Re: virus: Parables

Bill Godby (
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 22:43:52 -1000

At 09:57 AM 10/29/96 -0600, David McFadzean wrote:
>At 10:18 AM 28/10/96 -1000, Bill Godby wrote:
>>myth, rather it is complementary. The idea here is not to become
>>obsessed with truth, whether this one is right or wrong, which
>>completely skews the issue, but rather what does the myth/story/parable
>>tell you, and how, in relation to the society in which it exists.
>To paraphrase in virian terms (correct me if I'm wrong): the truth
>(accuracy) of a myth is not as important (interesting) as its
>meaning (effect). At face value, this seems to agree with Brodie's
>comments on how we should choose our beliefs.
>I guess the question I have is when is a less accurate belief more
>useful than a more accurate one?


The issue of belief or accuracy is not what mythology is about in my
opinion. I in fact tried to stay clear of that in getting my point across. I
was really only trying to convey that parables (which was the point in the
first place) were likely to be useful because they attempt to translate
information on a metaphorical level. I couldn't really answer when a less
accurate belief is more useful. I can only imagine that by your asking such
a question you have contextualized myth within a framework of truth and
science, pitting one against the other. They are not at odds with each
other. I agree with Campbell that a mythology much be based upon the
scientific knowledge of the day, and that a mythology based upon an archaic
science is going to be problematic and not do it's job very well. The idea
is that myth connects us to our environment and local circumstances, thus
you have myths that vary in tremendous ways since those circumstances change
dramatically over time. It's a very unusual topic to approach since Western
society appears to be very disconnected from mythology. However as I said I
think that it's alive and well in different manifestations and I hope that
my research in the future may shed some light in that direction. I wish I
could elucidate my arguments better but I can't without really spending some
major time clearly outlining what I'm thinking. I'm doing lots of that
already with mid-terms this week. Next week I'm off to England to the 5th
International Ethnographic Film Festival in Canterbury. I really miss taking
part in the discussions with CoV and hope eventually to get a handle on
things and participate. I do enjoy reading through things now and then. I'll
be lurking.

Bill Godby
University of Hawaii-Manoa
Anthropology Department