Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time

David R. Godine Publisher
7
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Ever since the Greeks coined the language we commonly use for scientific description, mythology and science have developed separately. But what came before the Greeks? What if we could prove that all myths have one common origin in a celestial cosmology? What if the gods, the places they lived, and what they did are but ciphers for celestial activity, a language for the perpetuation of complex astronomical data? Drawing on scientific data, historical and literary sources, the authors argue that our myths are the remains of a preliterate astronomy, an exacting science whose power and accuracy were suppressed and then forgotten by an emergent Greco-Roman world view. This fascinating book throws into doubt the self-congratulatory assumptions of Western science about the unfolding development and transmission of knowledge. This is a truly seminal and original thesis, a book that should be read by anyone interested in science, myth, and the interactions between the two.
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Additional Information

Publisher
David R. Godine Publisher
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Published on
Dec 31, 1977
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Pages
505
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ISBN
9780879232153
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Based on Nietzsche’s critique of religion and culture, and engaging the contemporary offshoots of that critique, this book assesses the myths of origins that have been used to articulate the fundamental attitude toward the relationship between shame and beauty. In reconsidering some of the myths upon which the West is based, from Hesiod and Greek mythology to Plato and the Bible, Hans pursues the ways in which we have habitually separated shame and beauty in order to create the grounds that would provide us with the authority for our lives we think we need. By juxtaposing Socrates’ repression of violence in The Republic and Nietzsche’s conception of the overman, the author revises the network of relations that are associated with the religious, the aesthetic, and the political, asserting that the religious derives from the aesthetic rather than the other way around, and establishing a necessary connection between the political and the aesthetic.

Hans aims to raise yet again the questions embodied in Nietzsche’s attempt to prompt humans to face the true status of their actions in the world: are we finally able to address our shame without immediately projecting it onto another or repressing it? If so, what changes might we see in the psychological, social, and political worlds we would create out of such an acknowledgment? What value is to be found in accepting the uneasy relationship between shame and beauty upon which our lives rest? While The Origins of the Gods provides no definitive answers to such questions simply because none are possible, it makes use of such queries in order to reassert the great importance of Nietzsche’s affirmation of the value of the world as it is. It argues that this affirmation has something crucial to offer if we are willing to forgo an authorized existence and confront the beauty and shame from which our lives are inevitably constituted.
Why were Prometheus and Loki envisioned as chained to rocks? What was the Golden Calf? Why are mirrors believed to carry bad luck? How could anyone think that mortals like Perseus, Beowulf, and St. George actually fought dragons, since dragons don't exist? Strange though they sound, however, these "myths" did not begin as fiction.

This absorbing book shows that myths originally transmitted real information about real events and observations, preserving the information sometimes for millennia within nonliterate societies. Geologists' interpretations of how a volcanic cataclysm long ago created Oregon's Crater Lake, for example, is echoed point for point in the local myth of its origin. The Klamath tribe saw it happen and passed down the story--for nearly 8,000 years.


We, however, have been literate so long that we've forgotten how myths encode reality. Recent studies of how our brains work, applied to a wide range of data from the Pacific Northwest to ancient Egypt to modern stories reported in newspapers, have helped the Barbers deduce the characteristic principles by which such tales both develop and degrade through time. Myth is in fact a quite reasonable way to convey important messages orally over many generations--although reasoning back to the original events is possible only under rather specific conditions.


Our oldest written records date to 5,200 years ago, but we have been speaking and mythmaking for perhaps 100,000. This groundbreaking book points the way to restoring some of that lost history and teaching us about human storytelling.

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were—and still are. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. Fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach.

With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it. Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age.

This new edition of Kuhn’s essential work in the history of science includes an insightful introduction by Ian Hacking, which clarifies terms popularized by Kuhn, including paradigm and incommensurability, and applies Kuhn’s ideas to the science of today. Usefully keyed to the separate sections of the book, Hacking’s introduction provides important background information as well as a contemporary context. Newly designed, with an expanded index, this edition will be eagerly welcomed by the next generation of readers seeking to understand the history of our perspectives on science.
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