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 the first session, we followed 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. Read more about the first session here.
In this second session, 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. We’ll ask all participants to spend a few minutes each day, during the week between the two sessions, working with these two myths on their own in light of what we’ve learned in the first session, so that we can all bring the fruits of that work to share with one another: both specific interpretations and understandings of the myths themselves, and more general challenges or insights about the mythic mode of thinking.
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 week, 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 session led by philosopher David Nowakowski will take place in the Conference Center in Reeder’s Alley. Please note, this second session (in our two-part series) is intended as an opportunity to apply the lessons of the first session and, as such, is open to participants of the 1st session only.
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.
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