Titanic Times: Epimetheus and Prometheus between Différance and Deferred Action


In Plato’s dialogue Protagoras, the famous sophist recounts the myth of how mortal creatures were created. The gods, he says, gave the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus the task to deal out to each creature the equipment of its proper faculty. Yet Epimetheus, literally the afterthinker, asked Prometheus, the forethinker, to distribute the qualities himself: “‘And when I have dealt,’ he said, ‘you shall examine’” (320d). So Epimetheus distributed to each animal qualities according to a principle of equilibrium and compensation, each becoming either swift or strong, skilled or large, and thereafter he provided all creatures with their appropriate food and clothing. Only then, however, did he realize that, lacking foresight, he had forgotten to take care of one particular creature.

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