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How the Worlds Became

How the Worlds Became

Philosophy & the Oldest Stories

By Stephen R. L. Clark

340 pp

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About the Book

Our ancestors told many a story about the world, addressing in imaginative terms questions we now consider philosophical or scientific. Among the oldest stories are those telling how the First Thing emerged from Nothing and gradually became “the ten thousand things,” including powers of a larger and longer-lasting sort than those of mortals, sometimes represented in the motion of heavenly bodies. Such imaginative tellings or myths in some ways resemble modern cosmological theories, but in their original sense were transformative resources for humane living, providing ways of enlivening our spirits. “The lover of myth,” as Aristotle said, “is in a way a lover of wisdom, for the myth is composed of wonders.” Let us then approach the stories included here as just such lovers of wisdom, keeping a keen but sympathetic eye out for their wonders, intent on unveiling new insights into our beginnings, and that of all the creatures with whom we share the world.



“This fascinating book is the culmination of many years of reflection by the author on the mythologies and philosophies of the Mediterranean area, and beyond. Both intellectually stimulating and eminently readable, it will be of interest to anyone concerned with the origins of human thought, and the remarkable forms that thought has taken.”


Regius Professor of Greek (Emeritus), Trinity College Dublin


“This beautifully written book, treating philosophy as a kind of literature, sees mythological tales as the substrate to all human mental activity and the primal source of all ideas. Myths are the original way human beings made sense of the world, and this book brilliantly illumines the fundamental link between reason and imagination that underlies any viable theory of knowledge.”


author of The Path to the New Hermopolis: The History, Philosophy, and Future of the City of Hermes

“Aristotle considered poetry more philosophical than history. Stephen Clark, one the most fertile and ingenious writers in modern philosophy, explores adroitly, and with great learning, ancient mythopoetic narratives, and offers a striking assessment of the abiding significance of the mythic-poetic dimension for the contemporary world.”


Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and Fellow of Clare College at the University of Cambridge


“This is a nuanced, appreciative engagement with stories—stories told by our predecessors, stories told by our contemporaries. Combining literary sensitivity and philosophical adroitness with elegance of expression and a perceptive openness to voices outside the present and beyond the reductionist consensus so frequently offered for our uncritical embrace, Stephen Clark invites us winsomely to ask how a broad range of tales well told might inform our reasoning, imagining, loving, choosing, and self-understanding.”


Associate Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law and Business Ethics, La Sierra University

About the Author

STEPHEN R. L. CLARK is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Theology at the University of Bristol. His books include The Mysteries of Religion: An Introduction to Philosophy Through Religion (1986), How to Live Forever: Science Fiction and Philosophy (1995), G. K. Chesterton: Thinking Backwards, Looking Forwards (2006), Plotinus: Myth, Metaphor and Philosophical Practice (2016),  Can We Believe in People: Human Significance in an Interconnected Cosmos (2020), and Cities and Thrones and Powers:Towards a Plotinian Politics (2022). His chief current interests are in the philosophy of Plotinus, the understanding and treatment of non-human animals, neurodiversity, and science fiction.

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