'An elegant and sane little book. – The New Statesman
Myths, as Mary Midgley argues in this powerful book, are everywhere. In political thought they sit at the heart of theories of human nature and the social contract; in economics in the pursuit of self interest; and in science the idea of human beings as machines, which originates in the seventeenth century, is a today a potent force. Far from being the opposite of science, however, Midgley argues that myth is a central part of it. Myths are neither lies nor mere stories but a network of powerful symbols for interpreting the world. Tackling a dazzling array of subjects such as philosophy, evolutionary psychology, animals, consciousness and the environment in her customary razor-sharp prose, The Myths We Live By reminds us of the powerful role of symbolism and the need to take our imaginative life seriously.
Mary Midgley is a moral philosopher and the author of many books including Wickedness, Evolution as a Religion, Beast and Man and Science and Poetry. All are published in Routledge Classics.
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.
Join David Ponder on his incredible journey to discover the Seven Decisions for Success that can turn any life around, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller, The Traveler’s Gift is the continuation of David Ponder’s story in The Traveler’s Summit.