Plato’s Forms in Response to Bonnie Honig

March 9, 2015

Socrates’ Antigone has been the subject of countless debates over the the course of nearly two and a half millennia. Who performed the first burial? How do we make sense of Antigone’s dirge? What, if anything, do the characters symbolize? In 2009, a profound political theorist by the name of Bonnie Honig approached the last question in this article. In summary, she interprets this play as Creon representing democratic values, while Antigone represents that of the aristocracy. Honig asserts that Creon’s emphasis on total equality and the replaceability of individuals is demonstrative of democracy. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Antigone believes her brother is utterly unique, prompting her to wail in excess at his death; Honig takes this as an example of her Homeric/aristocratic values.

Naturally, at the end of the play, just about everybody Creon loved has killed themselves, leaving him to feel mournful, for he seems to realize that his wife and son were utterly unique to him. All the while he mourns in silence. Creon mourns these losses and decides to bury all those who he swore not to bury, in respect for the dead (an Homeric/aristocratic act). However, at the same time, his mourning is subdued and not outward (a democratic response to death). Honig assesses this to mean that Creon has become a combination of both himself and Antigone.  This poses the problem I will attempt to address.

For now, let’s briefly set this aside and think about Plato’s Forms.

Plato believed that everything existed in both a physical and metaphysical sense. The physical world is constantly changing, but in the metaphysical world, everything is constant and unchanging. A good explanation of Plato’s Forms can be found here. What we see are not physical objects, but rather “Forms” of the object. Why is a rotting apple still an apple? Because its Form is still an apple. A rotting apple still holds the same “apple-ness” as that of a perfectly ripe one because it still holds the Form of an apple.

But how does this relate to Honig’s analysis?

As stated before, Honig suggests that by the time Antigone draws to a close, Creon is the embodiment of both Homeric/aristocratic values and democracy. In other words, Creon has “Creon-ness” and “Antigone-ness.” According to the Theory of the Forms, one’s Form exists only as one’s self. Creon should theoretically exist as Creon, not Creon and Antigone. Therefore, Honig’s reading of Antigone does not adhere to the Theory of the Forms; by these standards, Plato would deem her reading incorrect. Of course, it was Plato, not Socrates who came up with the Forms, so Honig’s reading can still be considered a plausible analysis.

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A Dr. Seuss Narration of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

February 18, 2013

A Dr. Seuss Narration of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

By Robert McManmon

NOTE: Oedi is pronounced Eddy

“A plague is upon us a cruel fate suffer we”

Cried the people of Thebes to their king Oedopee.

“Fear not for your fate, or the fate of your kin,

Or the fate of our land, or the state we are in.

For Creon has spoke with the oracle Delphi,

What we must do now is solve this mystery.

I will go out and find the murder of he,

Or fallen king Laius, dear justice shall be!”

And so our king Oedi in blink of an eye,

With the wave of a hand, a gesture, a sigh

With the might of the land that bowed before thee,

Sent for a prophet who frankly can’t see.

“Tiresias, I ask you to help me my friend,

For the land is in turmoil, our crops they need mend.

And all I need do is answer this quest,

Who killed poor Laius, who put him to rest?”

“I know you see up, you see down you see left,

But how do you not see right through this cruel jest?”

And more spoke Tiresias with a hushed, shaky tone,

“For the one you seek is you, and you alone”

On hearing this Oedipus quickly shoot up from his throne

And lashed back at him, a proclamation of his own.

“How dare you even tease at the notion of me,

Murdering a king, no less the old king of we?!”

Enraged at the audacity of the prophet’s declaration,

Oedipus now blames Creon for conspiring and causation.

As soon as the claim did slip from his mouth,

Creon enraged, began a fare bout,

Upon all this rumble the Queen did awake,

And out to the court yard her voice did she take.

“Now men now men what trouble you so?”

Said Jocasta with a grumble as if ready to blow.

“It’s just this prophet, that Creon sent me,

He claims I’m a murderer, and he conspires with Cre.

For you see this is all just a plot, just a ploy,

Just a way for my brother here to take over with joy!”

“But, my husband,” Jocasta cried, “You can’t possibly believe this?

All the things these men tell you, it is all so amiss.

For a bone of a bird may says this may say that

Next you’ll believe there Cat in a Hat!”

Upon hearing these words Odie’s heart was eased,

Accusations revoked, and Creon was pleased.

Continued Jocasta, adding to her case,

“I’ll show you why prophets are nothing but waste!

See back when our dear Laius was husband of mine,

So too did a prophet proclaim him a sign.

Pulled from the guts of some rat or some toad,

Came the notion that he would be killed on the road.”

“On the road” pondered Oedipus aloud,

“On the road, with a troupe?”

“On the road with crowd?”

Did he travel alone or were men with he?

Did he travel on foot or on noble breed?”

“Yes on the road” Jocasta did reply,

“Yes with three men, and three men with he lie.”

As thoughts rushed madly through Odiepee’s head,

“Could this have anything to do with the men I’ve made dead?”

Jocasta asked Oedipus to explain her his case,

And Oedipus began “It starts with my birthplace.”

“For you see I was born in a land far, far away,

In a land where too a prophet did stay.

And this prophet in the land had a fate bestowed on me,

And was brought to my attention in a moment of glee.

On one cloudy day with nothing to do,

I thought to myself “I’ll go the zoo!”,

But alas it was closed for the rest of the year,

So I said “Well that stinks, I need a beer.”

The bar down the road was a marvelous sight,

So I thought to myself “I’ll stay here all night!”

As I walked in out poured others head over toe ,

Which made me grin a greasy grin and my face start to glow.

All night we spilt beer over table and rug

While the sound of our drinking filled the room with a

Glug!

Glug!

Glug!

Glug!

