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Classical Greek Mythology

Orpheus, Orphism, and Philosophical Myths

What are philosophical myths?

The concept of the philosophical myth, as opposed to the kind of myths told by Homer and Hesiod and others, was developed by the Greek philosopher Plato (428–347 B.C.E.), a student of the philosopher Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.). Plato distinguished between a mythos (story) and a logos (concept). In effect, he made up stories to teach concepts; that is, he expressed thoughts via narratives, the idea being that humans understand better when ideas are turned into metaphors. It could be argued, of course, that most of the world’s myths are metaphors used to convey philosophy, but these traditional myths developed gradually in the folk tradition involving gods and heroes. Philosophical myths are created by an individual for a specific teaching purpose. Generally they do not require gods and heroes. The most famous philosophical myth is Plato’s allegory of the cave.



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