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From: Dan <meliza@OCF.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: (urth) 
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 09:55:16 

Dan'l wrote (among much else worthy of quoting):

> In fact, I hold to the stronger form, but I think the weaker form
> may be more appropriate as a basis for discussion in an audience
> which doesn't generally hold the antecedent of the stronger form
> to be true or even possibly true.

You're quite right, and to be even-handed I should at least have
mentioned Jung (whom you alluded to) and Joseph Campbell both of whom
make all sorts of conclusions based on the recurrence of symbolism in
myth without believing in a divine principle.

I'm hacking my way through Joseph Campbell right now and wish that I had
picked up Frazer instead.  I keep thinking - more stories, less
speculation - but his main thrust seems to be that mythology reflects a
number of pronounced changes in religion, so that we have older, maternal,
cthonic [sp] deities overlayed with the paternal, sunny Olympian gods
overlayed with omnipotent, abstract(ed) Jehovahs and Allahs, and as each
of the modes of thought these gods embody came into power they demonized
the gods of the previous age and enlisted a variety of stories to explain
why Jove triumphed over the Titans and so on.  Myths to Campbell seem to
be primarily religio-political works; they appeal to us "universally"
because and as long as we maintain our allegiance to the ideas that
spawned them.

> Shhh! Don't tell Aristotle. He thought it was the raison d'etre
> of (classical) philosophy.

Ooh now this gets interesting.  How, if the ancients were so sold on
reason, did they manage to be so ridiculously wrong about the way the
world was put together?  And how did the moderns manage to get
everything (we hope) so right?  The standard answer (and I'm inclined,
personally, to think that the ancients weren't so ridiculously wrong
and the moderns not necessarily spot on) is that modern science is
experimental and ancient science "merely" observational.  Aristotle sat
in his garden and watched the bees; Galileo climbed up to the top of
the tower of Pisa and dropped weights.  And I guess Plato sat in his
garden and thought about bees.

In other words Modern Reason expects a certain dirty hands-on
interaction with the world that probably seemed unecessarily messy to
the ancients.  And this is why I think the detective story is a
strictly modern fairy-tale: the detective has to contend with a real
criminal.  For all that Dupin prefers to solve crimes without leaving
his smoke-filled room he still has to put the solution to the test.
More often than not the poor detective has to risk his neck: hardly an
abstract puzzle.

Thanks, Rostrum, for the pointer to Umberto Eco.  My own example of
postmodern detective lit was going to be film noir but I don't really
know the genre well enough to give examples.


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