name 'nobody'? What of the Cyclops, each living alone like hermits... appearing only at an alarm, and turning away, abandoning you, on the sole strength of your initial answer? What of Odysseus urge to boast on escaping? Does he not risk merging with the Cyclops, even after seemingly escaping the cave? What else... there are an infinite number of layers to be peeled back.

Once upon a time the truly wise man, such as a village bard for instance, whether it be one with a harp or a pulpit, would take those engaging 'just so' and 'adventure' tales, and upon the plain 'Talking Snake' story garment of those tales, would weave colorful lessons aiding his listeners in their quests for attaining maturity, in facing responsibility, of managing your passions, of becoming a responsible Father, and on and on and on.

'Talking Snake' stories, monsters and gods... are anything but childish tales of mere 'explanation' or 'adventure' or simply for providing 'god of the gaps' explanations, they are vehicles for, or even chalices of, wisdom, and reveal as much as the listener is willing to find or be guided into realizing on their own, and the most important point is, that they are not fiction - but conveyors of the deepest, most important Truth - vital to both your daily practical needs of life and more importantly, to your very soul.

Only the fool looks upon a myth as a myth, and not so coincidentally, fools are forever impervious to learning any important lessons. The pomofo (post-modernist fool) sees only fact that ‘caused’ fanciful tales, and so truth is to be forced....

The Other Onion
Don't forget to look at, and peel the layers of, the other onion... what other onion? The one that claims that the mythological onion is no onion at all, but an apple, with no layers, and to be discarded as so much rotten fruit.

Now, the pomofo would be quick to say “Why, what you’ve been doing with these tales… that’s post-modern deconstruction at it’s very core!", but in fact it is not. Is not, because of one very important fact… I believe that facts can be known, reality is in fact real, and knowable, I’m not describing ‘cultural biases’, but unchanging facts of human nature, which true poetry, myth, religion and philosophy, are all fully concerned with, first and foremost – not explaining away, but using a particular perspective to more clearly see what is unchanging, real and true.

The people who say there is nothing else to be examined, nothing else to be considered, nothing else to be thought, are the same ones who are saying that there is nothing to be valued, nothing that is true, nothing that is worth fighting for, standing for believing in at all. Reality, to them, is not knowable - seriously - and they wish to impose upon us what they think reality should be.

Realize, that they are Onions themselves, and as much as they wish to present themselves as simple, factual members of the ‘reality based community’, their explanations too have deeper meanings, and as befitting their shallowness, they deny it, ignore it, and stew in it.

Does that sound over the top? Simplistic? Sure, it sounds that way, on the surface of it, but as you dig in deeper, you'll find that it is the truth within their onion of lies and stupidity, the grain of sand at the heart of their poison pearl, that those who tell you there is nothing to be learned from imaginative tales, are the same ones who attempt to switch lust for beauty and shock for awe; the same ones who tell you that reality is not knowable and who are the most intent to tell you what politically correct views you should accept in truth’s place.

It has only been in modernity, that such fools, the intelligently stupid, have managed to gain such prominence in the west. They've managed to make the work of the wise - poetry, myth, religion, seem foolish, and themselves seem 'smart'... you can see it's steps in the 'progress' of modern education, which began by discarding the traditional humanities (Homer, The Bible, Greek & Latin, Shakespeare, history) in place of textbooks of unimaginative, disintegrated, facts and social studies... so much time has been wasted among us in the west in fearful search for invading armies and conspiratorial international cabals... but the real invasion, the real plot to overthrow of the West, has been happening in the only place it could have happened, the only place the West has ever been vulnerable, in our own hearts and minds. It was noted once that "Good and Evil are in eternal war, and the battleground is the human soul", and that is so very, very true... and so easily snickered at and dismissed if you've been disarmed into accepting that all notions of Good and Evil are but 'Talking Snake Stories' – if so, then you are a victim of pomofo thermonuclear war, for that cynical skepticism is the nuclear weapon of Evil, and those infected with it are carriers of soul killing radiation poisoning.

But how did they pull this off? How did the inmates take over the asylum? I've spent a lot of time and posts in looking at those who made it possible, Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Peirce, Marx and Dewey... but we shouldn’t neglect those who actually did the deeds, the unwitting foot soldiers who actually pulled the hat out of the rabbit.

