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Sophocles’ Antigone Relativist Justice

The trio of classic Greek texts, The Last Days of Socrates, Antigone, and The Eumenides all strike a contrast amongst public and private morality. In each and every perform one person carries forth an unpopular action that he alone believes in, and have to later justify the result that, while deemed unsatisfactory by the greater public, he feels was required for his personal private conscience. For Socrates, philosophizing his version of the truth was his personal private responsibility that was scorned by the public. Antigone’s loyalty lay with her brother rather than the state that decreed he not receive a suitable burial. Orestes sought vengeance against his mother for killing his father, although that meant committing a heinous crime he knew would not be properly received. Each and every hero challenged the absolutist notion of justice and shifted the public’s attention to a much more relativist interpretation as he appealed to frequent sense rather than entrenched archaic tradition, and each a single valued the word of the gods more than the word of his human rulers.

In The Apology, Socrates defends himself against the charge of “…committing an injustice, in that he inquires into items beneath the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches other individuals to adhere to his example.” (19b) In other words, he is accused of delving into supernatural matters other people rely upon the gods for, is a sophist, and corrupts the youth. To justify his part as philosopher, Socrates 1st reminds his accusers of the oracle’s proclamation that he is the wisest man alive. Although he erases some of the blatant immodesty from this statement by attesting that the oracle actually meant “The wisest of you males is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless,” (23b) the appeal to the gods is a approach of justice that Socrates knows is infallible no mortal can refute the opinion of deities.

Socrates furthers his claim for the necessity of his proselytism in his cross-examination of Meletus, a technique in which he asks leading questions he knows the examined will agree to, as a result enabling him to build up a counterpoint as he exposes the fallacious logic his opponent has employed. For Socrates, justice comes in the scientific type of deduction, not in random points thrown about haphazardly. Socrates asks Meletus “…who is it that tends to make the young good?” (24d) to which Meletus sooner or later concurs that everybody in “Athens has a refining effect upon the young, except [Socrates] and [Socrates] alone corrupt[s] them.” (25a) This is an simple point for Socrates to refute as this time, instead of invoking a god’s statement, he makes use of an analogy of horse-trainers and horses to derive the logical statement “…that the capability to increase [horses] belongs to a single person or to really couple of persons, who are horse-trainers, whereas most men and women, if they have to do with horses and make use of them, do them harm?” (25b) Syllogism is a staple of Socrates’s argument, since only via irrefutable logic, and not emotional appeal, can he exonerate himself.

Right after a lot more inference in hopes of acquittal, Socrates ultimately maintains that his allegiance is to God more than his fellow mortals. He is a staunch believer in perseverance, as he claims “Where a man has when taken up his stand, either because it seems best to him or in obedience to his orders, there I believe he is bound to stay and face the danger…This being so, it would be shocking inconsistency on my part…when God appointed me…to the duty of leading the philosophic life…to desert my post.” (28d,e) He feels he is the selected 1 and need to continue his methods regardless of punishment. He would even deny the compromise of acquittal with the qualification that he cease philosophizing, for he motives “I owe a greater obedience to God than to you…I shall in no way stop practising philosophy and exhorting you and indicating the truth…for I invest all my time going about attempting persuade you…to make your initial and chief concern…the highest welfare of your souls…” (29d,30b) This mulish sentiment is what eventually leads to Socrates’s punishment by death, but his point rings clear: justice must be interpreted logically, rather than emotionally, and the edicts of the gods and individual beliefs hold more substance than the orders of an unwise, unjustified public.

Sophocles’s Antigone starts with Oedipus’s two cursed daughters, Antigone and Ismene, discussing the public decree that forbids the burial of their brother Polyneices, who was a traitor to the state. Antigone sees the disobedience to this law as admirable, and tells the hesitant Ismene “soon you will show your self as noble both in your nature and your birth, or oneself as base, though of noble parents.” (42-four) Antigone believes one’s actions type one’s character, and lineage plays no component. Ismene tries to soothe her sister’s anger in a self-subjugating monologue: “You ought to comprehend we are only females, not meant in nature to fight against men, and that we are ruled, by these who are stronger, to obedience in this and even a lot more painful matters…I shall yield in this to the authorities.” (70-3,77) Ismene believes that justice is, in Thrasymachus’s words, the advantage of the stronger. Inferiors need to bow to their leaders no matter how unfair the scenario may possibly appear. Antigone is a far much more independent woman, and holds the immortal to a greater regular than the mortal: “The time in which I need to please these that are dead is longer than I have to please these of this world. For there I shall lie forever. You, if you like, can cast dishonor on what the gods have honored.” (86-9) Like Socrates, she values the gods and her individual beliefs far more than the fickle orders of her rulers, and as a result will perform proper death rites the gods would approve of for an individual she loved, even though that implies certain death.

