An ambitious reinterpretation and defense of Plato's basic enterprise and influence, arguing that the power of his myths was central to the founding of philosophical rationalism.
Plato's use of myths-the Myth of Metals, the Myth of Er-sits uneasily with his canonical reputation as the inventor of rational philosophy. Since the Enlightenment, interpreters like Hegel have sought to resolve this tension by treating Plato's myths as mere regrettable embellishments, irrelevant to his main enterprise. Others, such as Karl Popper, have railed against the deceptive power of myth, concluding that a tradition built on Platonic foundations can be neither rational nor desirable.
Tae-Yeoun Keum challenges the premise underlying both of these positions. She argues that myth is neither irrelevant nor inimical to the ideal of rational progress. She tracks the influence of Plato's dialogues through the early modern period and on to the twentieth century, showing how pivotal figures in the history of political thought-More, Bacon, Leibniz, the German Idealists, Cassirer, and others-have been inspired by Plato's mythmaking. She finds that Plato's followers perennially raised the possibility that there is a vital role for myth in rational political thinking. In the history of political thought it is a well-worn conceit that politics must be founded on reason alone, while the last burning embers of myth must be extinguished. In this thoughtful and nuanced exploration of Plato's legacy, Tae-Yeoun Keum seeks to qualify this prejudice, and she directs our attention to a more generous understanding of myth as an enduring-and perhaps even necessary-thread in the fabric of our collective life. -- Peter E. Gordon, Harvard University Myths do more than entertain. They direct our attention, structure our psyches, and regulate our societies. By taking the philosophical significance of myth seriously, Tae-Yeoun Keum rediscovers the depth of Plato's writings and offers a remarkable new account of his legacy. Following in the rich tradition of Ernst Cassirer and Hans Blumenberg, Keum suggests that myth and reason are not opposites, but instead complementary parts of the human effort to understand. -- Bryan Garsten, Yale University An important book for our troubled times. Beginning with Plato and extending into Plato's reception amongst modern theorists of myth, Keum's guiding question is whether myth, in its ability to captivate the mind in what might be described as a non-rational way, can achieve forms of communication that strictly rational
Plato and the Mythic Tradition in Political Thought