[ExI] re Odyssey, hero

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 15:11:40 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 8:50 PM, Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com>

> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:53 PM, William Flynn Wallace <
> foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:26 PM, Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 12:21 PM, William Flynn Wallace <
>>> foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> Yes, it has a happy ending, if you like wide scale murder from a thug.
>>>> Odysseus is a thug:  raider of villages, murderer, raper, thief.
>>>> This is a hero?
>>> By whose moral standards? I think that of that time, he was likely
>>> viewed as a hero -- a very different kind of hero too since he used his
>>> wits rather than brute force -- to succeed. And the happy ending is he gets
>>> back, despite a god being against him and all the trials, manages to save
>>> his wife and house.
>>> Note, too, that this seems an extra-esthetics question: what's heroic or
>>> moral is not determined by art but something removed from it. Of course,
>>> someone like Ayn Rand might argue that the two are closely tied together.
>>> She believed art is supposed to project the moral ideal. You might look at
>>> her esthetics, since some of what she says seems to go along with your
>>> tastes.
>>> And is a hero -- in the sense of some titan, moral or otherwise --
>>> necessary to have a happy ending? If the protagonists win in the end and
>>> she or he is not too bad and the endeavor is not too repugnant to your
>>> moral sensibilities -- in other words, it's not about a a sociopath wanting
>>> to burn puppies alive getting his happy ending because he thwarts animals
>>> lovers to live his dream -- then isn't that a happy ending? You know, like
>>> in a rom-com?
>>>  One should not apply current morality to what is going on the Illiad or
>>> Odyssey. (Anders)
>>> Come on, Anders, 'should not'?  I don't like 'should'.  It restricts me
>> unnecessarily.
> Well, if you want to understand why others might think Odysseus was a hero
> and the epic based on his story is one with a happy ending, especially if
> those others lived thousands of years ago and were members of a culture
> very different from ours, then it might not be helpful to apply
> contemporary moral standards as if they illuminate. You think of Odysseus
> as a thug, but that wouldn't have been so for Homer's ancient audience in
> my understanding. They would see him as offering up a moral example as well
> as his story being entertaining and would likely be rooting for him against
> his myriad enemies, including the Suitors. At least, this is my
> understanding.
> (It's interesting, too, watching a recent TV version of Shakespeare's
> "Henry V" how I would agree with many of your moral intuitions here about
> Henry V. The titular character in the play goes pillaging and destroying
> across France because he's been slighted and has some claims to the lands.
> This gives him the right to threaten to destroy cities and murder with
> abandon. But I can step back from this and see how Shakespeare's initial
> audience might not have agreed with my views.)
> I am supposed to apply other peoples' standards, not my own? O killed all
>> of this household staff, did he not?  This is happy?
> In the context of the epic, though, those people were bad people. The
> staff he killed were siding with the Suitors -- the Suitors who were merely
> trying to grab power in Ithaca. Also, they would've have forcibly married
> his wife and likely have killed his son. Even if you feel Odysseus was a
> thug, they were no better. But in the context of the story, they're
> supposedly much worse. (Another moral problem for me is a god blinds many
> of them to their hubris -- similar to how the god of the Jews blinds the
> pharaoh to his hubris, helping to seal his fate. Why not simply let them
> see the error of their ways and change? Well, would we remember such an
> alternative epic? Imagine "King Lear" rewritten so that Lear doesn't make
> his mistakes and is a bit wiser and less angry. It might please you as a
> lover of happy endings, but it be boring as hell.)
>> ​OK, happy if you are a thug without a conscience.  Surely you can agree
>>> that he is that by our standards.  Was Torquemada a great Christian by the
>>> standards of the day?
>> ​Heroes can have tragic endings.  Jesus for one.  I am sure a Christian
>> would argue that it was the fulfillment of a prophecy and was wonderful,
>> but to me it's tragic.​
> To Christians, of course, Jesus is resurrected, so there's a big
> difference there: he ultimately wins.
> Heroes can indeed have tragic endings, though the reason I raised up the
> example of this epic was that it's conventionally considered to have a
> happy ending: despite all his troubles, the protagonist succeeds in the
> end. He gets home, defeats his enemies, and wins in the end. Not so for
> many of his companions and colleagues. (Think of what happens to Achilles,
> Ajax, Agamemnon, and Menelaus. Of course, the last survives and gets home
> earlier, but it doesn't look like all's well in his house.)
>> ​By the way, Ilium and Olympos, by Dan Simmons​
>> ​, follow the Trojan war, sort of, and are fine fantasy/scifi.
> Thanks for the recommendation. I really enjoyed Simmons' _The Song of
> Kali_.
> Regards,
> Dan
> ​If we can assume that Homer's epics underwent no change, I can assume
that the morals of that society were barbaric.  OK< so Greeks have had
great philosophers, but that says little about the common man.

I am not lacking understanding of viewing things according to the
historical context, but nothing prohibits me from viewing them according to
me, either.​

​I assume that great writers know their readers, so including a lot of
violence is sure to please.

Did you know that there is a theory that Homer did not 'write' those
epics?  That they were written by another blind poet also named Homer?​  I
am not quite sure what this says about English departments, but it's not
good.  (I am so happy that I did not choose to be among them when I fled
law school.)

In the context of the epic, you are right about all of it, but seem
determined that I am missing the 'correct' interpretation.

Do you really want to say that?  I have to doubt it.

​If Rand is saying that art should project a moral ideal, then she and I
have little in common.​  I would never put 'should' in any aesthetic
context.  The Stalinists did, and look what they got from it -  people like
Shostakovich being told he had to rewrite some of his music.

Bottom line:  I just hate violence, even if it seems justified.  It lowers
us all to torture, for example.  The only moral war we've had is WWII
(don't really know much about WWI).  Everything else has been a chance for
Halliburton and the like to profit from mass killings.  Eisenhower did warn

So I avoid all literature and movies which are violence oriented.  I guess
my testosterone level has just sunk, because I used to love boxing and all
the rest.
In my book, which I suppose I will have to get someone to co-write if it
will ever see the light of day, hormones get turned on at 6 p.m. and off at
midnight.  So the war planning that was done last night looks disgusting
the next day.  Whoopee!

In other words, we are animals that need reprogramming to get us out of
this tribe versus tribe mentality.

bill w
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