Oedipus and Socrates on the Quest for Self-Knowledge

Oedipus and Socrates on the Quest for Self-Knowledge This article explores how Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Plato’s Apology of Socrates address the question of whether reason can ground the good human life. Sophocles’ tragedy and Plato’s dialogue both tell of the search for rational self-knowledge. Both Oedipus and Socrates are recognized for human wisdom and are presented as skeptical toward the gods. Yet, whereas Oedipus’ life ends in tragedy, Socrates’ life does not. Sophocles thus suggests that the rational search for truth must be limited by a pious respect for the gods. Plato, on the other hand, preserves Socrates’ belief that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living for a human being’. Four lines of inquiry into the causes of this divergence are then explored: 1) Socrates’ order of knowledge from particular to universal, 2) Oedipus’ proneness to anger, 3) Socrates’ private life in contrast to Oedipus’ public life and, 4) the differing status of the family. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought Brill

Oedipus and Socrates on the Quest for Self-Knowledge

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0142-257x
eISSN
2051-2996
DOI
10.1163/20512996-12340117
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article explores how Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Plato’s Apology of Socrates address the question of whether reason can ground the good human life. Sophocles’ tragedy and Plato’s dialogue both tell of the search for rational self-knowledge. Both Oedipus and Socrates are recognized for human wisdom and are presented as skeptical toward the gods. Yet, whereas Oedipus’ life ends in tragedy, Socrates’ life does not. Sophocles thus suggests that the rational search for truth must be limited by a pious respect for the gods. Plato, on the other hand, preserves Socrates’ belief that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living for a human being’. Four lines of inquiry into the causes of this divergence are then explored: 1) Socrates’ order of knowledge from particular to universal, 2) Oedipus’ proneness to anger, 3) Socrates’ private life in contrast to Oedipus’ public life and, 4) the differing status of the family.

Journal

Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political ThoughtBrill

Published: Apr 4, 2017

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