ApplyingSocrates’ specific understanding of wisdom to analyze and explainOedipus’ hubris and eventual downfall
Sophocleswonderfully narrates a classic Greek tale while explaining thecharacters and their real intentions comprehensively. Sophoclesdescribes how Oedipus values reasoning, measurement, opinions,inquiry, morals, intellect, and ideals. The seven factors can beregarded as the sources of wisdom. He is described as a sociablecharacter that the Greek audience can easily relate to or sympathizewith perfectly. Oedipus is depicted as a clean and respectable figurewithout a criminal record, but he ultimately destroyed himself. Theaudience perceived such destruction as an indubitable tragedy thathad befallen a plausible hero given the popular sentiments duringthat time.
Suchideals were advanced by a philosophy that flourished in Greece duringSophocles` era. Many of Oedipus` ideas can be drawn from eitherPlato’s student Aristotle or the dialectic Socrates as written manyPlato’s works (Friedlander 1). This scholarly works seek todiscuss Socrates understanding of wisdom to analyze and explainOedipus’ hubris and his eventual downfall. Both Socrates andOedipus seek to rely on reason and wisdom for ethical ends, discoverthe truth, and assist their societies. However, the reasoning theyuse leads to their destruction.
Socrates’Understanding of Wisdom
InGreece, the Athenians valued wisdom which dealt with anything inhuman life (Friedlander 1). Hence, Socrates disdained the Greek’swisdom movement and argued that wisdom is the single true virtue thatforms the basis or the source for all other virtues Socrates says,
"Theunexamined life is not worth living." (Hackforth203)
Throughoutthe entire Plato’s dialogues, Socrates highlighted the significanceof wisdom since it is the right path to divinity. In his NicomacheanEthics, Aristotle argues that wisdom separates human from animalsadditionally, wisdom elevated Greeks very closer gods whom theyadmired and worshiped (Crisp435). The Greeks pursued such wisdom as a source of greatestpleasure, the purpose of their Eudaimonia, a final and truehappiness, and as a purpose in life (Crisp397).
Inhis play, Sophocles targeted a Greek audience that could sympathizewith Oedipus since he was destroyed from his pedestal while pursuingto discover himself as well as gain happiness and wisdom. Oedipuspursued noble goals that many of the members of the audience sought.In Plato’s Republic, he expounded our world’s dualist theory. Hewrote that our universe is essentially a cave whereby people areforced and bound to look at their shadows on hanging on the wall fortheir whole lives (Emlyn-Joneand William 67).
Inhis opinion, he contends that reality fails to exist in this worldsince shadows cast by fire are normally observed (Emlyn-Joneand William69). Plato argues that to see things in their quintessence helpspeople to gain wisdom and bona fide truth to escape from the cave(71). Thereafter, the person perceives the fire as a swindler ofreality since that individual has now seen virtue and light. In suchphilosophic intuition of reality, the light allows the individual togo back to the cave as well as to perceive objects in their genuineconformations hence they give them their suitable value and judgment(74).
Socratesadvocated for a philosophy of wisdom to signify people usually knownothing and they are unaware of their self-identity. People striveto learn. Nonetheless, the wise acknowledge how little they know(Quinodoz219).Despite the fact that the role of ‘tragic flow’ or harmatia isbeing overemphasized in the Sophocles` play, one can argue thatOedipus` harmatia is based on his intense self-worth or his anger.Such anger forced him to act impulsively after his father pushed himoff the road so many years before hence, he fulfilled the prophecyby slaying his father needlessly (Quinodoz215).
Additionally,his pronouncement to Tiresias that he will expel any person whocaused the plagues was largely driven by anger since Tiresias`refused to share his knowledge regarding the case. Oedipus shouldhave shown self-restraint and elf-composure as part of his wisdom tosave him from his downfall. Nonetheless, this fails to work withSocrates highlighting Oedipus’ second imperfection that is, hisself-worth. Since Oedipus is regarded as a hero who saved Thebes fromthe Sphinx and ruled wisely after that Socrates believes he wasconfident in his wisdom and strength (Hackforth121). As the plague occurred with its cause being unknown, Oedipusbelieved that he will manage it and expels the perpetrators. Socrateswould have warned him to use his wisdom to recognize his limitationshence Oedipus should admit how little he truly knows about theuniverse and himself. Similarly, given the cautious approach perhapshe may have almost strengthened or suggested his downfall. Lastly, itcan be said that the gods sanctioned his downfall. Hence, he wasdestined to fall.
TheArt of Measurement
InPlato`s Protagoras, Socrates advances his notion of "The Art ofMeasurement" (Lombardoand Karen 163). He argues that since the universe is in a cave,people fail to trust their perceptions and judgment or wisdom. Additionally, he extended this theory as a reply to Protagoras`question related to the reason humans commit acts that are eventuallydestructive for instance, excessive drinking and smoking (165).Aristotle was confident that such acts were caused by weak moralhabits (Crisp411). Nonetheless, Socrates was not a believer of Aristotle’spopular Akrasia thesis. He was convinced that no pleasure or passioncould stun the omnipotent knowledge (Lombardoand Karen141). In the course the popular dialogue, Protagoras questioned thereason people persistently smoke despite knowing it leads to pain(Lombardoand Karen143). Therefore, Socrates expounded his “Art of Measurement” torebuff such argument. He affirmed that the main reason human performthese unsafe things like smoking is that they just have no way toassess the instant pleasure of smoking against the detached pain thatsmoking causes cancer among other diseases (144). Socrates arguesthat such individuals have a flawed sense of measurement since theylive in the dark cave. Hence, the lack of such art considered as thecore of wisdom a person fails to weigh between pain and pleasureaccurately ultimately, the person fails to realize the finalpleasure or Eudaimonia.
