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 The Power of Myths

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: The Power of Myths   Wed 29 Aug 2012, 05:28

http://sciencenordic.com/power-myths An advocation that myths play an important role in the unification of a people, in times of upheaval and in the building of nations.

"Kristiansen points out that it is irrelevant to think of myths as “true” in a scientific or historic context.

However, they are ‘true’ to the extent that they contribute to realize the ideals they advocate,” he says."


What other examples are there of myth being beneficial to a society and do you think they are a good thing or bad?









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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 29 Aug 2012, 10:54

Roald Kristiansen is a Methodist priest and lecturer in religious studies at Tromsø University. He subscribes to the Euhemeristic viewpoint of what constitutes myth, as all christians are more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe, which is why his interview with Linn Madsen makes frequent reference to myth based on actual persons. The only problem with stressing this definition above others is that one then ends up with a failure to discern valid historical theory relating to allegory, for example, which also plays a huge role in the formation of myth and the mechanics of the narratives it often contains. His comment about Snorre and the construction of the back story to Harald Hårfarge's role in Norse saga reveals this, just as his choice of Kim Jong-Il's attempts to elevate his reputation through deceitful claims as modern "myth" also highlights the difficulty in applying this limited definition to the subject.

He is on surer ground when he highlights the often valuable role myth plays in a social sense, though he should also stress that it is not the invention of mythical elements, or even their widespread dissemination, which cement their status as current myth. It is their widespread acceptance as fact - or as fancy which supplements fact - by a critically large number of people which distinguishes mythical claims from simple lies. Max Manus and his exploits might have recently entered Norwegian folklore, one might even say he has become legendary, but that is not the same as saying that he has become mythical. Likewise it is a moot point as to whether, closed society or not, people in North Korea subscribe to the leaders' fanciful claims as truth. His mendaciousness can be seen as relevant by them, and lip service to his false claims might be generally understood and accepted as adviseable, but that is still a far cry from them constituting myth. I imagine once the immediate requirement to tolerate them is removed they will simply be relegated in everyone's mind to the status of historical indicators of his megalomaniacal personality.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 29 Aug 2012, 15:00

Ah, so Kristiansen is a priest, thanks for that Nordmann. Pity the article didn't mention that but now this man's agenda becomes clear, although if it had been mentioned I probably wouldn't have bothered reading further.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 29 Aug 2012, 15:54

I don't believe he has an agenda beyond promoting himself as a theologian and historian with a particular interest in Nordic religions, a field in which he is considered a foremost authority. The fault, if any, lies with Madsen for not stating the fact, or indeed citing which of his recent publications Kristiansen was promoting at the time (he is a prolific writer), but the original article was published on the Norwegian website "forskning.no" (research) and is read primarily by people who already would know all this anyway, so she can be forgiven somewhat.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 19 Sep 2012, 16:39

‘Roald Kristiansen is a Methodist priest and lecturer in religious studies at Tromsø University. He subscribes to the Euhemeristic viewpoint of what constitutes myth, as all christians are more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe,’

Or maybe not …

I would think that very few Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) would have heard of either Euhemerus or the Euhemeristic viewpoint. In my experience most Christians do not associate myth and what is written in the New Testament gospels and so would not be ‘more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe’. Even at a more academic level, scholars are far more likely to refer to metaphor, with regard to parts of the gospels than myth.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 19 Sep 2012, 16:57

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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 19 Sep 2012, 18:24

I keep reading this thread as 'The power of maths' and so maybe Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln were right and 2+2 does make 3 (JC, his doxy and their lassie).


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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 09:54

I suppose it is the role of a thorough historian to be able break into the crystallized myth that holds firm notions founded either by common consent or manipulated to that end.

The Blitz Spirit comes to mind. Films of the time - I recall them well as a child - were finely tuned to induce courage when facing tough odds etc. I squirm at the cliche ridden rehashing of this as if it was an ongoing reality for it was not quite thus everywhere or all the time.

Survival instincts are still as powerful now as ever they were and at the root of most action if reason for any action is pared to the core. As I see it, the civilising agent of helping others survive is what makes the difference. To reinforce this strength myth becomes a group bonding agent - like chicken wire. Historians surely take the myths that coat the past seriously and then methodically chip away at it.

All right, lady, so you have a problem with the face value of just about everything, so stand back and wait for the flak with a British stiff upper lip - or better -as mum advised, always know where the shelters are, dear.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 20 Sep 2012, 11:16

Quote :
I would think that very few Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) would have heard of either Euhemerus or the Euhemeristic viewpoint. In my experience most Christians do not associate myth and what is written in the New Testament gospels and so would not be ‘more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe’. Even at a more academic level, scholars are far more likely to refer to metaphor, with regard to parts of the gospels than myth.

