Relativity and Neoplatonism (Mether vs. Chase, II)
- Here's the second installment.
In my earlier post, I mistakenly wrote "the truth-value of a statement is
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"?
CNRS UPR 76