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BU PHIL 345 - Jan 27

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1/27/15 AntigoneSophoclesPrologue - Creon has decreed that the traitor Polynices must not be given proper burial, and Antigone is the only one who will speak against this decree and insist on the sacredness of family. - Whereas Antigone sees no validity in a law that disregards the duty family members ownone another, Creon’s point of view is exactly opposite. - Creon’s first speech, which is dominated by words such as “principle,” “law,” “policy,” and “decree,” shows the extent to which Creon fixates on government and law as the supreme authority. - In ethical philosophy, the ancient Athenians clearly recognized that conflicts can arise between two separate but valid principles, and that such situations call for practical judgment and deliberation. o From the Greek point of view, both Creon’s and Antigone’s positions are flawed, because both oversimplify ethical life by recognizing only one kind of “good” or duty. Scene 1-4- Antigone and Creon’s direct confrontation further clarifies the nature of their disagreement. o Antigone attacks Creon’s edicts on the grounds that his interpretation of justice and the will of Zeus is invalid. o She may be correct in her assessment, but in saying so she assumes the power toindependently interpret justice and the will of the gods, just as Creon did. - Antigone draws a distinction between divine law and human law, between the “great unwritten, unshakable traditions” and the edicts of individual rulers such as Creon. - When Creon responds to Antigone’s recklessness, he speaks of breaking and taming her. o Blood ties seem to mean nothing to Creon, who commits sacrilege against Zeus when he dismisses his blood tie to Antigone by saying that he would reject his entire family if they were huddled together at Zeus’s altar.Scene 5 - It might be argued that love is one of the greater goods that the state exists to enable people to pursue- one of the greater goods that Creon overlooks when he argues that the well-being of the state is the highest good in human life. o As he has throughout the play, Creon denies that ethical conflicts can arise, or that ethical decisions sometimes require deliberation.o He insists upon remaining consistent with the views he has already stated, and asserts that he will not make himself a liar. - We may well wonder what use judgment is given the limitations of human beings and the inescapable will of the gods. o Perhaps the best explanation is that possessing wisdom and judgment means acknowledging human limitations and behaving piously so as not to actually call down the gods’ wrath. o Humans must take a humble, reverential attitude toward fate, the gods, and the limits of human intelligence. - Even though Antigone exhibits a blamable pride and hunger for glory, her transgressions are less serious than those of Creon. o More important, Creon’s refusal to bury Polynices represents a more radical affront to human values than Antigone’s refusal to heed Creon’s edict. o Whereas Antigone breaks a law made by a particular ruler in a particular instance, a law that he could have made differently, Creon violates an unwritten law, a cultural


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