Few Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) might be able to recite all four of the Laws of Thermal Dynamics, but they still adhere to them.

When you say that in your experience most Christians do not associate the contents of the New Testament with myth then you are simply iterating the very point I made regarding their obligation to adhere to Euhemeristic interpretation of those very contents, and especially if they - as you - think of "myth" as synonymous with pure invention (which is not actually true). For Christians the characters depicted, even the more divine characters, must have a basis in real people who really lived - just as Euhemerus also believed with regard to divine persons as depicted in mythical narratives of his own time. Not to do so would dilute the significance of the myth to a point where it could not be sustained as a basis of faith. Of course this approach leads to several problems of interpretation revolving around at which point one cedes that the contents depart from objective accounts of reality. This is a conundrum shared by all subscribers to religious myths purporting to be grounded in actual people and events, and proof if proof is needed that the function of a mythical narrative differs tremendously from an historical one.

Metaphor is not an alternative interpretation to myth, as you seem to suggest. Metaphor in fact is a very common ingredient in myth in my view, a structure in which symbolism can be of paramount importance to the intrinsic logic which sets it apart. Interpretation of the application of metaphor is simply therefore a tool employed to satisfy the demands of the conundrum to which I've already alluded and one employed almost compulsorily when analysing the contents of any myth.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 10:46

Quite a good article here on myth and history in yesterday's Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/20/history-as-fantasy-no-substitute-truth

"Researching the past is not just a quest after forgotten people, objects
and events. It is supposedly a ceremony of reason, a rebuttal of
ancestral myth, a way of looking at the past with the same rigour that
we ought to apply to the present. Politics without history is likely to
lie. To surrender a dispassionate search after truth to the cause of
fantasy, however enjoyable or profitable, is to court superstition and
fanaticism.
"
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Tue 25 Sep 2012, 09:10

‘Few Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) might be able to recite all four of the Laws of Thermal Dynamics, but they still adhere to them.’

Self-evident

‘He subscribes to the Euhemeristic viewpoint of what constitutes myth, as all christians are more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe,’

Not self-evident, merely your opinion and therefore not equivalent. An opinion that you would find it hard to demonstrate.

I did not say that I thought of myth as synonymous with pure invention (which I agree is not necessarily true). However this is one definition of myth from the Pocket Oxford Dictionary ‘widely held but false notation’. If one is using a word with a number of possible meanings then it does not necessarily follow that one is seeking to encompass all those meanings. For example when I refer to the ‘PLUTO pipeline myth’ I am referring to the ‘widely held but false notation’ that it was vital to the success of the battle for Normandy. If one used the word ‘model’ it does not follow that one is seeking to cover every meaning from Naomi Cambell through Airfix through to a leak detection package from TTC.

I did not actually suggest that metaphor is an alternative interpretation to myth just that scholars are more likely to refer to metaphor than myth with regard to the gospels, this is not the same.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Tue 25 Sep 2012, 09:48

When you dismiss my opinion as "merely mine" you are implying that I am alone or in a minority when I think that Christians assume that the divine character in the New Testament was a real person, which is after all the essence of the Euhemeristic view of mythical deity and why the phrase is still in use. This I find amazing, coming from a person who describes himself as a Christian. As a Christian, do you not concur with the view that Jesus existed as a real person? It would seem to me that if this element is removed from the myth then of course it could never be described in Euhemeristic terms, but then it would also definitely reduce the myth to the status of a "widely held but false notation".

You are quite right to point out however that the term "myth" is not confined to one definition, including the one you cite, which is the one used most often in the vernacular. The scholars of whom you're so fond of citing, I would imagine, tend to the more academic definition, "a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events" (OED). This encompasses Christianity and is of course intended to, since academically Christianity conforms in every salient detail. Since examination of this particular myth is therefore not excluded either from considering its employment of metaphor then I would suggest that we are both correct here - they will, if counted, employ the term metaphor more than myth, as you suggest, while they examine the myth, as I have stated.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 08:47

@nordmann wrote:
When you dismiss my opinion as "merely mine" you are implying that I am alone or in a minority when I think that Christians assume that the divine character in the New Testament was a real person, which is after all the essence of the Euhemeristic view of mythical deity and why the phrase is still in use. This I find amazing, coming from a person who describes himself as a Christian. As a Christian, do you not concur with the view that Jesus existed as a real person?

