The Mighty Aphrodite

'[The Greeks] habit of representing their gods in vividly realized human form was not a piece of theology, it was a piece of poetry. When they described or portrayed Aphrodite, for example, they did not think they were describing or portraying a magnified and non-natural woman who, by the exercise of something like will, but a superhuman will, brought about the various events which together made up her realm, namely, the events connected with sexual reproduction. They did not think they were describing or portraying a person who controlled these events, they thought they were describing or portraying these events themselves, regarded generically as natural events, or events not under human control, and specifically as sexual events. The human or quasi-human figure of Aphrodite is merely the poetical way in which they represented these events to themselves.'

-- R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (emphasis mine)


  1. Was this the essay where he talked about getting jumped by Pan in the woods or something like that?

  2. That's probably in his book on enchantment, which I hope to read this week. I first ran across this explanation of mythology in Cassirer, and it transformed my understanding of the Greeks. It was nice to see another of my intellectual heroes saying essentially the same thing.

  3. All my intellectual heroes say exactly the same thing, same as I do, otherwise I should cut them dead.

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