Lecture topic: The emergence of conceptual and logical reasoning from the field of myth.
Homer’s epic poems had a huge impact on the entire history of Antiquity, and later, on the culture of the Modern age. For Ancient Greeks, the Iliad and the Odyssey weren’t just a favorite reading, but also an integral part of education, used as fundamental texts at schools. Not surprisingly therefore, Ancient Greek philosophers found evidence for illustrating their ideas in Homer’s works. Plato criticized Homer for depicting the gods’ misbehavior, but used his characters for constructing his own world of ideas and a paradigm of reasoning. Aristotle introduced the concept of metaphor and also exploited some elements of Homer’s language as examples. These are just single cases revealing the great poet’s overall influence though—more important, however, is the fact that the intense metaphorical language of his works embodied seeds of conceptual and logical thinking, which later laid the foundation for the emergence of Ancient Greek philosophy from the field of myth.
“In all history, nothing is so surprising or so difficult to account for as the sudden rise of civilization in Greece. Much of what makes civilization had already existed for thousands of years in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, and had spread thence to neighbouring countries. But certain elements had been lacking until the Greeks supplied them. What they achieved in art and literature is familiar to everybody, but what they did in the purely intellectual realm is even more exceptional. They invented mathematics * and science and philosophy; they first wrote history as opposed to mere annals; they speculated freely about the nature of the world and the ends of life, without being bound in the fetters of any inherited orthodoxy.” (Bertrand Russell. The History of Western Philosophy. 1945.)