On the topic of uncharitability, here’s a pretty good example from mythology expert G.S. Kirk:
If I am right, then, the belief in mythical thinking directed to visual and figurative objects is a hangover from the crude psychology of the late eighteenth century and the unworldly epistemology of the early nineteenth.
The detailed understanding of myths and their possible relations to philosophy has been seriously distorted by those learned Hegelian speculations–as well, of course, as by the primitivism of Sir Edward Tylor and Lucien Levy-Bruhl, the naive comparatism of Sir James Frazer, the sociological exaggerations of Durkheim, Jane Harrison, and the early Cornford, the ponderous neo-Kantian epistemology of Cassirer and the romantic functionalism of Levi-Strauss. Deprived of support from dreams (not a form of thought) and primitive mentality (a chimaera), ‘mythical thinking’ can be clearly seen for what it is: the unnatural offspring of a psychological anachronism, an epistemological confusion and a historical red herring.
G.S. Kirk, The Nature of Greek Myths
Jung and Snell also get criticized, though Vernant shockingly gets a pass.
Now, I like Kirk and he has a lot of great stuff to say on the subject, but it’s hard not to be put off a bit by a sweeping dismissal like this, as well as the implication that finally, with Kirk, we have got it right. There’s a place for his grouchy English empiricism that refuses all blatant superstructures, but that’s its own sort of superstructure. Walter Burkert, of whom Kirk approves, is far more charitable to even the most dubious of his predecessors.
On the other hand, Cassirer, Snell, and Levi-Strauss make it into Kirk’s Suggestions for Further Reading, as does, inexplicably, Jung and Kerenyi’s Introduction to a Science of Mythology. (I can just imagine Kirk putting “[sic]” after every noun in that title.)
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