ΑρχικήΨηφιακή ΒιβλιοθήκηΆρθραΆρθρα (Αγγλικά)Vestin, Urban "On The Human Condition in Sophocles´"

Vestin, Urban "On The Human Condition in Sophocles´"

On The Human Condition in Sophocles´ "Antigone".

 

Urban Vestin

 

 

 

" Most of the myths are nowadays narrated in a scientific dialect."

 

 

 

                                             (Lars Ahlin)

 

                      

 

Legends are the ego´s interpretation of the id, employed by artists to express basic experiences of the human being, to convey messages about the human condition.

 

I will try to investigate the human condition as it is articulated in Sophocles´ "Antigone".

 

 

The human condition is far greater than the human being, it constitutes us as subjects.

 

"Sub-ject" means ethymologically to surrender, to give up. What is it that we have to sub-ject to, in order to become a subject?

 

 

As I see it, it is the six conditional conflicts:

 

 

I.The conflict between the sexes.

 

II.The conflict between the generations.

 

III.The conflict between the individual and the society.

 

IV.The conflict between life and death.

 

V.The conflict between mortals and gods

 

VI.The conflict between our conscious and our unconscious, constituted by "logos" – language.

These conflicts are not primarily external ones, but certainly also internal.

 

They are what all art is about, created in different ways in our culture. As long we have a life in this world they deal with us and we deal with them, constantly and persistently, night and day.

 

All of them lays down conditions for the subject set by gender, age, community, death, ex-istance and by the potentials of re-flecting upon our lifes and the world.

 

 

Pythagoras is said to be the first using the concept "cosmos", concerning the universe as well as each one of us, a cosmos in miniature. He and his followers the Pythagoreans developed the idea that human beings, and the world consist of union of opposites. The well-being of an individual, and the world is founded on the harmony between opposite qualities. This notion came to be a corner-stone in Greek medicin and within that field normative to the Christian and Muslim world long after the Middle Ages.

 

Very much later Freud realized the impact conflicts have in our mind, how much of our interpretations of the world and ourselves, even language itself are constructed upon opposites.

 

The theory of conflict is fundamental in psychoanalysis.

 

During the 5´th bentury BC Greek tragedians started to investigate the human condition, using the myths. The conflicts and sufferings Homer and Hesiodos had told about in a more unreflecting manner were now subject to psychological and existential inquiry.

 

Sophocles´ "Antigone" is the only Greek drama concerning all six of them.

 

The form is a drama with the conflicting opposing positions created by different personae, voices of our souls, mainly Antigone-Creon, Creon-Haemon, and Antigone-Ismene , commented and sung by the Chorus.

 

 

I

 

The heart of drama is the meeting of a man and a woman.

 

Although it takes some time in the play when Antigone and Creon meet each other on the stage, the intensity of the forecoming confrontation is anticipated already in the opening words of Antigone to her sister Ismene:

 

 

 

             "And now, a public announcement!

 

             They say the general has plastered it around the city.

 

             Have you heard this terrible news or not?

 

             Our enemies are on the march to hurt our friends."

 

 

 

And in the end of Antistrophe (a) of First Stasimon:

 

             Chorus:

 

 

             " For he is Man, and he is cunning.

 

             He has invented ways to take control

 

             Of beasts that range mountain meadows:

 

             Taken down the shaggy-necked horses.

 

             The tireless mountain bulls,

 

             And put hem under the yoke."

 

 

 

To which Woodruff comments:

 

"The quarrel between a man and a woman that lies at the heart of the play is in background; Greek men of this period frequently used images of taming and controlling animals for the relation between the sexes."

 

 

 

But when they meet, after Antigone has been caught with her second try to bury her brother Polyneices, they clash:

 

 

 

            Creon:

 

               "This girl was a complete expert in arrogance

 

               Already, when she broke established law.

 

               And now, arrogantly, she adds insult to injury:

 

               She´s boasting and sneering about what she´s done!

 

               Listen, if she´s not punished for taking the upper hand,

 

               Then I am not a man. She would be a man!"

 

 

 

               "But how I hate it when she´s caught in the act

 

               And the criminal still glories in her crime."

 

 

 

               Antigone:

 

               "You´ve caught me, you can kill me. What more do you want?"

 

 

 

               Creon:

 

               "For me that´s everything. I want no more than that."

 

               Antigone:

 

               "Then what are you waiting for? More talk?

 

               Your words disgust me, I hope they always will.

 

               And I´m sure you are disgusted by what I say."

 

 

 

             Creon:

 

             "Go to Hades then, and if you have to love, love someone dead.

 

             As long as I live, I will not be ruled by a woman."

 

 

 

And to his son Haemon.

