Myth and philosophy

Myth and philosophy

[ 3/May/23 Walter asked – Is philosophy just a collection of methods of myth-making and myths themselves?
Yes, No, ?]

This is where the non-specificity of the English language allows for an almost infinite set of interpretations.

If one takes a hard binary definition of “myth” as “A purely fictitious narrative”, then the answer is clearly no.

If one takes a deeply softer and more nuanced definition of myth as something “embodying some popular idea” (even if that idea is popular only within the community of systems that make up one individual), then it starts to take on the flavour of a heuristic, or a “useful approximation” to something(s).

Philosophy is undoubtedly a collection of conjectures, tools, processes. In every individual mind there will be instantiated some collection of perceptions (some approximations to some aspects of “reality” encountered), to which that mind will have added significance and connections (at some set of levels – both conscious and subconscious). If that mind uses simple binary distinctions, then there will be hard boundaries between those things, if the mind uses probabilistic logics, then the boundaries will be blurred, and may overlap significantly.

If the mind deals only with what is “present” then the relationships can seem “hard”, but if the mind deals with multiple levels of structure and influence, in probabilistic fashion, then the “influence vectors” become deeply complex and are often profoundly uncertain, while at other times and contexts can reasonably approximate unity.

Philosophy at its best is a mix of conjectures and evidence, derived from the realms of logics and mathematics, applied to whatever approximations to “reality” that our experience has given us. In my experience of “reality” it seems clear that it is sufficiently complex that it is capable of delivering novelty and interest should any of us manage to live for the rest of eternity – the numbers really are that large, but few people are sufficiently numerate and interested in number and are sufficiently comfortable with the levels of uncertainty present, to make those explorations.

So in my probabilistic understandings of existence, all “knowledge” has the soft aspect of myth, and delivers levels of confidence, but someone coming from any level of binary understanding would necessarily misinterpret that statement as meaning almost the exact opposite of what I intend.

And there are strong evolutionary drivers for us to prefer simple approximations that normally work, provided that they are sufficiently reliable to allow most to survive in the contexts encountered. The more stressed an individual is, the stronger one would expect such subconscious drivers to be – to the point that someone in severe stress would actually experience the world as consisting of friend or foe, with nothing in between (everything, every level, resolved to simple binary 1s or 0s) – that is why the law acknowledges “crimes of passion” (even if the law makers did not understand the evolutionary or neurological or games theoretic drivers – they understood the reality to some useful approximation).

So as with most answers related to “reality”, there are no simple “yes or no” answers – reality does seem to be (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) deeply more complex and fundamentally uncertain than that – and often the dictates of time demand that we use very simple binary approximations, and at some level it pays for us to always retain awareness that that is in fact what we are doing.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
This entry was posted in Philosophy, understanding and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s