Friday, September 14, 2012

Free will v. Fate

Greeks and some religious people today use(d) gods to explain why good and bad things happen to us that would be random, unfair, and incomprehensible otherwise.  “Everything happens for a reason,” implies, to me, that the person saying that believes a supreme force is has predetermined everything and that, in the end, everything will work the way that force has intended.  If that is the case, where’s the room for our free will?

In the play, the prophecy from the gods is unavoidable and inescapable up until a point (perhaps).  Apollo only prophecizes that Oedipus will kill his dad and marry his mom, and it ends there.  So once the gods’ plan happens, Oedipus, “The Son of Chance” has free will.  Now Oedipus must confront the consequences of his fate, but


…so he gouges is own eyes out.  There’s a lot of fortune telling going on from the prophecy his mom heard, to the oracle Creon discovers, to Tieries’s foreshadowing. There’s also a lot of denouncing of fate, probably more out of denial than actually under-valuing it, especially by Jocasta: “What’s a man to fear? …Chance rules our lives.” Look at where that got her… :-/  Oedipus’s life was coordinated by the Gods…and at the end he handles the situation, constructively of course, with his free will…maybe… Tiresias foreshadows Oedipus’s blindness…so maybe it was already planned that he would gouge out his eyes as well.  Did Oedipus have free will, or was he a pawn the Gods liked to torture? It seems to me that the prevailing force is destiny. 


Laura N said...

darn that was supposed to be a picture of Colonel Jesssup, in A Few Good Men...great movie by the way.

TSHAH said...

I found this to be an interesting dilemma in the story. I went back and re-read some of the background information on Oedipus, and noticed that some critics feel that despite the fact that Apollo had predicted Oedipus's fate, Oedipus was the source of his own down fall due to his hamartia. However, i think that Sophocles intentionally set up this issue between free will v. fate because of the characteristics the protagonist and the plot itself must posses to be a Greek tragedy. We've gone over that a Greek hero must not be preeminent...ect... because that is what makes it tragedy. Oedipus is a king that would react in a way that normal people would, so his "fall" invokes our pity, sympathy, and fear, but if this was all predetermined by the gods, then the audience can't really feel any emotion towards the tragic hero because the gods had already decided his fate. Who is to say that the same will happen to ordinary people, because after all, this was an intervention of the gods so there is nothing you can do about it. By giving Oedipus certain flaws and showing that Oedipus was the main factor in his own "fall", Sophocles makes this a true tragedy. So i believe that Oedipus's fall was independent from the prophesy and that the gods just "kinda saw into the future".

wkuehne said...

I feel as if the idea of free will encourages much more productivity in our modern society, but it seems that Sophocles portrays free will as dangerous, especially with Oedipus's incessant search for his prophecy. Perhaps Greek society used fate as a way of controlling others. I'd be interested to know if there were any real oracles at the time, real as in people put their belief in them.