Memory and The Myth of Prometheus

  • Halil Turan
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 101)


In Aeschylus’ interpretation of the myth, Prometheus is depicted as having bestowed upon humankind not only the technē of reproducing and using fire for any conceivable art, but practically all arts and sciences. Memory, in this interpretation seems to be the necessary condition of all sciences. If any systematic inquiry is possible only through keeping past experience in memory, then Prometheus’ keeping the fire in a narthex must be a metaphor that refers to “keeping” in a universal sense. Hence, what Prometheus stole away from Zeus by keeping it in a narthex is not simply fire as a tool, but the method to reproduce that tool. The ancients seem to have drawn relations between keeping characteristic features and orders of phenomena in memory and mastery in arts, but do not seem to have thought of an evolution of the human capacity of reasoning, they simply assumed that that power was a godly gift. Prometheus’ contrivance of carrying the ember in a hollow narthex, similarly the Lockean conception of memory as storehouse for ideas refer to locations and distances for things which can hardly be in space as actual objects of perception are. It is possible to conceive the capacity in question as a product of the entities that are said to be stored, that this power of keeping evolved through repercussions of past perceptions. Further, against skeptical arguments concerning the reality of the past, the reliability of memory can be shown in terms of mastery in technai: if one has the power to employ efficient tools to change the course of events, either in nature or in society, the reliability of memory is justified in Promethean terms.


Closed Space Actual Object Skeptical Argument Skeptical Hypothesis Objective Order 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

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  • Halil Turan

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