Study Questions for the Readings by Mircea Eliade and the Frankforts

These questions are generally sequential, guiding you through the readings from beginning to end. In answering the questions, you should be able to point to specific passages that support your view. You should also try to answer the questions set forth on the Ontology-Cosmology Readings page, where you just clicked the link for these Study Questions. Review the early sections of the “Introduction to Political Theory” for key terms.

Henri and H.A. Frankfort, “Myth and Reality” in The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man

1. According to the Frankforts, what is “speculative thought”? What is it not?

2. What was ancient man’s distinctive understanding of the surrounding world?

3. According to the Frankforts (and to Eliade), did ancient man personify an essentially inanimate, natural world? Why? Why not?

4. According to the Frankforts, what is “myth”?

5. How do the different explanations of the origin of the world—the creation myths or cosmogonies that the Frankforts discuss—get closer and closer to speculative thought?

6 The Frankforts describe the distinction between subjective and objective as an essential distinction for modern-scientific thought. Why did ancient man reject or not observe this distinction?

7. What other contrasts or distinctions that are commonly observed today were not observed or understood by ancient man?

8. The Frankforts say that for ancient man, “concepts are likely to be substantialized,” and they give examples including justice, death, illness, and evil. What is a concept? What does this “substantialization” (also referred to as “hypostatization” or “reification”) of concepts mean?

9. What is the likely origin of “the gods,” according to the Frankforts?

10. What is distinctive about the ancients’ understanding of causality? How does this differ from modern man’s understanding?

Mircea Eliade, “Introduction” to The Sacred and the Profane

1. According to Eliade (and to Rudolf Otto), what essentially is “the holy”? (Assume throughout that “sacred” and “holy” are synonyms.)

2. To ancient or primitive man, what is the essential characteristic of the holy?

3. How did ancient man experience the holy? How did he become aware of it? What is a hierophany?

4. According to Eliade, what is the ontological nature of the holy or sacred?

5. What is the “profane”? Does “profane” in this context mean the same as the root of “profanity”? Is the “profane” something bad?

6. According to Eliade, how is the world in which we live different from the world of the ancients? That is, how is our understanding of the world different from theirs?