Story of Epimetheus

March 2nd, 2011

“Now man, having a share of the divine attributes, was at first the only one of the animals
who had any gods, because he alone was of their kindred; and he would raise altars and
images of them. He was not long in inventing articulate speech and names; and he also
constructed houses and clothes and shoes and beds, and drew sustenance from the earth.
Thus provided, mankind at first lived dispersed, and there were no cities. But the
consequence was that they were destroyed by the wild beasts, for they were utterly weak
in comparison of them, and their art was only sufficient to provide them with the means
of life, and did not enable them to carry on war against the animals: food they had, but
not as yet the art of government, of which the art of war is a part. After a while the desire
of self-preservation gathered them into cities; but when they were gathered together,
having no art of government, they evil intreated one another, and were again in process of
dispersion and destruction. Zeus feared that the entire race would be exterminated, and so
he sent Hermes to them, bearing reverence and justice to be the ordering principles of
cities and the bonds of friendship and conciliation. Hermes asked Zeus how he should
impart justice and reverence among men:-Should he distribute them as the arts are
distributed; that is to say, to a favoured few only, one skilled individual having enough of
medicine or of any other art for many unskilled ones? “Shall this be the manner in which
I am to distribute justice and reverence among men, or shall I give them to all?” “To all,”
said Zeus; “I should like them all to have a share; for cities cannot exist, if a few only
share in the virtues, as in the arts. And further, make a law by my order, that he who has
no part in reverence and justice shall be put to death, for he is a plague of the state.”

This portion Plato’s “Story of Epimetheus” helps convey an understanding about man’s tendencies to rely on constructing, both physical places such as cities as well as governments/ruling systems, to be reflective of self-preservation tactics borne out of genetic shortcomings for survival on the Earth as it was upon initial divine creation. Humans are held to be the only of the animals to be of divine likeness, and as such were the only ones who built up the monuments, altars, and places of worship in honor of their divine creator. Furthermore, what man lacked in the powers/physical talents as well as natural habitation that were bestowed upon all other animals were compensated by an ability to use materials from the Earth as resources for creating habitat systems. Within those systems, men also were able to organize themselves, theoretically, to their best direction of group progress through means of government and law that sought to help sustain and push forward the entire grouping. The knowledge of this also said to be a natural mental faculty among all men.

This reflects a sense of celebration of man’s tech-savvy genius from creation being the cause of his self-preservation. This also seems to rationalize the creation of religion, in particular it’s aspects of church and idolatry, as just an extension of man’s inherent divine connection. Man’s survivalism (and often times, lackthereof) at the beginning of the world, in the wild with the more nature-suited animals, is put in a more divine light rather than evolutionary, as it is entailed that man was given the knowledge as to how to construct a safer habitat for himself rather than adaptation being a generationally acquired trait of experience. Furthermore, the notions about theories of government and justice being inherently bestowed upon people is off-base and proven idealistic by modern times, where there are many societies where generations of people are completely in the dark about any ideas of justice or equality due to the ruling powers existing to keep themselves vainly and selfishly empowered rather than seeking to aide the entire population (Kim Jong Il in North Korea comes to mind).

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