The Myth

prometeus1

I ended up reading the Prometheus myth today. The forethoughtful Titan who according to Greek Mythology created man out of clay and into this clay figure Athena breathed life.

Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, and wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man. Prometheus loved man more then the Olympians and gave him fire. After a series of conflict between Prometheus, Zeus and the mortal creatures in the story entered Pandora with a box full with evil. Ironically,  at the bottom of the box lay Hope and when one expect the story to end it actually begin.

The structure of the myth has been deeply investigated  by Claude Lévi-Strauss, a French anthropologist and  and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology.  He applies rigorous logic to the ‘primitive’ stories which capture the imagination of painters, poets, writers and philosophers.

The synthetic logic of the myth could be described as a grid, drawn from an abstract idea or personal experience, or internal/external and objective/subjective dependencies from the human soul to the cosmos.

The creative process of the story grows continuously ‘until the intellectual impulse which has originated it is exhausted’. The skeleton of the story according to Lévi-Strauss is a formula where two terms and two functions of these terms are related under conditions that one term could be replaced by its contrary and that an inversion could be made between the function and the term value of the two elements.

In the example of Prometheus myth, Prometheus could escape his fate only  in two conditions: The first was that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus, and the second was that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him.

Lévi-Strauss is trying to approximate the logic of thoughts that created Greek Mythology to the modern science saying that ‘the difference lies not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of the things to which it is applied’.

‘In the same way we may be able to show that the same logical processes are put to use in myth as in science, and that man has always been thinking equally well; the improvement lies, not in an alleged progress of men’s consciousness, but in discovery of new things to which it may apply its unchangeable abilities’.

 

 

 

 

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Author: nedyalkapanova

Visual Artist working at the interface between Art and Science. Current project: Artist as a materials scientist. Guest artist to Organic Semiconductor Centre, Physics Department, University of St. Andrews.

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