Friedlander(5) argues that the pursuit of self-knowledge is regarded as thefirst step towards gaining wisdom as quoted on the base of Delphi’soracle statue, "Know Thyself.” Such identity is comparable towhat Oedipus was pursuing. Socrates argues for any person to gainsuch knowledge, he/she must use inquiry (Hackforth210). Hence, he strived to practice inquiry during his lifetime.Socrates began practicing inquiry when an Apollo’ oracle told himthat no single person is wiser as compared to him (the Oracle)(Hackforth215). Thus, in either disbelieve or modesty, Socrates startedquestioning other people attempting to find a person wiser ascompared to him. Nonetheless, despite learning a great deal viainquiry, Socrates learned that there was no person, either sophist orphilosopher who was truly wiser since Socrates would disclose theirself-contradictions (Quinodoz217).
Irrespectiveof whether Socrates would have used inquiry to find a wiser personthan himself, he was confident that the life of inquiry was largelyphilosophical hence extremely divine (Hackforth220). Similarly, Oedipus believed such philosophy since he spendsmost of the time in the play questioning any person he thought hadinformation. He questions each and every scenario facing him. In theplay, Oedipus persistently posed this question
"Howcan we cleanse ourselves- what rites? What`s the source of trouble?"(Rado164).
Whetherit was a messenger or the Jocasta that he engaged with, Oedipus wasdesperately and endlessly attempting to demystify Laius’ murderer.After that, he sought to explore his identity. The apparent andpragmatic use of inquiry is meant to allow people gain new knowledgeand wisdom to strengthen their intellect. Therefore, it isunderstandable that Oedipus is very impatient to manage his problems.Also, he is keen to apprehend Laius’ killers, he says:
"I`llbring it all to light myself!" (Rado167)
Thisstatement demonstrates his steadfast commitment to seek answers. Ashe relies on his intellect to assess the information at hisdisposable, Oedipus craving for answers only gets stronger.Additionally, Oedipus’ desire fortifies when Jocasta tries toconvince Oedipus to stop pursuing his past anymore. Strongly, Oedipusdisregards her request saying:
"Imust know it all, must see the truth at last." (Rado222).
Heappears to be persistently relying on his intellect to establish theoptimal method to realize his goals and objectives. Oedipus weighsall his alternatives and settles on the best choice. Oedipusconsiders the best option about the prevailing scenario. Forinstance, as the play starts, Oedipus argues that:
"Ihave wept through the nights you must know that, groping, laboringover many paths of thought. After a painful search, I found onecure. . . ." (Rado162).
Thestatement proves that the manner he stretches himself to settle onthe best alternative option. Furthermore, Oedipus relies on hisreasoning to determine the next path he must take and what toquestion after that in his pursuit for self-identity. Nonetheless, hestill lives in Plato’s dark caves since he uses a greater amount offalse judgment and reason masked by anger. For instance, he accusedTiresias and Creon of making plans to kill him (Friedlander 1). Hewould have avoided considerable pain from realizing he killed Laiusas he pursued to determine his self-identity. Oedipus’ hubris makeshim confident that his judgments are factual. The flawed perceptionstops Oedipus from correctly equating the pain and the pleasure thathis identity might cause to him.
BothSocrates and Oedipus seek to rely on reason and wisdom for ethicalends, discover the truth, and assist their societies. However, thereasoning they use lead to their destruction. As Oedipus seekspursues the truth through reasoning, he discovers he killed Laius andacts as the source of Thebes’ pollution. Whereas Socrates, whilepursuing truth, he discovers his trial for impiety or asebeia as wellas his resolve for rational argument as opposed to influencing thejudges’ emotions led to his murder sentence.
WorksCited Crisp,Roger, ed. Aristotle:Nicomachean Ethics.Cambridge University Press, 2014.308-545
Hackforth,Reginald. Thecomposition of Plato`s Apology.Cambridge University Press, 2014.Lombardo,Stanley, and Karen Bell. Protagoras.Hackett Publishing, 2012.121-183Emlyn-Jones,Chris, and William Preddy. "Plato: Republic, Books 6–10."2013.
Hadas,Moses. Thecomplete plays of Sophocles.Rutgers University Press, 2012.FriedlanderMD, Ed. EnjoyingOedipus the King by Sophocles.2017. Online Posting. Accessed fromhttp://www.pathguy.com/oedipus.htm
Quinodoz,Danielle. ANew Perspective on Sophocles` Story of Oedipus the King." Revue Roumaine de Psychanalyse 8.2(2015): 219-235.
Rado,Caharles. "Oedipus the king." ThePsychoanalytic Review (1913-1957) 43(2016): 228.