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Mythos and Logos
Transcript of Mythos and Logos
Two ways of explaining the world
Mythos and Logos
Those using logical thinking approach the world scientifically and empirically. They look for explanations using observable facts, controlled experiments, and deductive proofs. Truth discovered through logos seeks to be objective and universal.
Those using mythical thinking approach the world through less direct, more intuitive means. A person might gain poetic insights into the nature of the world by seeing a caterpillar emerge from a cocoon or watching a full moon rise as the sun sets. Truth discovered through mythos is more subjective, based on individual feelings and experiences.
Why the Turtle has a Shell? Logos
In the past, observations made on turtle embryos suggested that the shell might have been an outgrowth from the dorsal ribs and the vertebrae. Bone fragments recently discovered in New Mexico, however, show that this hypothesis was incorrect. The fragments came from an ancestor of the turtle with something like the armor of an armadillo; since the rows of armored plates were not connected to the skeleton, the shells of later turtles could not have been an outgrowth of it. More experiments will be performed and more observations will be made to explain the turtle’s shell in terms of physical causes and effects.
Why the Turtle has a Shell
An Aesopic fable demonstrates how the techniques of mythical thinking have been applied to this same question. In an ancient Greek fable, Zeus invites all the animals to his wedding, but the turtle skips the wedding because she prefers being in her own home than being anywhere else; as punishment, Zeus makes her carry her house with her everywhere she goes. We could guess that some ancient person might have observed the turtle’s slow pace and understood the turtle as downcast and humiliated, struggling under its great burden — or perhaps an observer saw in the turtle great determination in the face of life’s adversities.
Logos and Mythos
Many of the great advances in civilization have been the product of these two ways of thinking working together. Artists, poets, musicians, and other mythical thinkers rely on the tools and techniques of logos for their own works of mythos. The pursuits of logos are in turn influenced by logical thinkers have figured out, for example, how to cure illnesses and prolong the average human lifespan, but they have learned through mythical thinking to value human life enough to bother.
Questions to Consider
What are the benefits and dangers of each type of approach? Which approach does our culture today favor? How do you know?