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Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education

Learning from Myths and Metaphors

Mordechai Gordon

Myths and metaphors share not only an ability to call our attention to aspects of our world of which we were previously unaware, but also a propensity toward symbolic meanings and interpretations. In Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education: Learning from Myths and Metaphors, Professor Gordon draws on some well-known myths and metaphors of various Existentialist thinkers and writers as a lens and an interpretative framework with which to explore a variety of issues in philosophy of education. His book argues that symbolic or metaphorical interpretations can offer us representations of problems in education that go beyond what we can gain when we consider them only in their literal sense. Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education is an excellent classroom text for a variety of foundations courses, including the Philosophy of Education.


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The Significance of Myths and Metaphors History teaches us that myths and metaphors have been with us a long time, at least since the heyday of Ancient Greek culture in the sixth through the fourth centuries BC and probably long before that. A myth, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to “a traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon.” Most cultural myths were never intended to be interpreted literally; rather they were designed as ‘truths’ and ‘descriptions’ given to us in symbolic language and phrases so we could better understand the beliefs, traditions, and practices of a given society. This ancient understanding of myth contrasts with a more current meaning of this word, which associates it with a widely held misconception or misrepresenta- tion of the truth (OED). Catalin Partenie explains the distinction between the two notions of myth when she writes that “what the ancient Greeks—at least in the archaic phase of their civilization—called muthos was quite differ- ent from what we and the media nowadays call ‘myth.’ For them a muthos was a true story, a story that unveils the true origin of the world and human beings. 2 existential philosophy and the promise of education For us a myth is something to be ‘debunked’: a widespread, popular belief that is in fact false.”1 In...

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