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August 13, 2008

Are you ready to journey into Philosophy's past?

Philosophy 3301 is an exciting journey back to our intellectual roots: philosophy, the mother of all intellectual disciplines, is itself born, created, forged in the crucible of numerous sea-girt villages of the Mediterranean during the first millennium B.C. No one knows what precise conditions came together to cause the first philosopher-scientists to seek another mode of explanation from the myths and folklore on which they had grown up. What makes a young mind seek a better theory? Cognitive dissonance? Inadequacy of extant explanations? New phenomena not covered by the old theories? Rebelliousness? Increasing intellectual sophistication over the older generation?

Anyway, it happens fast when it happens. We'll watch something explosive occur over a few hundred years, something that we still benefit from and can appreciate as beautiful.

So here's my first discussion for you: What theories or explanations, widely accepted by your parents' generation, do you personally find inadequate today, and why?

Are you ready?

Classical Mythology demands that we rethink many of our basic commitments: religious and spiritual, ethical, and personal. We'll see humans being challenged to their limits and beyond; we'll see magic behind normal everyday phenomena; we'll see intense love and horrifying violence, the arts of civilization and the limits of barbarism, side by side or interwoven. I promise you a wild ride and an unforgettable journey.

Here's my first discussion question for you: Did the Greeks believe their myths?

The Greeks were human beings like ourselves, with common sense and a healthy skepticism about things that didn't quite add up. They put on their sandals one at a time just as we do. They fell in love, got angry, ate and slept, grew old and died - all the common human conditions pertained. So did they believe in gods and goddesses, Fate, prophecy, the Underworld, nymphs and satyrs, the whole colorful tapestry of classical myth? Did they believe literally in the way that e.g. a Christian is asked to believe in the divinity of Christ, or a Muslim in the unity of Allah? What do you think?