Plato and His Employment Of Myth

Essay by garimanitariaUniversity, Bachelor's December 2004

download word file, 10 pages 5.0

Downloaded 72 times

"All mean is that every man loathes the thought that he might be taken captive by a lie which would prevent him from distinguishing between reality and unreality. That his soul should be possessed by a lie whereby he is continually deceived and irrevocably ignorant is something that no man wants to accept".


Plato's Republic, Book II

Muthos for the ancient Greeks held many meanings, both as a word itself and as a tradition. The origin of the word "muthos" was simply "something delivered by word of mouth", but eventually came to mean a "design" or "plan" as in a plot of a drama. Then with the association with "tale" or "story", muthos connoted a poetic or legendary tale as opposed to a historical account, till finally the word came to mean "something that is not true".1 However like the Fates, mythology wove the fabric of the Hellenes' lives; it gave them birth, animation and death.

Originally oral traditions with Indo-european, Mycenean, and local roots, the myths began to take written form around the 8th century B.C.E. with Hesiod and Homer. Greek mythology gave foundation to local religious, cosmological and ethical beliefs. Yet their myths never became static or inert and were constantly subject to variations and reinterpretation. Further, because of the "liberal" nature of Greek society and the metaphysical cosmogony set forth by Hesiod in his Theogony, it was opportune to give rise to philosophical discourse based on abstractions.

In the 4th century B.C.E. the eminent philosopher Plato began his dialectical inquiry, first confronting Greek beliefs and society, then attempting to reshape them through his prolific works. Prior to this time, philosophers such as Democratus had diverted discourse to a natural ontology, leaving behind the "roots" of a metaphysical exegesis. In response, Plato attempted to meld the metaphysical...