Definitions and Origins

Philosophy and Psychology of Myths

Why do humans tell myths?

A contemporary philosopher once suggested that the role of humans is “to make creation conscious of itself.” We do exactly that by telling stories, and myths are our collective primal cultural stories. They are a celebration of characteristics which, as far as we know, only humans among earth’s species possess. Humans are constantly conscious of what Aristotle called “plot” or “mythos.” Aristotle defined plot as narrative that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Unlike other creatures, we are aware of beginnings, middles, and ends. We see ourselves as characters in personal stories and ultimately in the great collective story of the “road of life.” We think of our past (our beginnings), our lives now (our present), and our final future (our end). Our myths are our cultural reflections of this thought in its most basic form. What we think of as literature later expands on this basic thought and gives it complex author-inspired details and experiences, reflecting real periods and places and histories. Humans tell stories because consciousness revealed in the telling of stories is what defines us as a species. Ancient myths are our earliest cultural stories. We tell myths because we have to, because we are born storytellers.


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