Creon quickly enters the story as the leader who outlawed Polyneices’s burial. His philosophy as to the character of a man is outlined in a speech to the chorus: “It is impossible to know any man…until he shows his skill in rule and law. I think that a man supreme ruler of a complete city, if he does not attain for the greatest counsel for her, but by means of some worry, keeps his tongue under lock and key, him I judge the worst of any…” (195,97-201) He believes justice is that which aids the city the most in this case, justice entails punishing a traitor and honoring a great citizen, as that encourages very good behavior among his people. When Antigone is brought to him as the culprit of the burial, he cannot fully think she would break his law, to which she replies “Yes, it was not Zeus that created the proclamation nor did Justice…I did not believe your proclamation had such power to enable one particular who will someday die to override God’s ordinances…They are not of nowadays and yesterday they live forever…I know that I will die…But if I dared to leave the dead man…dead and unburied, that would have been true pain. The other is not.” (494-501, 504,510-two) Her reiteration of her convictions that the immortal and the private prevail over the public does not phase Creon, who stubbornly sentences her to death, stating “I hate certainly the a single that is caught in evil and then makes that evil appear like excellent.” (538-40) His disdain for sophistry is apparent, but he refuses to see any point of view other than his own, even when the noted seer Teiresias explains that sacrificial rites are no longer accepted by the gods: “This is the city’s sickness?and your plans are the cause of it…So the gods will not take our prayers or sacrifice…All men can make errors but, after mistaken, a man is no longer stupid nor accursed who, possessing fallen on ill, tries to remedy that ill…It is obstinacy that convicts of folly.” (1072,6,80-five) Teiresias introduces right here one more element of justice, wisdom. Wisdom is the potential to pick the proper course of action, even if it means self-disavowal. Creon is steadfast in his opinion, though his desires conflict with the good of the city. It is only when his son kills himself in protestation that he admits “The blunders of a blinded man are themselves rigid and laden with death.” (1339-40) He modifications his thoughts only when motivated by individual emotion, not abstract theory, precisely what Antigone believed in when she disobeyed his command. Relativism has unseated absolutism even in the mind of the most headstrong, and after once again frequent sense and obedience to the gods are provided 1st order as the Chorus ends the play with the lines “Wisdom is far the chief element in happiness and, secondly, no irreverence towards the gods.” (1420-1)

Orestes, the matricidal hero of The Eumenides, explains his murder in a easy exposition to Athene: “It was my mother of the dark heart, who entangled [my father] in subtle gyves and reduce him down…I came back and killed the woman who gave me birth. I plead guilty. My father was dear, and this was vengeance for his blood. Apollo shares duty for this. He counterspurred my heart and told me of pains to come if I should fail to act against the guilty ones.” (459-67) Because he valued the life of his father more than that of his mother, he was just in killing her, and doubly so because of the encouragement he received from a god. The Chorus, the prosecution in his trial, believes, like Creon, in determent, and cries “Here is overthrow of all the young laws, if the claim of this matricide shall stand very good, his crime be sustained. Should this be, every man will locate a way to act at his personal caprice…There are times when fear is very good. It must hold its watchful place at the heart’s controls.” (490-5,517-9) When again, private responsibility mixed with decrees of the gods conflict with the public very good. Apollo, acting as Orestes’s lawyer, backs up Orestes’s previous statements, stating “Never…have I spoken a word, except that which Zeus…might command. This is justice. Recognize how excellent its strength…For not even the oath that binds you is more sturdy than Zeus is sturdy.” (616-21) He then goes on to reduce the value of women: “The mother is no parent of that which is named her youngster, but only nurse of the new-planted seed that grows. The parent is he who mounts.” (658-60) It is this misogyny that swings the selection in Orestes’s favor, as Athene declares “…I am always for the male with all my heart…So, in a case where the wife has killed her husband…her death shall not mean most to me.” (737-40) Her vote breaks the jury’s tie, indicating the harsh divide amongst Greeks at the time concerning private versus public morality and its relations to justice.

Socrates, Antigone, and Orestes all contributed to the ever-evolving thrust of individualism and independent believed in ancient Greek. Using relativism and support from the gods (which was the Greek equivalent to the human psyche) to warrant their actions, they negated the prevailing sense of absolute acquiescence to the public that had previously hung over their states. Of course, tragedy was the outcome in all 3 instances, with the heroes themselves dying in two of them, so it is clear that acceptance of this newfound ideology was difficult to come by. Nonetheless, public dominance was eroding as the Greeks could not steer clear of the sturdy rush of logic and private commitment coming their way, a new blend of science and humanity, that would forever alter the face of justice.
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