I'm loath to ask anything about all this, especially as these days I am extremely wary of saying anything to anyone about religion. But I'd never heard of Euhemerism before and, when reading about it yesterday, I came across something which I thought might be relevant to the thread. It probably isn't, but here goes.

The early Christians certainly embraced Euhemerism, but weren't the ideas of Euhemerus seized upon gleefully - even rather spitefully - by them in an attempt to "undermine the validity of pagan gods"?

In his comment (in "Cohortatio ad gentes") Clement of Alexandria seems to have missed the irony of his own position: in what has been described (by Wiki, I'm afraid) as "a triumphant cry" Clement declared, "Those to whom you bow were once men like yourselves."

But I suppose the Christian argument is that Christ was something quite different: he was not simply a man who got himself turned into a god - he was never *deified* by men. He simply *was* God - incarnate.

But then perhaps Jesus never existed as a real person at all. *Is* it possible to be a "Christian" and question that? I think it is, but most people, of course, disagree. You cannot have an *idea* as your personal god, can you? Utterly ridiculous, or so I've been told - by Christians. But then I hate the word "Christian" - it is a label I have actually come to detest. When asked, "Are you a Christian?" I always reply, "It very much depends what you mean by 'Christian'." But more and more it seems I don't qualify.

I'm investigating Unitarianism at the moment - started in Poland in 1556 apparently, which I didn't know. The Unitarians *do* believe Jesus existed, as a teacher and a prophet, but they don't make him into God/a god. Their philosophy (is that the right word?) seems very sane to me - Tim Berners-Lee is a Unitarian. So are Unitarians Christians who do not subscribe to Euhemerism? But I suppose they don't count as "Christians" at all.

I am very muddled, I'm afraid. I wish I were 17 again - I understood everything then.



Edit: May I add this, even though it's off-topic? But it's why I'm interested in Unitarianism. Only Wiki, though.

Though there is no specific authority on convictions of Unitarian belief aside from rejection of the Trinity, the following beliefs are generally accepted:[47][48][49][50][51][52]


  • One God and the oneness or unity of God.
  • The life and teachings of Jesus Christ constitute the exemplar model for living one's own life.
  • Reason, rational thought, science, and philosophy coexist with faith in God.
  • Humans have the ability to exercise free will in a responsible, constructive and ethical manner with the assistance of religion.
  • Human nature in its present condition is neither inherently corrupt nor depraved (see original Sin), but capable of both good and evil, as God intended.
  • No religion can claim an absolute monopoly on the Holy Spirit or theological truth.
  • Though the authors of the Bible were inspired by God, they were humans and therefore subject to human error.
  • Traditional doctrines that (they believe) malign God's character or veil the true nature and mission of Jesus Christ, such as the doctrines of predestination, eternal damnation, and the vicarious sacrifice or satisfaction theory of the Atonement are rejected.[53]
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 09:01

I’m very much looking forewords to the answers your post is going to attract Temps…. The only thing that going to annoy me about it will be… I won’t understand a dam word of it either.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 09:16

Irony is indeed the word to use. No subscriber to any religion admits that their own deity is anything but intrinsically so and not one which has been humanly manufactured, but is obliged by the same token to claim that all others are. Early Christianity seized on Euhemeristic arguments to devalue competitors' gods, and it is - ironically again - largely due to this that we have a record of the man's ideas at all.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 10:17

@Temperance wrote:
The Unitarians *do* believe Jesus existed, as a teacher and a prophet, but they don't make him into God/a god

Which is the same as the Islamic belief, as far as I'm aware anyway.

You've made some interesting points Temp and I'll look forward to the responses.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 10:44

@nordmann wrote:
Irony is indeed the word to use. No subscriber to any religion admits that their own deity is anything but intrinsically so and not one which has been humanly manufactured, but is obliged by the same token to claim that all others are.


Oh, I don't know. Some "subscribers" (what a horrible word - makes it sound as if belief is like joining a circulating library) do admit that, don't they? I do.

Didn't Voltaire, too? His famous remark about it being necessary to invent God was not an ironic quip after all, as is usually thought. Didn't he say that in a piece that was written to refute an atheistic essay - "The Three Imposters"? But I'm not sure I understand what Voltaire really believed. He was a Deist, wasn't he - like Newton, Jefferson. Paine and others?

I'm sure we do invent God, but it's interesting that we have a concept of God to invent. I sometimes wish I could speak to St. Paul about this. He's another one who's been hijacked and misunderstood, I think. I'm not so sure he actually believed what the Christians say he believed. But that's another story.

