Sunday, 26 February 2017

Living In Myths

Poul Anderson's "Star of the Sea" is about the growth of myths as meaningful stories, not as mere falsehoods. I think that somewhere in this story Everard remembers Stalin asking derisively how many divisions the Pope commands, not realizing that people live by myths.

"We need myths, [Juniper] thought. We live by them. But can we live in them?"
-SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005), p. 508.

Populations for generations have lived inside myths, never questioning their received doctrines about supernatural beings and a hereafter. I am glad to live in a period when we can compare traditions and question inherited indoctrinations.

16 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Juniper thought as she did because, Wicca or no Wicca, she was still a 20th woman already of mature years when the Change crashed down. She couldn't help thinking like a 20th woman born into an age which disbelieved in the old pagan myths. Now she finds herself entering another age where people will live "inside" their myths, no matter how absurd a Catholic like me thinks them.

    It's fine to say you are glad to live in a time "when we can compare traditions and question inherited indoctrinations." Putting aside my dissatisfaction with "indoctrinations," I would ask what is the point of questioning if not to find ANSWERS? And might that come to the point where you have to accept answers you personally dislike? Even if that means believing the Christians, say, were right?

    Sean

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sean,
    "Indoctrination" is my description of the education I was given. Yes, the point of questioning is to find answers even if they are not to our liking. A Socratic philosopher follows the argument wherever it leads. A Christian and an atheist are philosophers if both can reason about and discuss their beliefs, each accepting that the other has a fundamentally different point of view. One of my fellow graduate students went on to train and work as a Presbyterian minister. He agreed when I said that there are Christians with whom dialogue is impossible.
    Paul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      If I was a bit sharp above, I do apologize. It's simply that I so often see solemn declarations of the need to "question" accepted ideas and beliefs that they come to sound like empty bromides. And I also got the impression from some (not you!) that all that matters is the questioning, not whether or not answers are found.

      Ah, Socrates! I have read some of Plato's Socratic dialogues, including the accounts of his trial and execution. And I can certainly see why some Athenians got so fed up with Socrates that the jury voted for his death.

      But, yes, philosophers, Christian or atheist, should be able to calmly reason about their ideas and beliefs, using logical methods.

      I have come across Christians, or persons calling themselves Christians (like the Johovah's Witnesses, Mormons, or the more "low church" kinds of Protestants), with whom it was very difficult to have dialogues with. And certainly NOT with the more fanatical or rabid types of anti-Catholics!

      However, it's been my personal experience in online discussions that many who call themselves atheists are unable to have civil discussions with Christians. With some it descended to certain atheists heaping personal and obscene insults on those who disagreed with them. And almost always it was the Christians I observed who remained at least civil.

      Sean

      Delete
    2. Sean,
      No problem. We manage discussion alright here. We live in a period when everyone can have access to all the traditions and also when enormous advances are being made in knowledge of the universe. There is bound to be a lot of confusion and disagreement but hopefully humanity as a whole is moving towards a new level of understanding.
      Paul.

      Delete
    3. Kaor, Paul!

      You certainly a worthy ideal, mankind moving towards a new or even higher level of understanding. One I can agree is a good goal. Alas, I fear I'm more skeptical than not of our species attaining it.

      Sean

      Delete
    4. Ggggggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! I need to learn to type more slowly! I forgot to include a word like "advocate" in my first sentence, in the comment immediately above: "You certainly advocate a...."

      Sean

      Delete
    5. Sean,
      I value understanding more than material prosperity and am pleased with the amount of understanding that I have gained, am gaining, from study and experience. Asking questions instead of merely accepting received answers has been a big part of this process. I prefer an unsolved mystery to an unreflecting certainty but it is even better to solve mysteries - although there are always new mysteries beyond the fields we know.
      Paul.

      Delete
    6. Kaor, Paul!

      I would point out that without prosperity it would be unlikely anyone would even be able to think, speculate, philosophize about anything. If the struggle to support one's self and a family absorbed the thoughts and energies of everybody, then what you desire would not be possible.

      I also suggest that not all "received answers" deserved only dismissal. Whether in religion, philosophy, or even the sciences.

      But I certainly agree it is better to solve mysteries! In the sciences that includes my strong desire for answers to the mysteries of how to get to other planets and stars as quickly as possible. And I would like to have some idea of WHAT is out there in the universe. Does life exist on other worlds? Does some of that life include non human intelligent races?

      Sean

      Delete
    7. Sean,
      You are right about prosperity! I should say that I prefer a modest income and a lot of understanding to a high income and no understanding.
      No received answers should be lightly dismissed and indeed my views took a long time to change.
      Paul.

      Delete
    8. Kaor, Paul!

      Before we can have any thinkers, philosophers, theologians, etc., there needs to be a society wealthy enough to support a literate class. And that had to wait till agriculture was mastered and writing was invented.

      The first THINKERS worthy of that name were the sages and priests of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many of their thoughts, as recorded in surviving wisdom literature are worthy of respect and shows an earnest effort to attain understanding and wisdom. And some of the Amon hymns of the XIX Dynasty of Egypt shows a high conception of Amon-Ra, indeed of coming very close to monotheism.

      Sean

      Delete
    9. Sean,
      (i) You are right.
      (ii) On this point at least you agree almost word for word with Engels' speech at Marx's grave.
      https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/death/burial.htm
      (iii) You will remind us that you disagree with them on everything else!
      Paul.

      Delete
    10. Sean,
      Of course I should add that you are in agreement only with the first paragraph.
      Paul.

      Delete
    11. The first main paragraph, beginning "Just as Darwin..."

      Delete
    12. Kaor, Paul!

      I looked up the Engels speech, focusing on the paragraph mentioning Darwin, and I saw how Engels too stressed the need for a people to first satisfy the basic needs of life before any further advances are possible. Esp. in arts, philosophies, sciences.

      Fatally flawed tho Marxist economics are, I'm willing to concede Marx and Engels were able to make some shrewd, sensible comments about HISTORY. But I emphatically have to disagree with such things as their militant atheism and contempt for religion, as such.

      Sean

      Delete
    13. Sean,
      You deffo disagree with Karl and Fred because they were philosophical materialists and anti-capitalists. However, I do not think that they were "militant atheists" of the kind that existed and were encouraged under Stalin. They:
      presented an analysis of theism;
      did not dismiss it with contempt;
      understood that religious beliefs are deeply rooted and reflect real conditions and experiences;
      did not insist on atheism as a condition of membership of any political organization that they were associated with.
      Paul.

      Delete
    14. Kaor, Paul!

      I accept your corrections. When it came to "militant atheism" I was thinking of Marx'x famous line about religion being the opium of the masses, which struck me as indeed showing contempt for religious believers.

      And it was not just Stalin who persecuted religious believers in the name of atheism! He merely extended and completed what LENIN had started.

      The reason why I don't believe in Marxism or any other kind of socialism is because it has never WORKED. Only free enterprise economics of the kind worked out by Adam Smith and his Classical successors has actually worked. I would include the Austrian School of economics as well, because the work of Bohm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises, Hayek, Friedman, etc., filled out and corrected the work of the Classical economists.

      Sean

      Delete