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184Philosophy and Literature Did tL· Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on tL· Constitutive Imagination, by Paul Veyne; translated by PaulaWissing; xii& 161 pp. Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1988, $25.00 cloth, $10.95 paper. On the final page of his essay Veyne responds to his tide's question, '"But of course they believed in their myths!' We have simply wanted also to make it clear that what is true of 'them' is also true of ourselves . . ." (p. 129). According to Veyne the Greeks, like us, were able both to believe and to disbelieve aspects of their myths. "They believe in them, but they use them and cease believing at the point where their interest in believing ends" (p. 84). Veyne begins his book with some hard-headed analyses of ancient historiography . He dwells mosdy on Pausanias, but uses various historians' statements on credulity to establish the idea that ancient historians are litde concerned with the accuracy of their sources. Veyne asserts that the historian's phrase "it is said" may automatically mean "it is true," given a certain understanding of truth. On the other hand, both Pausanias and Herodotus make curious statements which suggest their incredulity of the very stories they relate. Veyne understands from the tension between credulity and incredulity that the nature of ancient belief was complex and dynamic. From this notion of Greek credulity Veyne develops his own ideas about the nature of truth. He is thus able, by the end ofthe essay, to affirm that our own varieties ofbeliefresemble those ofthe Greeks precisely because truth is, and always was, "plural and analogical" (p. 87). But are the statements of these ancient historians valid grounds for an understanding of the nature of ancient mythological belief? In the jump from historiography to theory of myth, Veyne has depended more upon his own notions of the plural nature of truth than he has on ancient evidence for the nature of mythological belief. This book is not about Pausanias, or anything else in antiquity. The author really wants to talk about the "plural and analogical" (p. 87) nature of truth; so these discussions of ancient thought finally seem nothing more than a peg for his own assertions. He has used his own understanding of the nature of truth to argue for an ancient simUarity between historical and mythological credulity. "An ancient historian does not cite his authorities, for he feels that he is a potential authority himself" (p. 9). So too does Veyne feel that his own notions of truth are more important than the precise analysis of ancient historiography and mythography. (And, like the ancient historians whom he discusses, Veyne does not feel compeUed to cite his authorities with any rigor. There are at least twenty-four instances in which Veyne faUs to give an adequate reference for a quotation or discussion ofanother author's work.) By the time we have reached the final chapter we have whoUy lost Pausanias and ancient thought. The Reviews185 argument and its language have become quite vague: "Our hypothesis can be stated in this way as well: At each moment, nothing exists or acts outside these palaces of the imagination. . . . These palaces are not buUt in space, then. They are the only space avaUable" (p. 121). This reader was much more interested in Veyne's analysis of ancient historiography than in his phüosophical speculations . Finally, it is not clear that Veyne's musings on the mutability of truth are particularly Uluminated by his discussion of Pausanias's doubt. Certainly Pausanias had notions of truth which merit a detailed examination. Ancient authors are done a disservice when a precise examination of their thought is replaced by a critic's own assertions about the nature of truth. Whitman CollegeDana L. Burgess Altarity, by Mark C. Taylor; xxxiv & 371 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, $42.50 cloth, $15.95 paper. The period 1975—1985 was the United Nation's "International Decade for Women." Perhaps a postmodern United post-Nations should declare an "International Decade of The Other," with Mark Taylor's Altarity as its guiding text. Ofcourse, there is a connection between the thematics ofwoman and the (anti-) notion of the Other, and further...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 184-185
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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