Quora answer: What is so great about Homer?

May 22 2014

What is so great about Homer is the depth of his poetry in the Iliad and Odyssey. We take Homer as just the name instead of Anonymous that History gave to whoever came up with the epics being one or many people. There are just a few writers like Homer in our tradition which include Plato, Dante, and Shakespeare and a few others whom it is almost impossible to understand how a human being could do what they did. Their work opens up almost infinite horizons of meaning. Without them our tradition would be much more impoverished than it is, they give the tradition almost infinite depth. And this is no mean accomplishment. Other writers have a finite depth, they are fathomable. But there are a handful of writers that are unfathomable, and they appear as founders in many ways of their traditions. Many of the greatest of these deeper fathomable ones appear in All Things Shining by Kelly and Dreyfus along with some of the unfathomable ones. Heidegger talks about their works in The Origin of the Work of Art, which when he says creates worlds. It is this quality of infinite depth of meaning that creates the world for us. Other fathomable works fill that world, but it is the unfathomable ones that produce the infinite horizon of the world itself. Harold Bloom says that Shakespeare teaches us what it is to be human. Homer did that for the Greeks in the Mythopoietic Era and Plato did it for them in the early Metaphysical Era. Dante did it in the Renaissance and Shakespeare did it for us just before the modern era in the later Renaissance. Homer gives us a peak inside the mythopoietic era and makes it coherent for us as a way of worlding the world prior to the onslaught of reason. This is tremendously valuable as it gives us some perspective on the effects of reason once it became the primary criteria for comprehending experience  Kelly and Dreyfus say we do not get back out of it until Herman Mellvile’s Moby Dick. Melville wrote against the Cristian Onto-Theological (defined by Heidegger) viewpoint prior to Nietzsche.

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