Voltaire got a lot of grief from all sides - "he was accused by the Encyclopedists of being a Christian and the Christians accused him of being an infidel."

Poor Voltaire. I've always said he and I have a lot in common. Very Happy

Hi Norman - I also always say I won't say anything; and then of course I do. One day I'll learn.

ID - just seen your post - yes, I got accused of being a Muslim a bit ago.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 11:10

I'm not sure that one can claim one's deity is not divine, at least not without changing the senses of both words in the process and most possibly redefining oneself as being non-religious. If you entertain the notion of a god who isn't divine, needs no worship, is admittedly a human invention, and therefore operates within the bounds of human reason though wondrous to contemplate, then what are you really subscribing to as a belief? It sounds to me like a healthy and all too little shared respect for human ingenuity and capability but not much more than that.

I personally agree that such respect is completely justified and requires even a modicum of faith to sustain at times, but it is eminently feasible to do this without the need to personify the ideal.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 26 Sep 2012, 13:50

@nordmann wrote:
If you entertain the notion of a god who isn't divine, needs no worship, is admittedly a human invention, and therefore operates within the bounds of human reason though wondrous to contemplate, then what are you really subscribing to as a belief?

Lord knows. I'm still working on the details. Hopefully I'll get there one day.

I suppose this is all about the milk and the meat - coming off the baby formula isn't easy at all.

I'd be interested to know what Tim has to say about the "meat". What exactly did Paul mean - does anyone really know?

Edit:

PS Thus, though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with."
— Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything)

So was Voltaire simply being silly - "ludicrous" - when he made his famous pronouncement?


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 08:41

Just so happens that this week's "In Our Time" programme is all about St. Anselm and the Ontological argument. Anselm apparently proved - by logical argument - that God exists.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01mwx64/In_Our_Time_The_Ontological_Argument/

It's excellent, although my head is now spinning with it all.

Descartes went along with Anselm, it seems, as did Bertrand Russell - "Great God in Boots, the ontological argument is sound!" BR exclaimed (on the way to the tobacconist shop apparently). But I think he later changed his mind.

"If you can think it, that is a guarantee of its existence." Hurrah, I thought, that's what I meant by having a concept to invent - oh good, God does exist after all, and everything's going to be all right. But hold on - what about unicorns?

What indeed. We're only half way through and - alas - along comes David Hume and he demolishes Anselm and Descartes.

"Don't be so daft," says Hume, "anything that can be might not be." Oh.

Unicorns - square circles - perfect islands. Vey confusing - need to listen again.

I'd never heard of Parmenides before this programme - but he sounds interesting. "Beyond the paths of mortal men..." That's what P. wrote of his journey in search of truth. I'm afraid it's a path beyond me - certainly at 8.30am.

Melvyn Bragg sounded a bit confused too - at times - which was a comfort.

PS Who was the chap who wrote to Anselm "on behalf of the fool" - the fool from the psalm who "in his heart says there is no God"? I think his name was Garnilo or Garnelo...?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 09:08

Anselm's assertion was just silly. If you can imagine a being with ultimate power - a really impressive being that can do and be just about anything you can conceive is possible, then Anselm says that this therefore must exist. However if I come along and conceive of an even better being, an even more impressively capable being who transcends not just time and space but all existential limitations - in other words a being which trumps your being in terms of capability and understanding - then my being also exists since it's obviously not the same one as yours. Then along comes an even cleverer dick with an even more amazing concept for a super being which adds a third to the pantheon. And so on.

The "fool", according to Gaunilo, has a different problem with Anselm's assertion which runs along the lines of "if someone just makes something up out of thin air then does that make it real, just because it was conceivable as Anselm suggests?". This too is a valid point with regard to deity. In fact Anselm avoided ever mentioning the other gods which had been invented prior to his own one - according to his reasoning they were equally viable as existing entities based on the same logic he applied to his own one, so he just pretended he'd never heard of them. Dishonest sod.

Russel's "conversion" to the ontological argument which is much quoted is often much misinterpreted. Russell at the time was swayed towards the philosophy of Hegel and this "revelation" of his was the moment when he mistakenly (as he said later) fell for the notion of the Absolute. Then he started reading more from Bosanquet and Bradley and realised that the Absolute, by definition, supercedes all notions of deity. Later, when he hit the bit where you can always imagine an Absolute plus one which becomes a new Absolute, which then when something is added becomes another new Absolute, he realised that the ontological "argument" is an argument against sense, and that without sense one can just spout out any old crap and call it "real". That's when he realised also that he could never be an Absolutist, and had left the notion of god way back in the process as an even inferior concept to that one.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 09:26

I must listen to that again, yesterday I kept missing bits when I turned on the tap, went to the loo, let the cat out etc but what was the business of 'existence is perfection' 'God is perfect' ergo 'God must exist'? That baffled me.