Then a man to my left gave my shirt a firm pluck

And in a wheat scented voice said “your father has bad luck.”

I asked what he meant with this statement he bid,

He replied “it must suck, to be killed by your kid.”

Anger built inside me as my stomach brewed,

But he said “that’s not all your mothers no prude!”

For you see in your future you two shall be wed,

After all, by then, your father’ll be dead.

In a spit of rage, and bit of furry,

I bludgeoned the man and ran off in a hurry,

With this fate upon me, my home I could no longer see,

So I said to myself “I will not let this fate be!”

To my parents I promised “My best I will do,

To keep this poor fate from myself and you!”

And so he I ran off with a flash, with a bang,

With a crack of a whip, to the back of a Mane,

Off to a new city, I ran far, far from here,

Off to a place where fate I’d not fear.

And so on my way I ran into a man,

who it’s now all too clear was unusually tan,

for upon a chariot at cross roads encounter did we,

and he pushed me aside him and his three.

But I could not take such a disgrace to my travels,

So I drew forth my sword and a battle unraveled.

After our short fought but long winded viscous ol’ brawl,

I had slain the old man and his companions, oh how they’d fallen.

That’s when I arrived in our great city of Thebes,

Made rid of the Sphinx and courted with thee,

But one part of this prophet’s statement remains unclear,

How could my prophecy be so close, so near?”

Jocasta now chimed in, confident as ever,

“My husband you need more proof? Lets speak to a witness.

For a man in the field of our land saw the fight,

he was there on that day, he recalls that plight.”

And so Jocasta sent for the poor man,

Who age had made weak,

The man arrived and spoke,

And his story he did speak.

“Yes I recall what on that road I did see,

But Oedipus I have more relevant information for thee.

You see you and your parents Polybus, and Merope,

Share the same blood no more than myself and the pope.

Yes you were found as a baby by a Sheppard friend of mine,

On a hillside abandoned, your feet were entwined,

He felt for you dearly the Sheppard did so,

And brought you to Corinth to learn and to grow.”

Now Jocasta beginning to see it all a bit to clear,

Said “Oedipus that’s all the information we need my dear.”

“But we’re so close to this mystery solved,”

Oedipus did reply

“We’re both so involved, how can we now turn a blind eye?

And Sheppard, where came this boy, on Cliffside abandoned?”

The Sheppard replied,

“From the house of Laius, was the boy orphaned.

Yes this poor poor infant was fated at birth

To kill his father the king, to spill blood from his girth.

And on hearing this Laius ordered Jocastee

‘See to it the child rid of, for he will try’n kill me!’

So whence receiving the child and his fate made clear

I took him far far away to a land nowhere near.”

With this last little tip, little piece of the puzzle,

Oedipus began going mad like a dog with no muzzle,

With a grizzle, a frizzle, a frazzle, a fruzzle,

With dazzle of schnizzle, and a schnozzle of schnuzzle,

Now complete in his mind, all the pieces in the puzzle,

Oedipus ran to Jocasta to tell how he’d been embuzzled.

He swung open to door to the bedroom, with a BANG!

To see in the center of the room Jocasta did hang.

From her robe Oedi pulled two pins shiny silver,

And raised them to the sky in a feat of fervor,

Raised up high with one in each hand,

With each one an eye ready to be damned.

He cried “Now I see, now I see all is clear!

I have killed my own father, and my wife-mother here!

I have been victim of fate and the bad things she bestows

I have all this upon me this blood on my clothes!”

Then Oedipus ran the shiny silver slivers straight into his eyes,

Blood spewed forth as did moans as did groans, as did sighs,

Pieces of flesh pouring out one by one,

Til’ all he could see his was his fate he had won.

Begging to Creon with his eyes dripping red,

“Please exile me now, for inside I am dead.”

Creon did what he wished and exiled him so,

From there spent our king, all of his days full of woe,

Day on day wondering, no longer blind to his fate,

His own father he murdered, and his mother his mate.

And so I ask you, if you were this man,

if you had fates twists to account in your plan,

if this sort of thing were to happen too you,

Well…

what would you do

if this king was you?

-RCM


Link to some reading questions for “Oedipus the King”

January 16, 2013

Whenever we do new readings this semester, I will be posting or linking to reading questions for the text. These questions are not assigned (though some of them will make it into your reading quizzes). Their purpose, rather, is to help guide your reading. As you read, for instance, “Oedipus the King,” try to keep the reading questions in mind. Anyway, two years ago, I posted a collection of reading questions about “Oedipus the King” here.


Living Life

May 3, 2011

Sophocles once said, “Show me a man who longs to live a day beyond his time who turns his back on a decent length of life, I’ll show the world a man who clings to folly.” Folly generally means a lack of good sense; foolishness. It has often been said that those who look longing are always living in anticipation of the future, and also those dwelling in the past, lose the sense of the present and; thereby, live a lack luster life style. While knowing how things were and enjoying is important to human nature, we should remember that nothing we have ever experience will ever happen exactly the same to us and; therefore, we should accept things the way come. Also by waiting in anticipation for one small event that happens over the course of our lifetime, we miss out on a lot of the fruits of happiness that life throws at us along the way. Perhaps this could mean that it is not necessary to spend time dwelling on how old civilizations, such as Ancient Greece, used to operate and how there philosophers, such as Socrates use to think and preach. In the same way, there should be no reason for any of us to ever hope that such a society as Plato’s Republic could ever exist and we should accept and enjoy what form of government and forms of freedom we have. Live life to the fullest and enjoy every opportunity we can while we have the chance. This can said because the future brings uncertainty and that which we look forward to may not turn out as we expect to; therefore, we spend the time leading up to it in the best way possible. Not to dwell on the thoughts and ideas of ancient people too much, but I think Sophocles may have had a point.