Did the Greeks believe in their Myths? – Paul Veyne

These reviews are not easy to write, but I like them because they oblige me to interact with what I am reading, and thus not read passively. I think they are even harder when the book is complete and utter garbage.

There. I said it.

Some books should do what they say on the cover. Particularly when on the cover there is a question that you have been asking yourself for years. One would expect that the book would address exactly that. Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths should then address exactly that question. But about fifty pages in to the book, I still had no idea if the book would even go about answering that question. Closer to the end, I found that the author had kind of glossed over the answer to the titular question preferring to focus on whatever it is that this author wrote.

There are a lot of shitty works to come out of Academia, and a lot of it came out of the same school and period now broadly labeled as Post-Modernism. That is a massive subject that cant be distilled into this review, but it is safe to suggest that this book was negatively impacted by that movement. Even what the book did try to address, (some kind of theory of belief structures) didn’t seem half as valid as any introduction to Epistemology book that I have read.

But what is bad about this book isn’t just that. It is also just a bad work more generally. I was bothered by many of the bald ass assertions this book made and just allowed to fly. “Myth is information.” Excuse me? “Myth is not a specific mode of thought.” What? Buddy you don’t get to just say that shit. That’s not how any of this works. The first of those statements is invalid, while the second is irrelevant. Redefining myth to be or not be something we already have words for does us no good unless you first prove it to be the necessary. I never saw that proof. As for the second, I would never even have thought that myth might be a specific mode of thought until you brought it up. I dont see people making that case.

I had a hard time reading this book. I forced myself to read it only because I always really wanted to know the answer to this question.

If I had to drag out of this experience some kind of silver lining out of this book it is that I now know what I would reasonably expect in regards to an answer to this question. But I am reasonably sure that this was not it.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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