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Relativity and Neoplatonism (Mether vs. Chase, II)

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  • Goya
    Here s the second installment. In my earlier post, I mistakenly wrote the truth-value of a statement is wholly dependent of the identity of its utterer , I
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2012
      Here's the second installment.

      In my earlier post, I mistakenly wrote "the truth-value of a statement is
      wholly
      dependent of the identity
      of its utterer", I meant, of course, "independent" (thanks to SC).

      T.M.: A another quick couple of notes. When Mr Chase uses the term
      "Hellenes" in his discussion below, he attributes it to me and misses that
      that term was used of pagan philosophers by the early Christians. A little
      Jaroslav Pelikan should help resolve his confusion.

      M.C.: Well, fine, but I don't know how I could have guessed that from your
      original post. The Greeks called themselves *Hellênes* ever since the time
      of Herodotus, and it just meant "Greeks". Half a millenium later the term
      came to mean "Gentiles", then "non-Egyptians", and finally, in Late
      Antiquity, "pagan", as in the emperor Justinian's legislation by which he
      shut down the Athenian Academy and forbade pagans to teach (Codex
      Iustinianus, I, 11, 2, vol. 2, p. 64 Krueger):

      "We forbid that any teaching be given by those who are afflicted by the
      madness of the impure Pagans (*para tôn nosountôn tên tôn anosiôn Hellênôn
      manias*), in order to avoid that, under the pretext of instructing those
      who miserably come to them, they may in realitycorrupt the souls of those
      they pretend to educate".

      T.M.: Second, I am amused Mr Chase is of the opinion that that the Greeks
      "invented myth". I suppose he needs a relativity theory of time to come up
      with so cock-eyed "cultural diffusion theory" (Childe's term) that
      Sumerian myth, Babylonian myth, Vedic and Avestan myth, Chinese myth,
      Celtic and Germanic myth, Aztec and Mayan myth are derived from the
      original "Greek invention". Is this relativistic ethnocentricism?

      M.C. Guess I wasn't clear enough here. What I meant was the Greeks
      invented the conceptual category of myth, as is clear from the fact that
      it's a Greek word. When we speak of the "myths" of other cultures, we are
      doing so by analogy, forcing their belief systems into a mold defined by
      and for a Greek cultural phenomenon. Whether or not there is a word or
      family of words identical in semantic range to the Greek *mythos* in, say,
      Sumerian, Egyptian, or Blackfoot, I do not know, although I doubt it.

      It still seems to me highly perverse to claim or imply that the Christians
      have some kind of a monopoly on the correct use and understanding of myth,
      while the "Hellenes", pure or impure, somehow debased it. In Neoplatonist
      understanding, myth enables eternal entities to be understood in temporal
      terms. I have never seen a fully adequate definition of myth, but that is
      not, in my opinion, the worst one that could be imagined.

      I wonder, by the way, what would have happened to a Christian who, prior
      to about 1600 CE or so, dared to qualify the dogmas of the Christian
      church as "myths"?



      Michael Chase
      CNRS UPR 76
      Paris-Villejuif
      France
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