There were goofballs like the Kantian, Friedrich Max Müller, who saw myth as 'a disease of language', an unfortunate side effect of explanations getting into the hands of the less intelligent, where otherwise scientific explanations replete with nouns, properties and actions are fancified into supernatural tales… which becomes the task of the ‘smart’ to reduce to ‘historic’ explanations.

But a term like 'goofballs' is a mistake to make on my part, every bit as dangerous a one as referring to Hitler as a madman and a monster - neither was or is true. They were smart people, fed bad ideas, given plenty of intellectual fertilizer, which with a few progressively bad choices, to cause them to germinate, pollinate and overrun the garden with their evil choking weeds. They were people who were given a conceptual seedling by those they felt they assumed to be wise, and they trusted that what they were given would grow into glorious flowers, when in fact they were the most virulent of choking weeds.

Muller was an energetic student of myth who was infected early on in college (the hothouse of evil) with the ideas of Kant. Kant was the media star of the end of the enlightenment (that movement which raised capital 'R' Reason to prominence), who had ironically sworn to end the enlightenment - and succeeded. His 'Copernican revolution' was hailed by people who should have known better, but, unable to grasp it, and sure others did, enthused blindly about his philosophical depths. Unwitting imbibers of ideas like Muller, drank deeply, painfully, persistently, from Kant’s foul fount... here is how he describes his struggles to accept Kantian (unbeknownst to him) falsehood, as truth:

paragraph 49 of his preface to a translation of Kant's Critique of Pure reason,

"Kant’s Critique has been my constant companion through life. It drove me to despair when I first attempted to read it, a mere school-boy. During my university days I worked hard at it under Weisse, Lotze, and Drobisch, at Leipzig, and my first literary attempts in philosophy, now just forty years old, were essays on Kant’s Critique. Having once learnt from Kant what man can and what he cannot know, my plan of life was very simple, namely, to learn, so far as literature, tradition, and language allow us to do so, how man came to believe that he could know so much more than he ever can know in religion, in mythology, and in philosophy. This required special studies in the field of the most ancient languages and literatures. But though these more special studies drew me away for many years towards distant times and distant countries, whatever purpose or method there may have been in the work of my life was due to my beginning life with Kant."
I feel for the guy with “…It drove me to despair when I first attempted to read it, a mere school-boy. During my university days I worked hard at it…" and you just want to shake him and say that it’s not difficult because it’s too deep for you, but because it was wrong and deeply offensive to common sense. And then there’s that one phrase, "Having once learnt from Kant what man can and what he cannot know, my plan of life was very simple, namely, to learn, so far as literature, tradition, and language allow us to do so, how man came to believe that he could know so much more than he ever can know in religion, in mythology, and in philosophy. ", should chill you to the bone in the same way the paralyzed dreamer feels when they hear the approaching Freddy Kruger scraping the walls with his claws.

Immanuel Kant
With "what man can and what he cannot know" - Kant, through the most amazingly convoluted set of equivocations and unintelligible sentence structures, he restates his notions as mental actualities and splits reality into necessary and contingent (pure off the scale philosophic radiation poisoning) camps by which he manages to make his assertions seem like reasoned arguments, the conclusion of which was that we cannot know reality, our minds instead shape and fudge the world we only think we see... in fact we only are ever able to perceive intuitions of it, and only through the agreement of other peoples intuitions, can we ever approach what is likely to be real and true.

The best and brightest of us are tricked into thinking that they are in fact pursuing a previously hidden and deeper truth, when all the while it is honeyed poison, "to learn, so far as literature, tradition, and language allow us to do so, how man came to believe that he could know so much more than he ever can know in religion, in mythology, and in philosophy" - by that method, the minds of the best of us are led to 'expose' the folly of thinking that what you know is knowable - and from that fruit the acid of cynical skepticism, mislabeled as wine, flows from it, into our culture, into our children, into our own unprotected hearts and minds, with deadening intoxication.

This may seem crazy to you, but I assure you, that if you look behind and beneath all the evils of modernity, beneath Political Correctness, Post-Modernism, Modern Art, Existential Angst, beneath the unprincipled moral degeneracy and dehumanizing relativistic dis-educational doctrine, and every form of communistic, socialistic political collectivism and the hundreds of millions of bodies in their wake – hold your nose and steady your stomach and look beneath the slimed stone, for after the last cockroach of intellectual fadism has scurried away from the light, Kant’s are the Ideas you will find as their lure and motive power dis-illuminating anti-candle power.

