Updated August 2019
“The Cyclops and the Philosopher’s Stone” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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The Cyclops and the Philosopher’s Stone
Regardless of national, ethnic, religious, and/or gender identity, or commitment to/rejection of the natural sciences, we are all pragmatic, instrumental cyclops today. Thankfully, we are not genetically cyclops, but we have so long ignored, and become so comfortable with blocking, our “second” eye that we are threatened with evolutionary mutation to a single eye. With Homer’s “Cyclops” representing the mere empiricism of “opening one’s eyes” and the Bacchae Dionysian representing a portrayal of insightful rapture that is the “closing of one’s eyes” (the exact opposite to the Cyclops’ empiricism), Odysseus and Athena are taken to represent the power of pragmatic, instrumental reason over nature. Nonetheless, the Cyclops, the Bacchae, Odysseus, and Athena are all various forms of monocularity. In order to preserve our “second eye,” we need the “Stone of the Wise” or “Philosopher’s Stone” (der Stein der Weisen) that reminds us of the importance of practical reason to complement mere empiricism and its pragmatic, instrumental reason.