 

 

 

             Creon:

 

             "And there must be no surrender to a woman.

 

             No! If we fall. Better a man should take us down.

 

             Never say that a woman bested us!"

 

 

 

             "What a sick mind you have: You submit to a woman!"

 

 

 

              "Don´t beat around the bush. You´re a woman´s toy, a slave."

 

 

 

II.

 

As the rencounter of gender is, in principle, non-traversable, so is that between generations. A recurrent theme since long before the Iliad. In "Antigone" it is expressed by Creon and the Chorus visavi Haemon and Antigone, who is herself daughter-sister to her father – an incestous off-

 

spring, assaulting the norms of kinship and generation.

 

 

 

               Chorus:

 

               "Now we see the girl´s as wild by birth as her father.

 

               She has no idea how to bow her head to trouble."

 

 

 

The intense dispute between Creon and Haemon beginning with "did you come in anger to your father?" to the last reply of Haemon, "Be crazy! Perhaps some of your friends will stay by you", and the Chorus divergent comments, is a well known tone of voicing the non-communication between generations.

 

But in the end of the drama the antagonisms are screwed to death, as Messenger tells Creon the last words of his wife Eurydice prior to her killing herself with a sword at the altar.

 

 

 

                 Messenger:

 

                 "But first she grieved over Megareus, dead before his wedding,

 

 

 

(Megareus, son of Creon and Eurydice had been sacrificed earlier to ensure victory over Argos)

 

 

 

                 And then over Haemon.

 

                 Last of all she called out to you,

 

                 "These are your crimes, Childkiller!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

III

 

The confrontations between the conscience and the society has been a leitmotif in western culture.

 

"Antigone" has engenedered much serious discussion and still does. One of the most common reading of the drama is also a moral-political one, about ideas and civil disobedience. Shall "what is right?" be defined by power or by the indiviual with the help of her/his personal daemon, and what is to be done when the conflicts are of antagonistic nature?

 

 

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "What laws? I never heard it was Zeus

 

                 who made that announcement.

 

                 And it wasn´t justice, either. The gods below

 

                 Didn´t lay down this law for human use.

 

                 And I never thought your announcements

 

                 Could give you – a mere human being –

 

                 Power to trample the god´s unfailing

 

                 Unwritten laws. These laws weren´t made now

 

                 Or yesterday. They live for all time,

 

                 And no one knows when they came into the light."

 

 

 

Antigone has recieved most sympathies from most of us, a warm-hearted, generous and self-sacrificing young woman struggling for what she believes is right. An auto-nomos, one who is a law unto herself disregarding the casaual laws of a temporary legislator.

 

The sentences of the Nuremberg trials also made it manifest that pleeding to "superior orders" does not free us from neither responsobility nor conviction.

 

But is not Creon, any state authority, justfied in defending the survival of the society against its enemies, whether it comes from outside or inside?

 

As we know anything can be carried out in the name of justice.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "If he honors the law of the land

 

                 And the oath-bound justice of the gods,

 

                 Then his city shall high.

 

                 But no city for him if he turns shameless out of daring."

 

 

 

No city, a-polis, an outlaw is what one turns oneself into when breaking the law, the contract, the Covenant.

 

There is no resolution, not by Sophocles.

 

 

IV

 

As death precedes life, so it does in "Antigone" and pervades the drama to the end.

 

Antigone presents herself in the very opening of the drama as an upset and furious woman enticing Ismene to share her experience of the world. From this moment and throughout she is an obsessed woman, obsessed with death. Her concern for her brother is her means. The deed to bury Polyneices is not enough, it is the announcement that matters.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "For god´s sake, speak out. You´ll be more enemy to me

 

                 If you are silent. Proclaim it to the world!"

 

 

 

When later Ismene is siezed with misgivings and wants to join Antigone, in spite of the deadly consequences, Antigone closes her heart to her sister, denouncing this belated oblation: Ismene is seeking a reward she does not deserve.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "My death is mine……..

 

                                                               Now leave my death alone"

 

 

 

                 "Be glad. You are alive. My soul died long ago.

 

                 It has gone to help those who died before me."

 

 

 

 

 

What matters are the deadly aftermath of the act.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 I´ll die in any case, of course I will,

 

                 Wheter you announce my execution or not.

 

                 But if I die young, all the better:

 

                 People who live in misary like mine

 

                 Are better dead. So if that´s the way

 

                 My life will end, the pain is nothing."

 

 

 

By sub-jecting to the condition of existence; one´s own perishability and mortality Antigone gains the strengh to invalidate that life which fated her with miscarriage.

 

In "Antigone" Sophocles brings into the open the question of what the conceptions – life and death – mean to us.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 " He has the means to handle every need,

 

                 Never steps toward the future without the means.