Not all were fooled by Kant, Moses Mendelssohn saw through his pretended idealism to the camouflaged skepticism it really was, and called Kant "The All-Destroyer", as did others,
"Thus, Moses Mendelssohn’s description of Kant as the “all-destroyer” is, in Heine’s terms, completely apt, for the Kantian revolution itself is part of a larger world-historical event on the horizon in contemporary European culture that is in the process of being culminated; again anticipating Nietzsche’s more famous formulation, Heine notes that with the arrival of Kantianism on the scene, “Our heart is full of terrible compassion – It is ancient Jehovah who is readying himself for death – . . . Do you hear the bell ringing? Kneel down – Sacraments are being brought to a dying God...."
... and he, they, were so very, very right. Nietzsche, an infected victim himself, nevertheless saw the confusion of epistemological and metaphysical filth that issued from Kant and Hegel, and described the type who 'muddy the water to make it appear deep'. Many saw the threat, but many more believed the hype, the window dressing on a charnel house, and have led the world to doom.

It's Not Paranoia When It's True
I really am not being over dramatic, I assure you that even now I am exercising great restraint upon my words... painfully, bitterly so. Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao... the leftist termites destroying our world today... they all spring from Kant’s changeling seedlings. Of the names I’ve listed earlier, the most significant are Descartes, Rousseau, Hume and Kant, and of those, I can only say with certainty, that one of them, Rousseau, understood what he was doing, who knowingly and malevolently twisted his ideas before peddling them. Kant, IMHO, was so taken by Rousseau, and fearful of Hume (and his own agreement with him), that he sought to 'do good', sought in his mind to save religious faith by hobbling reason, which he perceived as a threat, and with that pretext in mind, and stated openly, he hoodwinked the intellectual world into thinking that he was a lover of truth and wisdom.

From Muller’s translation of Kant's Preface to the Second Edition. 1787. [p. vii],Which he translates as:

"I am not allowed therefore even to assume, for the sake [p. xxx] of the necessary practical employment of my reason, God, freedom, and immortality, if I cannot deprive speculative reason of its pretensions to transcendent insights, because reason, in order to arrive at these, must use principles which are intended originally for objects of possible experience only, and which, if in spite of this, they are applied to what cannot be an object of experience, really changes this into a phenomenon, thus rendering all practical extension of pure reason impossible. I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief. For the dogmatism of metaphysic, that is, the presumption that it is possible to achieve anything in metaphysic without a previous criticism of pure reason, is the source of all that unbelief, which is always very dogmatical, and wars against all morality."
The sentence prior to the one I emphasized, gives you a hint of Kant's method - high sounding phrasing, new, hazily defined terms - such as the fact that ‘dogmatic ‘ doesn’t refer to dogma, ‘object’ doesn’t refer to objects, etc, made all the more hazy by the extent of verbiage (Kant's longwindedness makes my own seem breathless) and then after your mental exhaustion he declares his assertions proven and to be accepted as established facts in order to make a final, otherwise even more absurd assertion, seem reasonable and true. But it was his only his fear he sought to assuage, and the emphasized pretext was his purpose and plan, and he proposed that in his conclusions would be found the only possible truth and wisdom available to man.

But Truth and Wisdom are not to be found by pretext and prevarication, and Kant's many tome's are monumental tombs of misdirection, permanently burying Truth for all who accept his thoughts into their minds and souls. There are many, many, isolated sayings of Kant's which will be plucked out and repeated to you to make him seem like a champion of Reason, instead of it's executioner, but they are isolated, disintegrated, words, undercut by the 'substance' of his misophy... you don't believe barack obama when he says he wants to help you, strengthen the free market, 'fix' health care, do you? Don't make the even greater mistake of accepting Kant as a defender of Reason.

