The Place of Myth in Philosophy

The Very Rev W. R. Inge

My subject is the place of myth in philosophy, not in religion. If I were dealing with the philosophy of religion, I should, of course, have much to say on the place of myth in theology; and what I have to say may have some bearing on this subject; but I am not dealing with particular dogmas of Christianity or of any other religion. My thesis is that when the mind communes with the world of values its natural and inevitable language is the language of poetry, symbol, and myth. And, further, that philosophy has to deal with a number of irreducible surds which cannot be rationalized. They must be accepted as given material for reason to work upon. For example, we do not know why there is a world; we cannot unify the world of what we call facts and the world of values; there are antinomies in space and time which do not seem to disappear when we put a hyphen between them. Our reason–some would say reason itself— has reached its limits. We are driven to mythologize, confessing that we have left the realm of scientific fact. We give rein to the imagination, not exactly claiming with Wordsworth that it is reason in her most exalted mood, but hoping that the creative imagination may reveal to us some of the real meaning of questions which we cannot answer.