Re: French culture and extropianism (was Re: Hello)

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Thu Nov 15 2001 - 08:56:35 MST

On Wednesday, November 14, 2001 9:55 AM Amara Graps wrote:
[Forward of a Remi Sussan email]
> Vernant is great. He wrote with Marcel Detienne a book which, IMHO, is
> extremely interesting for people interested in transhumanism, about the
> goddess Metis (Metis ou Les ruses de l'intelligence). as you probably
> Greek viewed knowledge as a very abstract thing, and discarded strongly
> practical application; contrary to Romans, they despised technology. But
> Metis is a kind of "underground" goddess, associated with "tekne" and all
> kinds of practical tricks, and, because of Greek repulsion toward this
> aspect of thought, appears as very ambiguous to them. Odysseus, for
> is a "metisian hero", but Odysseus, although being well-known, is much
> exemplary of the "hero" than Hercules or Achilles.
> Of course, it would be interesting to see in Metis a "Goddess",i.e. a
> mythological role model, for philosophies involved in technology...

I also like Vernant, especially his _Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece_ (a
collection of essays along with Pierre Vidal-Naquet). While I might not
agree with every point they (him, Vidal-Naquet, and Detienne) make, they are

Greek ambiguity as well as distaste for practical matters is more a
mainstream view -- and one with firm roots in the field long before Vernant
et al. came on the scene. You also have to be aware of looking at the
Greeks through Modern eyes. You can't step outside of this totally, but you
can be aware of it.

For instance, with Odysseus, it may be true that he is different from many
other Greek heroes, BUT he is there nonetheless and in one of their most
celebrated and influential poems. Therefore, I don't see him as less
examplary. I see him, in fact, as a sort of break with earlier heroes. The
Greeks were still mired in the old, too, but they also had this new type of
hero -- a hero of the mind. (Notably, Odysseus' strong suit -- in terms of
character; it's obvious he was no whimp and also had some gods on his
side -- is his ability to think through just any situation.) So, I don't
dismiss him from the pantheon of Greek heroes, though he's very different
from most of the rest.

> As for Vernant teaching French politicians, I cannot tell you, but I seem
> remember he had been involved politically in his youth (leftist), so
> he continues to have some contacts...

Well, that should be evident from some of his writings. He comes off as a
Marxist scholar -- albeit not an unreconstructed, one-dimensional one.

> Jacqueline de Romilly is one of the most famous historian of Greece in
> France, but I don't know a lot about her (although I have probably one of
> her books on my shelves, but who knows...;)

She certainly is (but she's also one of the leading lights of Ancient Greek
scholarship regardless of nation). I'm not sure if I've ever read anything
by her, BUT, in almost every scholarly work on Ancient Greece I've read,
she's cited. (For example, only yesterday, I finished reading Chester
Starr's 1989 book _The Influence of Seapower on Ancient History_, a book
that challenges Mahan's ideas of seapower in Ancient times. That book had
several citations of her work.)


Daniel Ust

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