Reason, as Stephen Hicks put it in is excellent, and remarkably short book, "Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucalt", put it this way,

"The fundamental question of reason, is its relation to reality. Is reason capable of knowing reality - or is it not? Is our rational faculty a cognitive function, taking its material from reality, understanding the significance of that material, and using that understanding to guide our actions in reality - or is it not? This is the question that divides philosophers into pro- and anti-reason camps, this is the question that divides the rational gnostics and the skeptics, and this was Kant's question in his Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant was crystal clear about his answer. Reality, noumenal reality - is forever closed off to reason, and reason is limited to awareness and understanding of its own subjective products. Reason has "no other purpose than to prescribe its own formal rule for the extension of its empirical employment, and not any extension beyond al limits of empirical employment." Limited to knowledge of phenomena that it has itself constructed according to it own design, reason cannot know anything outside itself. Contrary to the "dogmatists" who had for centuries held out hope for knowledge of reality itself, Kant concluded that "the dogmatic solution is therefore not only uncertain, but impossible."

Thus Kant, that great champion of reason, asserted that the most important fact about reason is that it is clueless about reality."
All that has followed, was in reaction to, response to and developed from, that core butt nugget, that reality is not knowable and reason is self deceptive, at best.

That same "Critique of Pure Reason" which Hicks (and I) are talking about, is the same critique of Kant's that Muller was so enthusiastic about making available to the English speaking world, the same one in which he stated the pretext for his philosophy, to 'destroy knowledge in order to save faith"... give that some thought for a moment.

Here we've got, as a keystone statement for a major world philosophy - philosophy being using reason to guide your life - the idea that Reason is of no real use in thinking. This statement I've also seen translated as
The Scream
- 'to deny' knowledge, or..
- 'to abolish' knowledge, or..
- 'to destroy' knowledge, or...
- 'to remove' knowledge...

That last was Muller's... seemingly an attempt at being a little less offensive (which somehow seems even more horrible to me), but whatever the case, the meaning should come through, you do get the picture, right? We hear much high words against the thought of banning books... why is that?

Why all the emotional outpourings over the idea of banning... or even of burning... books? Doesn't it have something to do with what might result from a rejection of learning and education? Isn't knowledge supposed to be a key component of learning and education?

Do books live if they have no content?
Could someone explain to me what would be the value of books whose contents contain no knowledge? What do our high minded wackedemic fools think must follow from a philosophy built upon the denial, abolishment, destruction and removal of knowledge?

In the Kantian worldview, and that includes all that has followed from it, and even those who nominally disagree with Kant nevertheless buy into his essential point about the unknowableness of reality, that Knowledge is at root either meaningless or a deception.

The Freefall of Knowledge and Imagination
One of the more interesting side effects of this view of knowledge, can be seen in their accompanying mania for snuffing out any hint of the imaginative from anything purporting to be of a 'serious' nature. Since the very early days of proregressive 'education', imaginative literature has been target #1 and viciously rooted out of all educational curricula. Where Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and Shakespeare once ruled, now you do well to find "Dick and Jane". A reflection of it can also be seen in the modernistic snicker towards someone who has the misfortue of being beautiful or handsome.. the thought that they must be air heads is a foregone conclusion, and the discovery of a thought within cause for surprise and special mention.

Anyone who has had to read academic papers can't/kant help but noting the desert like dryness of them, the purposeful rooting out of anything smacking of imaginative wording - almost as if they think that if they pretend that imagination is bad and shun it, then the fact that their own work is rooted in a darkly imaginative denial of reality, in other words, in lies, will somehow go unnoticed.

In the minds of the moderns and post-moderns, it seems that imagination is to be regarded as the chief deceiver, therefore all 'reasoning' must be absent any whiff of it... it is a 'disease of language'... as yourself, when the generations which gave rise to the generation of our Founding Fathers were reared on Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and Shakespeare, to say nothing of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero... could modernity, shorn of them and any other which might dare revere them, could anything other than a culture filled with the likes of Al Franken and Kanye West help but to follow in that wake?

Persephone Returns
Far from the popular self congratulatory image of 'free thinkng' moderns and fearless 'artistes' freed of the shackles of myth and religion to live in a reality based community... we are confronted at every turn with people unwilling and unable to see what is real, unable and unwilling to see the degradation of mind and spirit which their ideals drag in tow behind them, but with their philosophy rooted in the denial of knowledge, their range of imagination is limited to what can still manage to shock their perceptions.