Melvyn did seem to get a bit ratty at times didn't he?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 09:40

@ferval wrote:


Melvyn did seem to get a bit ratty at times didn't he?

I think he was confused.

Thank you, Nordmann. One feels a worm after reading your post, but never mind. Ah - *Gaunilo* - so he was the man? More thanks.

Ferval - it's all here. Shocked

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/anselm-gaunilo.asp

It's all a piece of pease pudding!
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 09:42

The essential flaw in the ontological argument - which of our notions of perfection trumps the other? Anselm's logic is based on everyone arriving at the same notion of what constitutes perfection. This can never be more than an assertion, to which the opposite assertion is equally valid and just as equally untestable.

There is after all a good argument that perfection must, by definition, include perfect flaws and this becomes even more important if one is ascribing the notion of perfection to a god. A perfect god must make perfect mistakes or at least be capable of it. If that's not in his repertoire then he's not perfect. If he is capable of making mistakes can he be perfect?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 10:05

Quote :
Later, when he hit the bit where you can always imagine an Absolute plus one which becomes a new Absolute,
As a mathematician I'd have thought that would have been obvious to him or am I just too simple?

Now I'm confused about perfection including perfect flaws. What's a perfect flaw and isn't the definition of perfection as the OEd puts it "b. gen. In a state of complete excellence; free from any imperfection or defect of quality; that cannot be improved upon; flawless, faultless. Also occas.: nearly approaching such a state."
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 10:23

A flaw which is flawless cannot be ruled out as an aspect to the nature of total perfection. Otherwise one has already started to qualify perfection (as the dictionary has done) and has lost out in the bunfight over whose perfection is more complete. After all, if my perfection includes perfect flaws and yours doesn't then mine, by being flawed, is more complete. It is essentially different, more importantly, which through ontological logic means that two perfect types of perfection exist. And of course as many more as people wish to invent.

The perfect flaw comes into play especially when one adopts the ontological argument to support the notion of a deity in which anything one perceives can be pretended to be real. A deity, even one "deduced" on that basis, who designs flawed entities, such as ourselves, has either done so accidentally due to a flaw in his own character (there goes the "perfection" tag already) or because it is part of a perfect plan, designed by a perfect being, and is therefore a perfect flaw. Flaw as proof of perfection, as Russell pointed out, is where the argument for the existence of god proves itself to be a subjective relegation of logic in order to make an illogical assertion seem worthy in its place. He rejected this approach as circular at best and misleading in any case. No train of thought which must accommodate the possibility that assertions have been interspersed subjectively with logical claims can lead one anywhere much different than one had intended to go anyway.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 10:33

Ah right, now I think I get it. The 'flaw' is perfect in that the creation of the imperfect, being the intentional product of a perfect being, must, itself, be necessarily perfect.

Come in white queen, we need to chat.

Must dash and deal with the imperfect flaws.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 10:53

That's *exactly* what I was going to say, but you posted it first, Nordmann . Oh, now ferval's posted something too. Never mind, I was scratting around in Genesis for a quote while you two were typing. This sounds like such crap after Nordmann's musings, but never mind, I'll still send it. What the heck.

My message:

Well creation certainly proved to be a monumental you-know-what-up and God admitted it:

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."

(Genesis 6: verses 5&6)

So it all had to go. Which was a bit tight on the poor innocent beasts and fowl and creeping things that couldn't swim.

So you see God *could* make mistakes, admit it and be a bit petulant - even a tad cruel and unjust - about the whole business, especially when He realised that perhaps it was all His own fault, because He simply had not thought things through.

A perfectly flawed creator in fact - just like us - his creation. It is confusing, isn't it? Did he create us or do we create him? Whose image is reflecting whom? I'm sure I don't know.

(I love Genesis - I think it's a great story. But who were the "giants in the earth in those days"? I've always wondered.)

But then, like Voltaire, we can mock on, but, after all, as the chap from Oxford admitted, this is all just an "intellectual puzzle". In the end it *is* mystery - "God's reality cannot be conceived". Which is perhaps the ultimate intellectual cop-out.

