Re: [neoplatonism] Mythical Knowledge
- Thank you Mike;
You have started with a probably empiricist approach toward me and at the end you have judged that kind of presuppositions as saying "I like answers which coincide with my own empiricist presuppositions". But I don't want really to be an empiricist and believe that Plato in Phaedo has answered it in the best way, although I think it can be coincide with some kind of empiricism, like the kind of Popper's.
I don't also have a picture of Plato confronted by a vast, amorphous mass of mythical material, and picking and choosing some and rejecting others. I accept that he has produced a big and systematic philosophy which still is, at least, one of the best sources for human thinking about himself and his world. Plato's philosophy of inspiring truths cannot mean arbitrary, then we should find relevance in his thinking and saying, as much as possible.
Now, my problem is Plato's standards of accepting or rejecting ancient myths. Those myths that Plato himself narrates by his previous vision, like the horse and chariot, it has the standard of knowledge in Plato's system which is soul's vision and not empirical one of body's vision. How can those myths that Plato quotes from ancient sayings be verified? As I understand Plato there should be a standard for whole mythical knowledge, if we believe Plato accepts this kind of knowledge as knowledge.
Is it really right that "he of course makes use of traditional … then gives them his own configuration, so the myths he tells are *not* traditional, but to an important extent his own inventions"? Bu we see a lot of quotes from ancient which Plato (or Socrates) tries to accept/reject or just explain and use it.
Last part of your writing is very interesting and I like it, but it seems more Kantian than Platonic. You believe that "great mythic creations seem intended to fulfill a function… They tend to refer to truths and realms of reality that precisely *are not and cannot be the subjects of experience*… and belief in them cannot inspire knowledge or certainty, but only persuasion …." I think Plato puts reason and nous in the realm of truth and reality and sense realm becomes lower part which is only phantom. I think Plato and Plotinus differ in this part, but for sure nor Plato neither Plotinus are not Kantian.
I would be glad of your correction and good suggestions as well as others in this group.
--- On Thu, 9/3/09, Michael Chase <goya@...> wrote:
From: Michael Chase <goya@...>
Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Mythical Knowledge
Date: Thursday, September 3, 2009, 7:58 PM
On Sep 3, 2009, at 2:24 AM, Ebrahim Mousavi wrote:
> Dear John UebersaxThanks for your attention and also good suggested
> sources. As you interpreted my question, I should say the second one
> is my concern and the first is not important here and now. But those
> myths which Plato use them are different: some seems real and we had
> an experience of it, like horses and chariot about soul which is
> extended in Phaedrus, some are being quoted like those conveyed from
> Pindar or Homer and Hesiod which he respect Pindar's but not Homer's
> and Hesiod's.
M.C. Ebrahim, I've being trying to understand where you yourself are
coming from philosophically. If you're trying to understand ancient
thinkers, I think it's important to separate one's own contemporary
philosophical inclinations from what the ancients themselves actually
For instance, you distinguish between that which is "real", presumably
because "we have an experience of it", like horses and chariots. This
may seem obvious, but it's in fact a claim based on empiricist
philosophy, and Plato, followed by all the Neoplatonists, would have
denied it. For them, as I'm sure you know, the horses and chariots of
the world of experience are only pale shadows of the real world of
> What you are saying refers to the first one which fits with
> anamnesis theory but what about the others. How Plato can differ
> between the myths of Pindar or some narrations from Egyptians and of
> Homer or Hesiod? Is it only by reasoning or internal vision?
M.C. I take it your question here is "Why does Plato choose some myths
and not others?" The answer would seem to be that he believes some are
suitable for his philosophical purposes, and not others. So yes, it is
"only" by reasoning or internal vision (I find your "only" very
revealing here. For a Platonist, there could be no criterion more
absolute than reason or internal vision, with the latter, if we
understand it as direct intuitive contact with the intelligibles,
being epistemologically much more valid than the former).
> In Neo-Platonism these visions, even in this world and while we are
> in our body, can be occurred. Suhrawardi in Islamic philosophy has
> spoken about different spiritual journeys with body or without it.
> Those stories which have been said in this tradition can be
> interpreted as real or metaphors and they can be myths which
> probably coincide with ancient narrations. I think these claims can
> be knowledge due to their being observations and existential facts.
M.C. For you, then, only that counts as knowledge which is based on or
identical with "observations and existential facts" (I don't know
what you mean by the latter expression). This is, of course, a
perfectly defensible philosophical position. But you should not lose
sight of the fact that it is very, very far removed from what the
Platonists themselves actually believed.
> But the problem is when Plato uses the narrated myths without
> claiming of a kind of observation and accepting some while rejecting
> others and using them in description of the world and our positions.
M.C. This is a problem *for you*. But it's not a problem if one does
not start out from empiricist presuppositions.
> Now, can we claim knowledge altogether from myths and how it can be
> supported in Platonic and also in Neo-Platonic Philosophies? I like
> answers which can be supported in philosophical bases.
M.C. I suspect what you mean here is " I like answers which coincide
with my own empiricist presuppositions" , and if so, then I'm afraid
your project is doomed from the outset.
One additional point deserves to be emphasized. You appear to have a
picture of Plato confronted by a vast, amorphous mass of mythical
material, and picking and choosing some and rejecting others : what
troubles you is that this selection process seems to be arbitrary. But
in fact, the vast majority of the myths Plato himself uses do not seem
to be traditional. He of course makes use of traditional, pre-existing
material, since no human intellectual creation can be created ex
nihilo. But he then gives them his own configuration, so the myths he
tells are *not* traditional, but to an important extent his own
inventions (unless he is following Orphic models to which we no longer
have full access). There is, I think, a very big difference between
the myth of Boreas and Oreithyia, the naturalistic interpretation of
which Socrates dismisses disdainfully in the Phaedrus, and the great
myths of Er, of the chariot of the soul, of Poros and Penia, of the
age of Cronos, the Demiurge, etc. The latter category of great mythic
creations seem intended to fulfill a function that mere expository
discourse and logical demonstration cannot. They tend to refer to
truths and realms of reality that precisely *are not and cannot be the
subjects of experience*. They therefore cannot be demonstrated by
human reason and discourse. They are the realm of the likely or
probable (*eikos*), and belief in them cannot inspire knowledge or
certainty, but only persuasion. They are, I believe, one of Plato's
means of dealing with material that transcends the realm of rational
discourse and of language *tout court*: they are Plato's way of
hinting that to understand the higher realms of reality, we cannot
rely on our discursive reason and our language alone, that is, on
empiricism. Like the study of geometry, myth serves as a stage on the
mind's necessary elevation from the sensible back to the intelligible,
which is its true home (cf. the myth told by Diotima in the Symposium).
So it seems to me, anyhow.
CNRS UPR 76
7, rue Guy Moquet
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- In fairness to JC, my opinion is that it is the purpose of moderation to intercept precisely such messages. If this one fell through the cracks,
that's not his fault. Anyone can relate to dashing off a message heatedly based on a misunderstanding or a misinterpreted coincidence. (After all, half our passions are irascible!)
For certain technical (Yahoo Groups) reasons, this message appeared even though I (as least and humblest co-moderator, lending a hand when others are busy) originally rejected it and sent a polite and hopefully constructive explanation to Jesse.
Personally I have enjoyed Jesse's earlier posts and found them constructively provocative.