Kenneth Clark noted in his excellent series on Civilization, that the West once before made it through history "By the skin of our teeth", narrowly escaping both the dark ages, and the iconoclasts, the image destroyers, of the Puritans... pray that we manage to make it through once again... though the skin must be wearing mighty thin by now... perhaps Hades can be bargained with one more time.

Pandora did manage to retain that one gift... I hope it is still quite strong... but it is hard to believe in when most you meet look dumbly when you mention that, or any other 'myth', for make no mistake about it, it is only in the community of the poetic, in myth and religion, that we will find ourselves again in the presence of Truth and Beauty, and the knowledge of where we fit in the world and what in the world we should do about it.

Not only is it a myth that Myth "is just a myth", but the idea that those who are so intent on being taken seriously, and attempt to tell you that their 'reality based view' of the world is true, is the biggest myth of all.

Listening to an interview today on C-SPAN with an admirer of Kant, Eva Brann, and in answer to why Kant was important, she replies that he was "... a great discoverer, or perhaps inventor, of modern ways of seeing things, particularly that way which insists that what we see and understand really is largely a construction of our own mental apparatus. "

This from a person whose family had to flee Nazi Germany as a direct result of Kant's ideas, his, Hegel, Fichte, all enabling and providing philosophical grounds and cover for, Nazism... and she brought with her, admiringly, the "Critique of Pure Reason", and says it is her most read book. Btw, she's also an admirer of Homer, of the Odyssey, Plato and Aristotle... merely reading and admiring the Great Books and Ideas is not enough, you've still got to root yourself in reality, or risk being swept from it. Beyond their philosophical constructions, the chief evil accomplished by thinkers such as Descartes, Rousseau and Kant, is that they managed to find a way, through their equivocations, convolutions and pretexts, to introduce the arbitrary, into respectable thought, and as a foundational support at that. I'll say it again, unless you root yourself in reality, and unless you understand and diligently see to it that your faculty of Reason is used to help you to see, understand and enable you to think and live in reality... you will be swept away in the tantalizing surf of evil.

She also speaks of, and interprets Aristotle's important contribution as being "The theory of the Mean, of Virtue, Excellence, being a mean between extremes... of courage... of finding the right middle between being freakingly afraid, and being brashly rash, and someway in the middle you are where you are supposed to be, which is courageous... and it's helpful, it's what works, if you think of it at a crucial moment, it might help....", which takes her out of Aristotle's camp, and puts her squarely into Hegel's. It's important to view the so called doctrine of the mean as an observed report on virtues and vices, not as a method for discovering or arriving at virtue.

All in all, you've really got to have a strong appreciation for good comedy... even of the darkest sort.


Michael Mc. said...

Thanks. That was vey interesting. I liked the bit about Aristotle at the end. I've read Hicks and several of the philosophers you wrote about. I also wish we'd get back to 'old school' education. We need it now more than ever and it would really be a 'fountain of youth' for our lives and culture.

Did you ever read G.K. Chesterton? I was thinking as I was reading yours that you might like him.

CWS said...

"and the other form of myth being heroic adventure' stories"

You've just got to be talking about Joseph Campbell. I think he sometimes makes good points, but more often than not he seems to jump to conclusions unjustly. He is to mythology what Houston Smith is to religion. Both are good guys I wouldn't mind having coffee with, but we would disagree on quite a bit.

Like the previous poster, I would suggest Chesterton's book _The Everlasting Man_ if you haven't already read it.

Nice article.

Van Harvey said...

Michael Mc. said "Did you ever read G.K. Chesterton? I was thinking as I was reading yours that you might like him."

I've read bits and snatches here and there, and have always found them to be good, substantial food... but I haven't gotten around to reading any of his books yet.

It's on my list and even on my shelf... eventually I will.

Van Harvey said...

C W Seper said "...You've just got to be talking about Joseph Campbell..."

It does fit, doesn't it? He was in my mind too, but no, wasn't him. I didn't want to skewer the guy I was (am) listening to, because it was right at the opening and I'd no idea if that was just a starting point or a final position. Fotunately it seems to have been just a starting point... I'm not real confident he'll do any deep sea diving, but he's gone beyond snorkel depth anyway.

I've got Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" on my PocketPC... and I know C.S. Lewis thought very highly of it, which is saying something, I just haven't gotten there yet.

Eventually I will though.