Talking of cop-outs, when in doubt, go to Morrison's. Back later - I've got a quiz question. Friday isn't Friday without a quiz, a proper quiz question, that is - with a proper answer, not like all this ontological stuff which just drives you nuts.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 10:58

Quote :
Did he create us or do we create him? Whose image is reflecting whom? I'm sure I don't know.

I'm sure you do!

idea


.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 11:02

Nah, this is me - the one with the handbag:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sstrj15XpWQ
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 12:04

What a lot of posts since I last visited the site. Very interesting read.

Nordmann

I was merely pointing out that what you stated with your normal due authority was merely your opinion and not proven. As previously stated, in my experience most Christians do not associate myth and what is written in the New Testament gospels and so would not be ‘more or less obliged to do in relation to the one to which they themselves subscribe’.

The idea that Jesus did not exist as a real person is, from my experience, largely confined to websites and has very little if any support in the academic world. Books that suggest otherwise such as the one you referred to by John Allegro and by Freke and Gandy have had little if any academic impact. Even G.A.Wells, based on ‘Q’ seems to have changed his mind about the existence of Jesus. By the way I recognise that the existence of Jesus as a historical person does not rule out the possibility of a Euhemeristic viewpoint but just consider that it is not a necessity.

‘The scholars of whom you're so fond of citing’ – so how many times have I cited them? I agree that you do not tend to cite scholars – you self certify!

‘I think that Christians assume that the divine character in the New Testament was a real person, which is after all the essence of the Euhemeristic view of mythical deity and why the phrase is still in use’. I think that Christians, or at least most of them, believe rather than assume that Jesus, a human being, was also divine and that ‘myth’ does not enter into it. (As I am, according to you, fond of quoting scholars I would mention that Marcus Borg, for example, would not believe that Jesus was divine).

Islanddawn, I would say that the Muslim view of Jesus was quite different from that of Unitarians. According to the Koran Jesus had a virgin birth, performed miracles (two listed are not part of the New Testament but from other writings – for example he is able to proclaim that he is a prophet of God while still a baby) and ascended into heaven but was not crucified. Unitarian views of Jesus vary but they would certainly accept that he was crucified as would virtually all, apart from Muslims, who accept Jesus’ existence (Christian or otherwise).

Regards

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 12:13

My mere opinion is that you are right to say that it is opinion which dominates here, and not proofs. I have an opinion, you have an opinion, Unitarians have an opinion, Muslims have an opinion, and I am sure if Jesus had ever lived he'd have his own opinion on the matter (I'd be especially interested in his opinion on those whose opinions put opinions in his mouth which due to their contradictory nature, in my opinion, would either make him the most diffusely opinionated person in history or devoid of an opinion which could not be transmitted uncorrupted by later opinionated people). Of course, this is all "merely" opinion.

You can see why Russell got into teapots.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 12:19

Can I ask something of you folk who have more knowledge of sources and also save myself the effort of ploughing though the whole NT?

Jesus refers often to 'My Father in heaven' but also 'Your Father in heaven';
At any point in the statements attributed to him, does he ever explicitly claim to be anything other than mortal?
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 12:30

Tim is the man for that one.

My own mere opinion is that whenever we come across the word "soul" in English translations of the Greek "psyche" we really need to brush up on our Greek rather than our theology. A lot is assumed to have been said in the New Testatment about immortality which quite frankly was never there to begin with.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Fri 28 Sep 2012, 13:09

And apparently St. Paul's Greek could be a bit dodgy at times. Pope Clement VII warned the theological students in Rome not to read him because it would spoil their style. (I don't know where I came across that, but it wasn't in "The Other Boleyn Girl" - honest. I think it was Diarmaid MacCulloch - he's got a very dry sense of humour.)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Sat 29 Sep 2012, 10:27

@nordmann wrote:

My own mere opinion is that whenever we come across the word "soul" in English translations of the Greek "psyche" we really need to brush up on our Greek rather than our theology. A lot is assumed to have been said in the New Testatment about immortality which quite frankly was never there to begin with.

I did not mean to be facetious yesterday in my comment about St. Paul's "dodgy" Greek - the warning from Pope Clement to the theology students just struck me as funny. But how steeped in Hellenistic - Platonist(?) - thought Paul was. Perhaps that was what really worried the Pope?

The various meanings of "psyche" are very interesting.

I found this - useful quotations from the NT, but the translations of psyche (soul/life/mind/heartily/living/living soul) do seem rather limited - warning bells sounded also after reading in the introduction: "The truth will be revealed by the Holy Spirit..."

http://www.logosapostolic.org/greek_word_studies/5590_soul_yuxh_psuche.htm



Is Strong's Concordance more reliable than the Holy Spirit?

