14 Jan 2009

Myth and Critique in Martin Moors' Mythos and Logos course

summarization of Moors' ideas, by Corry Shores
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[Martin Moors's From Mythos to Logos - From Logos to Mythos course, Entry Directory]

[The following is based on student notes. My commentary is in brackets.]

Philosophers use rational discourse, which has its own logic or logos. The proper application of this discursive logic is critique. For philosophers to understand this logos, they look to its origin. Before this discursive logic developed into a critical method, it took-on a proto-critical or pre-critical form.

[The fundamental principle to all things in the cosmos is water, argues Thales. He is considered the first philosopher because he breaks from a tradition of mythological explanations for the cosmos, and instead tries to use rationality to devise a de-mythologized theoretical account of reality. And yet, compared to our current sophisticated scientific views of the cosmos, Thales' theory seems mythological. From Thales on,]

philosophy will be a gradual process of demythologization.

[When we tell a story, we give an account. There is some conclusion. Before the conclusion, there is a series of events that explain how and why that conclusion came to be what it is.

When we explain something using rational argumentation, we also give an account. We have some conclusion. Prior to that conclusion are premises whose logical relations necessitate the conclusion.

The myth of the fall from paradise explains human suffering. There were events leading up to it, that explain why the story concludes the way it does, and that also account for some aspect of human existence, namely, suffering.

If our only criteria for such an explanation is whether or not it gives an account for something, then the story of the fall is perfectly adequate.

But if we begin to wonder what makes one myth better than another, or what would be a better explanation than any given myth, then we are thinking critically.

This sort of critical origin for logos begins with Thales, who proposes that everything is fundamentally made-up of water.

And, he gives a rational account that is slightly mythologized.

According to Aristotle, Thales reasoning was that things emerge from something else which is prior to them. This origin is their principle. Whatever all things spring-from is the first principle of everything.

All living beings are nourished by water, so all life springs from water. Also, moisture produces heat, and heat persists in moisture. Moreover, the beginnings of all living beings are of a moist nature.

Also, Thales reasons that whatever the gods swear-by must be what is most highly esteemed. According to poets telling the stories of the original people, the god's swore by the river Styx. So what is most highly esteemed in the cosmos is water.

For all these reasons, Thales felt it was rationally justified, and in keeping with mythology, that he conclude that the fundamental principle of everything is water.

Because Thales proposition was based on his reasoning, it was critical of the non-rational mythical explanations of the cosmos, and as well, it was open to critique by other philosophers.]

[Taken from the first lecture of Professor Martin Moors Philosophy of Being 2008 course: "From Mythos to Logos - From Logos to Mythos," at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Professor Moors is not just a remarkably gifted instructor, he is as well a renowned metaphysician and Kant scholar. His publication list is available here.

The ideas I here present are not my property, but belong to Prof. Moors. A suggested citation:

Moors, Martin. "From Mythos to Logos - From Logos to Mythos: Class 1." Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. 25-Sept-2008.


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