Philosophy - Religious Language - Myth and Symbol

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  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 18-04-15 12:53

Religious Language as Myth

  • Myths are stories involving Gods which espress aspects of human existence and experience
  • Traditional, myths are categorised into:
    • Aetiological - Explaining the origin of things e.g. the fall (origin of evil)
    • Cosmological - Explaining the universe e.g. Genesis 2
  • However, in common langauge to say something is a myth is to say it is untrue, a legacy from a tyme when myth was misunderstood
  • Reasons for this are:
    • It came to be regarded as synonymous with ancient literature at a time when this was greatly studied, which is misleading as the Greek/Roman age of myth was already in decline. They had become the basis of great fiction but didn't have an influence on thought forms or social structure, yet myth was still viewed as story-telling, almost like fairy tales.
    • When the modern western world adopted a sense of progression from primitive to sophisticated thinking, a view that myth represented a pre-scientific way of thinking was also adopted, explaining why they are categorised as aetiological and cosmological as it wasn't recognised that myth was a different way of thinking from that of science. Judging myth by scientific methods inevitably lids to misunderstanding.
    • We no longer share the kind of faith which gave rise to myth, and as myths embody a religious outlook ther is strong possibility of misunderstanding
  • Despite this, there has been a recent change in the comprehension of myths
  • There has been more interest in researching societies where myths impact on the way that people live, giving new insight into the purpose of these stories
  • Carl Jung discovered tha tmythological ideas are rooted in the depths of human mind and have been the means whereby universal man has expressed his most fundamental ideas, hopes and fears
  • It has been therefore recognised that myth embodies a distinctive kind of language which we must meet on its own ground
  • Some scholars see myths as the most complex form of symbolic language as they combine emblems, symbols, parables and metaphors within a framework of a symbolic cosmic model
  • Myths are rich in meaning and capable of constant reapplication, speaking of many things at once, and as they are full of symbolism would be seen as absurd if taken as descriptive
  • Myths give voice to human experience that cannot be found in a simple empirical observation, for poetry and symbolism can convey truth more clearly than historically or scientifically verifiable accounts
  • However, myths are also never trivial because they are concerned with the meaning of human existence at the deepest possible level
  • Munson: myth 'enables humanity to grasp its situation in totality'
  • Myths are never given an author as they are a medium of revelation rather than man's self-expression
  • They are timeless and universal, given a local form provided by the appropriate imagery for a particular time or place, but emerged from the universal rather than the individual conscience
  • However, this also means that plays on words often found in myths that are subjective to the original language…


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