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What is the purpose of mythology?
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Mythology metaphorically explains aspects of the human condition

Most myths are metaphors that helped put people into relationships with themselves and others around them. They were not merely created to explain the outside world. Instead, they connect far more intimately to the world that exists within each of us.


Many myths, like that of Icarus, Oedipus, Narcissus, and Pygmalion, convey moral messages, as opposed to explanations for natural phenomena.

The Argument

Though many people attempt to oversimplify myths as scientifically flawed explanations of natural phenomena, it is clear that many go deeper than that. After all, some myths end with a sort of thesis statement (“and that’s why the turtle has its shell,”) but many others do not seem to explain anything at all until we begin to look at them metaphorically. Take, for example, the famous ancient Greek myth of Icarus. The story tells of a man who, seeking to escape from the island Crete with his father Daedalus, makes wings for himself out of feathers and wax. Though Daedalus cautions him not to fly too close to the sun for fear of the wax melting, Icarus, delirious with excitement when he sees that his wings are working, ignores his warnings. As Icarus soars higher and higher, the wax of his wings starts to melt, plunging him to a watery death. Evidently, this tale does not explain any natural event. Rather, it relays the dangers of man’s hubris. Perhaps more importantly, it does so in a way that allows the audience to connect with ideals that could seem abstract. In other words, myths not only discuss important aspects of the human experience, but they also force the audience to relate to and reflect on the moral messages they relay. Thus, it is clear that myths were not created to merely explain the outside world. They connect far more intimately to the world that exists within each of us.

Counter arguments

This argument is a pithy overgeneralization of mythology that attempts to impose metaphorical meaning onto stories that are often no more than botched scientific explanations or folklore designed for entertainment. Though some myths certainly have metaphorical overtones that can extend to the internal lives of its audience, it is misleading to imply that all, or even most, myths are the same.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 01:53 UTC

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