Research Project : "Philosophical misunderstandings around the myth of Ulysses"
This project questions different biases regarding the philosophical interpretation of the myth of Ulysses. Ulysses can be seen as the symbol of two ways of thinking about man’s relationship to Reason. According to a first interpretation, Ulysses, seen as a positive hero, a traveler and an apprentice philosopher embodies the “humanist” pole for a Reason which is synonymous with emancipation from a “mythical” context. Refusing Calypso’s offer of immortality, he makes the choice for a life freed from dependence on the gods. According to this approach, the Odyssey is a philosophical epic narrating the hardships that this choice forces him to endure. According to the second approach, he is on the contrary, the negative hero of the triumphant instrumental Reason, purely motivated by self-preservation at any price and therefore violent towards his social and symbolic entourage. The misunderstanding is that these two interpretative options assume that Reason has, in Homeric imaginary, the same signification as in their own. However, nothing in the Odyssey corresponds to what Conche, Ferry, and Adorno, Horkheimer call Reason. These definitions have been handed down from a dualistic vision of culture. They do not represent the duality of Homeric thinking which, far from establishing irreducible distinctions and hierarchies (myth vs reason; religious vs secular; self vs other; tradition vs modernity), sets up a bipolarity in which clarity and the search for stable reference points and a balanced kosmos, necessarily involves opacity, a vehicle for confusion, and a vital part of any form of identity. This is how we interpret Ulysses’ polytropic, opaque and rolling identity – his mètis. A study of Ulysses’ intelligence in a crisis – for the epic is a literature of crisis – tells us less about the “Greek Miracle”, seen as the awakening or the triumph of a proto-dualistic Reason, and more about the Greek commitment to creating and maintaining their own opacity. An opacity which, far from emerging as the veil which must be lifted by Reason, is presented as an aesthetic, anthropological and ontological value.