Myths—inspired stories which relate “things which never happened at any particular time, but which always are,” in one ancient author’s memorable phrase—have played an important role in wisdom traditions around the world. But the role of myth is often woefully misunderstood in our contemporary society, where myths are seen as mere fiction, falsehood, or silly stories that “other people” tell who are “too ignorant to do science,” the way “we” do.
In this two-part series, we’ll try to recover a richer, more robust understanding of myth, with the help of some Platonist philosophers of the 3rd-5th centuries, who defended and explained mythic modes of knowing for an age, much like ours, in which elite opinion scorned traditional myths.
In this first session, we’ll follow Sallustius, Hermias, Proclus, and other late antique Platonists as they examine two specific mythic stories: one drawn from Homer’s Iliad, and another taken from the works of Plato himself. With their help, we’ll build a robust toolkit of strategies for approaching interpreting myths. By following them in their rich, multi-layered interpretations, we’ll begin to cultivate a sense of what it’s like to think mythically, where apparently divergent interpretations do not simply co-exist, but mutually enrich one another. And we’ll gesture beyond Homer and Plato, to consider Sallustius’ suggestion that the entire cosmos can be read as a myth.
In the second session (which will be held 1 week after this one), we’ll work together to apply the strategies we’ve collected to two further myths: one from Plato, and one from the Old Norse Eddas. See more about what we’ll be exploring in our second session here.
NOTE: Since the second session—and the week’s work leading up to it—are intended as an opportunity to apply the lessons of the first session, we will ask that only those who have been part of the initial exploration on FIRST DATE attend the second session on SECOND DATE.
Workshop Series: Reading Myths Philosophically
w/ Philosopher David Nowakowski
When & Where
This workshop series led by philosopher David Nowakowski will take place in the Conference Center in Reeder’s Alley on Thursday, Sept. 28th & Thursday, Oct. 5th. You are welcome to come to just the first session or both. No prior background in philosophy is required to participate.
David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives. David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since. A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014. His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & West, Asian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere.
After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.
Our philosophy workshops andother activities are FREE to the community. While donations are never expected, they are always appreciated and help to keep programs like these going. Donations help to cover workshop leader honorariums, implementation, and resource archiving, and more! If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution you can do so by clicking here or on the button above. For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community.