Are you logos- or mythos-oriented?

The terms “mythos” and “logos” are used to describe the transition in ancient Greek thought from the stories of gods, goddesses, and heroes (mythos) to the gradual development of rational philosophy and logic (logos). Source

Most of us turn to one or the other of these two perspectives, depending on circumstances, but most of us tend to favour one over the other.

I am logos-oriented. I am not religious, barely patriotic, and skeptical of policies that rely on good will to succeed. I tend to think that people act rationally, in the sense that they seek goals, that incentives can change those goals, and that they will respond in a fairly predictable way.

OTOH, I know there are many instances where people “go nuts” — sometimes for noble causes (to help a stranger) and sometimes to support strange beliefs (to fight an imagined foe).

So I need to be sensitive to the type of person or situation that I am in.

In most interactions with most people, I think it’s kinda normal to see the two different sides of the same person and we can get along just fine.

But some interactions can be troubling, such as when — for example — a Christian tells me that (a) God made the Earth 4500 years ago (their mythos against my logos) or (b) that Trump is a good president — despite being a terrible human — because he sells Bibles (their logos against my mythos). In those cases, I prefer to “agree to disagree” because it’s not worth trying to engage with such a different perspective, let alone get them to change it — since they may think that I am the one who needs change saving.

But how often can that happen, that you run into someone so different?

In the academic world, it’s a bit too common for my taste because academics can easily go for years (decades!) without facing the consequences of their beliefs, either in the people they interact with (peers agree; students better agree), which means that these academics can be more radical in their thoughts and less tolerant of those who do not hold them.

In this post, I discussed how academics in STEM and the humanities (BSc and BA, respectively) are fighting for control or power in universities. Those fights* are much worse due to their inexperience in dealing with “mixed” people in the real world, which is not just bad for their students but also for society, since the academics will not “give way” to the other side.

My bottom line is that you should “know thyself” but also know that “thy” has no monopoly on truth.

*An old joke: “Why are academic fights so brutal? Because the stakes are so small.”

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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