Mythopoetic imagination as a source of critique and reconstruction alternative storylines about our place in cosmos

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Heikki Patomäki


Temporal reflexivity requires that we recognize consciousness, society and history as mythopoetically constituted. Mythopoetic imagination can also be a means of critique of the prevailing myths. In complex pluralist societies, there are hegemonic struggles over constitutive myths, shaping both our explanatory accounts of the past and scenarios about possible futures. A widespread myth of contemporary liberal-capitalist societies comprises three temporal tiers: deep cosmic scepticism; various ethical and political lessons drawn from, and theories related to, this scepticism; and the capacity of technology and economic growth to bring us some comfort and enjoyment in our short lives. An alternative cosmic storyline centres on the prospects of life and culture, rather than death, and on our common evolvement also through collective learning. In this paper, I examine possible interpretations of the basic Big History (BH) narrative in view of these two ideal-typical storylines. How is BH positioned and positioning itself in relation to the main scientific myths of the 21st century? I asses the plausibility of BH in terms of both logos and mythos; and criticising BH’s ambiguities, I argue in favour of the life-oriented storyline.

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Author Biography

Heikki Patomäki, University of Helsinki

Heikki Patomäki is Professor of World Politics at University of Helsinki, Finland. He has also taught at Nottingham Trent University, UK and RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, and visited Ritsumeikan University in Kioto, Japan and University of Cambridge in the UK.  Patomäki’s research interests include philosophy, methodology of social sciences, economic theory, global political economy, peace research, futures studies, and global justice and democracy. He has published more than 20 books and 200 research papers as well as numerous popular articles and blogs. Patomäki’s most recent book in English is Disintegrative Tendencies in Global Political Economy: Exits and Conflicts (Routledge, 2018).