Strong gives the following for "psyche":

Short definition: soul, life, self

Longer definition:

a) the vital breath, breath of life

b) human soul

c) soul as the seat of affections and will

e) the self

f) the human person, an individual

Those longer definitions make things rather more complicated. But what was the real sense of "soul"? That seems very much to depend on which Greek thinker you've been reading.


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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Sat 29 Sep 2012, 10:30

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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 03 Oct 2012, 14:33

Quote :
Jesus refers often to 'My Father in heaven' but also 'Your Father in heaven';
At any point in the statements attributed to him, does he ever explicitly claim to be anything other than mortal?

Without wishing to sound like an enormous pedant, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "...attributed to him". Jesus doesn't actually claim anything, explicitly or otherwise. As you imply, the things he is alleged to have said come to us as reported, rather than direct speech. Although there are claims that the earliest of the Gospels (John, I think), might date to around 70 AD, most folk seem to date it to around 90-100AD, which is a couple of generations after Jesus is said to have died. The people writing the Gospels must have been using secondary, tertiary or whatever else sources, so any words attributed to Jesus have to be treated with extreme caution. It is less "Jesus said..." and much more "some chap writing 50 years after Jesus died spoke to some other chap who said his Grandad once told him that Jesus said...."

But without wishing to veer off into a discussion about the historicity and/or divinity of Jesus, such an approach is key to myth making. We probably all recall being told in the 1980's how a friend of a friend put a cat in a microwave at a party. That is mythmaking in action. Ghost stories adopt the same approach - it's (usually) always a friend of a friend. However, when Ferval tells me that a friend of a friend saw a ghost and I repeat the story to Nordmann, I'm also likely to say "a friend of a friend", rather than "a friend of a friend of a friend". And so on. As a result, the stories appear to be tantalisingly close, which only adds to their apparent credibility. The power of myth lies in its ability to draw us - but usually only some of us- together in a shared experience, be that nationality, religion or the careless cooking of felines at house parties to the strains of Mel n' Kim. Those myths can then be exploited by those who would have us do unspeakable things to other people due to perceived superiority or grievance.

Regards,

AR
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 03 Oct 2012, 14:44

At the risk of being even more pedantic I would point out that your microwaved cat is not an example of myth, at least not according to the academic definition of the term. It might qualify as a legend but unless it involves an attempt at explaining or illuminating a social phenomenon in the process of its narration it does not punch all the buttons required for it to be truly mythical.

Your final sentence however is one that I would heartily agree with. Not all myths achieve that goal but those which do are the durable ones, and also the ones most likely to "solidify" into a set structure which is not only subscribed to but often actively protected in that form by its adherents.
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Wed 03 Oct 2012, 17:03

At the risk of being even more pedantic still, derailing this thread and being quietly asked to leave by the back door, I think I'd argue that the microwaved moggy does satisfy the definition of myth. It pickles for all time a contemporaneous attempt to explain (in a highly inaccurate fashion) the workings of the new-fangled microwave oven. Myth is, in part at least, about explaining the apparently inexplicable.

Joking aside, I think there is a significant overlap between legend and myth. A legendary figure such as Robin Hood may have his origins in myth. In good ghost stories, myth, legend and history are carefully woven together to give the veneer of credibility.

Regards,

AR
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 13:32

@Arwe Rheged wrote:

Joking aside, I think there is a significant overlap between legend and myth.

AR

And with folklore too, I suppose. But strictly speaking, isn't a myth just a cracking story - often a *sacred* story - pertaining to gods, goddesses and fabulous creatures - an attempt to explain things, including the origin of things and such like? A myth helps us to *try* to make sense of what we - puny mortals that we are - cannot really understand?

Your very distressing moggy-in-the-microwave example is surely *not* a myth, but an urban legend (urban myth is these days used synonomously - and incorrectly - for the same kind of story). Urban simply means modern or contemporary here. Your wretched cat would only be a character in a *proper* myth were she, say, the goddess Bastet subjected to some terrible cruelty in a story which attempts to explain some great truth to us.

Well, I think so anyway - these days, alas, I'm not sure of anything.

I've been wondering about Nessie this morning - myth, legend or urban folklore? I see her as an urban legend, but I have been told that Nessie is a kind of water kelpie - a mythical Celtic aquatic creature used to teach children about the dangers of playing in or near water. Water kelpies would lure hapless infants to a watery death.

