On the Philosophy of Mythology

A Lecture Delivered at the Royal Institution in 1871
  • Jon R. Stone


What can be in our days the interest of mythology? What is it to us that Kronos was the son of Uranos and Gaia, and that he swallowed his children, Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Pluton, and Poseidon, as soon as they were born? What have we to do with the stories of Rhea, the wife of Kronos, who, in order to save her youngest son from being swallowed by his father, gave her husband a stone to swallow instead? And why should we be asked to admire the exploits of this youngest son, who, when he had grown up, made his father drink a draught, and thus helped to deliver the stone and his five brothers and sisters from their paternal prison? What shall we think if we read in the most admired of classic poets that these escaped prisoners became afterwards the great gods of Greece, gods believed in by Homer, worshipped by Sokrates, immortalized by Pheidias? Why should we listen to such horrors as that Tantalos killed his own son, boiled him, and placed him before the gods to eat?; or that the gods collected his limbs, threw them into a cauldron, and thus restored Pelops to life, minus, however, his shoulder, which Demeter had eaten in a fit of absence, and which had therefore to be replaced by a shoulder made of ivory?


Ancient Nation Greek Mythology Dialectic Variety Discursive Thought Deep Draught 
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  1. 11.
    See E. B. Tylor, Fortnightly Review, 1866, p. 74.Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    “It has already been implied that the Aborigines of Tasmania had acquired very limited powers of abstraction or generalization. They possessed no words representing abstract ideas; for each variety of gum-tree and wattle-tree, etc., etc., they had a name, but they had no equivalent for the expression, ‘a tree’; neither could they express abstract qualities, such as hard, soft, warm, cold, long, short, round, etc.; for ‘hard’ they would say ‘like a stone;’ for ‘tall’ they would say ‘long legs,’ etc.; for ‘round’ they said ‘like a ball,’ ‘like the moon,’ and so on, usually suiting the action to the word, and confirming by some sign the meaning to be understood.” Milligan, Vocabulary of the Dialects of some of the Aboriginal Tribes of Tasmania, Hobart Town, 1866, p. 34.Google Scholar

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© Jon R. Stone 2002

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  • Jon R. Stone

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