Lisa van Wambeck

Jackson, Jr.

Histories of Meaning

29 January 1999

Divine? Love in Sophocles’ Antigone

Though out the Socratic dialogues we have
read in class, Plato has been concerned with the relationship of
the world of appearances to the world of
real essences, and specifically how the latter is represented in
the first through the
sign system of
[But not
necessarily the language, at least not in the „mature
works.“ Any concrete object is also an example of a
representation in „the world of appearances“ of some
form in „the world of real essences.“]
In the Phaedrus, Socrates ironically outlines a manner of
accessing truth through the divinely inspired madness of love. To
accept this view as literally representing Plato“s attitude
about truth would render all of his other explorations futile,
[To accept anything Socrates
says in one of Plato’s dialogues as necessarily the thought of
Plato, has a whole set of problems with it before even getting
this specific, but I agree with you. But you also could have said
that if this view had „literally represented“
attitude concerning truth, he would have rendered his own
subsequent „explorations futile“
] however, it does seem to, perhaps not only
to be very specific to which part of the Phaedrus you are
make an argument that
emotion offers some access to truth that is superior to truth as
it is conceived according to its social representation.
[The comparison you’re
suggesting is a powerfully evocative one; it needs a bigger
buildup – Cite and read passages of the Phaedrus that illustrate
your point. Does love lead to knowledge because it is an emotion?
You should read Socrates’s narration of his tutelege under
Diotima in the
Symposium. This would flesh out a the Socratic/Platonic
eros in question here.]

  • In Sophocles’s Antigone this conflict is enacted
    dramatically, through the conflict of a girl who
    refuses to renounce her love for her dead brother
    and so is punished according to the laws of man
    for obeying the laws of the Gods.
    Antigone’s love of her brother {she, in
    fact, doesn’t really mention this aspect of
    their relationship} the same kind of love that is
    discussed in the Phaedrus? What principle is
    Antigone allow to guide her? Compare this to the
    Phaedra got from her
    „love.“ Of course, both women end up
    dead, and it could be argued, that both committed
    suicide, however I don’t think we’d get
    too far with that interpretation of
    Antigone’s choices.]

  • Antigone refuses the orders of her king,
    Creon, that her brother“s corpse be left „unwept,
    untombed, a rich sweet sight for the hungry birds beholding
    (27).“ When Antigone is brought before Creon after she is
    caught showing her respects for her brother“s body, she says
    that she did not obey Creon“s order because „For me it
    was not Zeus who made that order. . . Nor did I think your orders
    were so strong that you, a mortal man, could over-run the
    gods“ unwritten laws (450).[Actually, its line
    454].“ Creon
    becomes convinced of the validity of Antigone“s actions
    through the words of a divinely inspired prophet
    [But he rejects Tiresias’s
    arguments violently, threatening him if the seer continue to
    express such viewpoints. This is, of course, a replay of the
    scene between Oedipus and Tiresias years before.],
    and then is punished for his transgressions
    against the gods by his son’s death. According to the narrative
    of the play, then, it is literally a conflict between the laws of
    the gods and the laws of men that is enacted.
    [I agree, but this is a
    frustrating central structure as it obviates moral analysis of
    Antigone’s choice; she is not a moral agent in the god/man
    law dyad.]

    However, Antigone“s determination to
    pay her respects to her dead brother comes not through divine
    proclamation but from her own convictions
    Though Antigone proclaims herself to be subject to the laws of
    the gods, it seems that, practically, she is being loyal to the
    dictates of her emotional attachments
    [Stronger than that. Her sense
    of honor.].
    Creon also sees
    Antigone“s transgression in terms of her loyalty to personal
    feelings over her conformity to social order
    [You switched here from Antigone
    vs. gods to Antigone vs. social. It’s fine to do that, but
    you should note it in passing at least, or explain the step as
    part of your argument.]
    , as he
    demonstrates when he asks Antigone „And you are not ashamed
    to think alone (510)?“, then states as the reason she must
    be put to death „I won“t be called weaker than
    womankind (680)“ The tragedy in this play, then is the
    incompatibility between Antigone“s „true“
    emotions, which are aligned with the „true“ laws of the
    gods, and the socially imposed order of men.
    [But what emotion, and how is it
    „true.“ Even if we accept a law transcendent to that of
    „man,“ this would be the laws of the Gods. But
    Antigone’s choice doesn’t seem to be driven by or
    focused on any particular divinity; or do any divinities console,
    support, or recognize her.]

    Language is aligned with the order of man
    as Antigone confirms her knowledge of Creon“s order
    concerning her brother by saying, „I knew, of course I knew.
    [How does this
    specifically align language with the order of man? With what else
    could she responded if not with words? These words don’t
    seem terribly meta-linguistic.]
    word was plain (174).“ Likewise, when Antigone’s sister,
    Ismene, is brought before Creon and tries to share in Antigone’s
    punishment Antigone denies her, saying „I can not love a
    friend whose love is words (545).“ In contrast, the laws of
    the gods are „unwritten
    (456).“ As
    such, Antigone illustrates a mistrust that sign systems
    correspond to essential truth that is similar to that which Plato
    examines in his dialogues. Again,
    love and divine
    truth are aligned, but the accessibility and communicability of
    each remain problematic.

    [The most frequently occuring word in the
    Phaedrus translated as“love“ is eros; in the Antigone
    it is some form of philei. And remember, there will be agape to
    deal with sooner or later. Do some
    lexical/philological/conceptual research into the words for
    „love“ in Sophocles’s and Plato’s Greek
    i mean to suggest -the ambiguity here that should be cleared up -
    that of course there’s a great semantic universe shared by the
    two Greek writers, but it wont be a perfect symmetry. But this
    you can consider an intermediate detour, the first one you need
    to take is the divergence between
    philei and eros. }]

    To Syllabus

    To Javiera on Elenchus

    To Joseph on Phaedrus

    To Anthony on Ion

    To the vision of the course.

    Earl Jackson, Jr.