Protest: I have found a picture of a lovely limestone statue of Bastet which was discovered outside Alexandria. If we still had our delightful "You Are a Pussy" thread I would post it.
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 14:01

You're probably right. I can be a bit lazy in my use of terms and I fully accept that "myth" might properly have rather more limited scope than I grant it. For me - and I accept this isn't an accepted academic definition so much as my own personal view - myth is a subset of storytelling. Good storytelling weaves myth, legend and history as I argued above.

Nessie is a fine example. She first appears in the life of St Columba, where she is a fierce sea serpent of some description. She might be a hangover of Celtic nursery stories as you suggest ("don't play in the old mines or Jenny Greenteeth will get you" is one of our local versions), or she could be a demoted god or figure of an earlier religion. She could just as easily be both or neither. But for me, that almost isn't the point. Where Nessis wins is as a character in story. The story is so good that serious attempts - and serious amounts of money - have been expended actually looking for her.

20th century viewings combine the mundane with the fantastical - "we were motoring along the road to Foyers in order to enjoy tea with Colonel McFuddled and his good lady wife, when our attention was drawn to a great disturbance in the loch, just near Urquhart Castle." Perfect. We may have driven those roads and seen those places ourselves. We are immediately "there" and, as a result, much more ready to accept the fantastical which is then layered onto the prosaic. I am convinced that the frequent reoccurence of certain legends in different geographical locations (sea monsters, screaming skulls, bricked up nuns, sleeping Arthurians etc) are examples of precisely the same storytelling technique.

So, for me, Nessie may have elements of myth and certainly has elements of legend. Urban folklore seems to me to be little more than legend wearing modern clothes, but however we cut it, Nessie is a tremendous story.

Regards,

AR
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 14:45

"Nessie Lives!" has become real big business.

You can even buy "Nessie - I Believe!" mugs, tee-shirts and - unbelievably - Nessie Lives! *Christmas* tree decorations.

I have tried to post an image of a festive Nessie, but she won't paste.

Edit - I forgot to add:

Quote :
...myth is a subset of storytelling...

Absolutely. And where would we be without our stories?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 15:33

The Loch Ness monster is a good example of disintegrating myth, or myth which is losing its relevance and power. In the St Columba story the beast plays a pivotal role in emphasising the power of Christianity, good versus evil, and the importance of faith to Christians. Columba is by no means the only saint to vanquish a monster but in almost all the narratives the point is the same. In an age when the importance of such a narrative lay as much if not more in its imagery and analogous elements than in its veracity it therefore would have been recognised as a crucial part of the general mythology surrounding the church - which unlike today seems to have been seen as a most definite plus in its favour and not something inviting scepticism and derision.

I imagine Adomnan of Iona would be as horrified to hear us refer to the beast as "Nessie" in almost affectionate terms as we would be aghast at the absolute credence he and his peers placed in such obviously mythical creatures.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 15:36

Quote :
"Nessie Lives!" has become real big business.

I think that that also takes the beastie into myth territory, there's a constituency who have an interest in promulgating and distributing the story and a community of believers who lap it up. It also, I'm distressed to say, plays into an aspect of national identity, one that has considerable appeal within and without the country; that of Scotland being 'ancient', 'magical' and 'traditional'. Every blinking Roots Tourism itinerary has a stop at the loch. I'm also distressed to say, every time I drive up the lochside road, I look and hope.
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 15:53



Sorry, I know you are all being terribly serious, but I couldn't resist.

Looks more like Kermit than Nessie. You can knit quite a nice Nessie, too - I might post a picture over on the Knitting thread.

Actually - to be serious - are there other examples of evil/frightening mythical creatures being made into objects of humour and affection? As good a way as any, I suppose, of coping with fear.
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 15:58

The pseudo identity of commercial tourism promotion does, unfortunately, effect the genuine national identity eventually. I suppose, if something is heard often enough people do start to believe it?

Australia labours under the horrible (and artificial) shrimp on the barbie image and Australians do buy into it now. The Zorba movie did it for Greece though. Admittedly it was played upon outrageously for the tourists here but all that 'ooopa' and plate smashing gumph. Ugh..

Edit. In fact the plate smashing after Zorba became so bad that it is actually against the law to do it now! But the image persists.


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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 16:01



He's quite sweet here as well, nothing wearing a spotted nappy could be scary.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 16:08

Dragons are the obvious ones. Cuddly dragons are everywhere these days.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Power of Myths   Thu 04 Oct 2012, 16:46



This is a German wooden toy dragon. I'm sure I've read somewhere that Tudor children had toy St. Georges, complete with little dragons. Will try to find the reference.
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