 

                 Except for Death: He´s got himself no relief from that."

 

 

 

V

 

The Greek tragedy (tragoidia) was born out of ritual-religious offerings to the god Dionysos – the idea of swelling vitality – performed in his thea-tron around an altar. According to tradition Thespis was one of the first tragedians introducing one actor in addition to the singing and dancing chorus, aloneness versus collectivity. During the 5´th century BC the theaters were still just as much a religious sacrament as it was an artistic event.

 

The content of the material in the tragedies are from mythos.

 

 

 

The god of Gods is invoked in the opening.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "You and I are left alive to pay

 

                 The final penalty to Zeus for Oidipus."

 

 

 

Not very much later the hidden god appears, in the first burial of Polyneices.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "You know, sir, as soon as I heard, it came to me:

 

                 Somehow the gods are behind this piece of work."

 

 

 

In the second burial.

 

 

 

                 Watchman:

 

                 "Suddenly a whirlwind struck. It raised dust

 

                 All over the plain, grief to high heaven.

 

                 It thrashed the low-lying woods with terror

 

                 And filled the whole wide sky. We shut our eyes

 

                 And held out against this plague from the gods."

 

 

 

It has been argued that this plot of the drama can be interpreted as a set up by the gods for Antigone, in line with her opening remark, "to pay the final penalty".

 

 

 

In the 4th stasimon the chorus sings about three myths, that of Danae, Lycurgus and Cleopatra, all of which preaching:

 

 

 

                 "Fate has a terrible power

 

                 That nothing escapes…."

 

 

 

                 "But the eternal Fates kept after her,

 

                 Her too. O my daughter."

 

 

 

In the final 5th stasimon of the drama Creon prays, despite the chorus.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "Then don´t pray at all.

 

                 A mortal has no escape from fate."

 

 

 

Creon can not withhold his praying. Sophocles´ drama "Antigone" is not a sermon, it is a prayer, unless of course all sermons are prayers.

 

We can understand all our artefact and culture as a prayer.

 

 

 

VI

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "Language and a mind swift as the wind

 

                                 For making plans-

 

                 These he has taught himself-"

 

 

 

Many years later Galileo also writes in his "Dialogo" that language is the greatest of all human inventions, a term that is out of place from a contemporary point of view, but no less marvelous. Whether it is given us by nature or by God is a question of ontology.

 

Mythos and Logos constitute each other. Logos is thinking, the ability to be aware of and re-flect upon the world and ourselves.

 

 

Before "logos" has taken us in possesion we live in the world, we are in nature living in direct contact with the world. With "logos" this living in the world is forever lost, and we live in "logos", having only indirect contact with being in the world.

 

"Logos" both separates us from and connects us to the world, at the same time.

 

With "logos" we no longer live in nature, but in the culture.

 

"Logos" enables us to reflect and understand ourselves, other human beings and the world.

 

But at the same time this great gift from God also makes it possible for us to mis-understand and not understand ourselves and other human beings, the other.

 

Just as unconcious presupposes a conciousness, understanding presupposes a not-understanding, and it is this not-understanding that constitute our ex-istance as human beings.

 

When reading "Antigone" we can recognize ourselves in the different personae: "they don´t know what they are doing".

 

We also recognize, quite well, when Phaedra in Euripides´ "Hippolytus" says: "We understand what is right and proper, we know it, but we do not perform it in our acts".

 

 

As we understand St Paul:

 

 

 

                 "I do not understand my own actions.

 

                 For I do not what I want,

 

                 But I do the very thing I hate."         (Rom. 7:15)

 

 

 

Human beings can trick and fool each other. On top of it all, the crowning glory is the only creature in this world who can fool itself.

 

The unconcious is not organized as a language, but it is constituted by it, "logos", and with it we all become strangers to ourselves, a universal human condition. Knowledge about ourselves is not immediatly given, but is only accessible through the conciousness of an other human being.

 

Otherness is a prerequisite for the constitution of subjectivity and selfknowledge.

 

 

In the last words of the chorus Hölderlin has a somewhat daring interpretation of the word "phronein", which he says is "der verständiger Geist", the spirit that makes mutual understanding possible.

 

With language –logos – I can not only talk but also listen to another talking to me. A dialogue is being born.

 

 

 

 

 

On The Human Condition in Sophocles´ "Antigone".

 

Urban Vestin

 

 

 

" Most of the myths are nowadays narrated in a scientific dialect."

 

 

 

                                             (Lars Ahlin)

 

                      

 

Legends are the ego´s interpretation of the id, employed by artists to express basic experiences of the human being, to convey messages about the human condition.

 

I will try to investigate the human condition as it is articulated in Sophocles´ "Antigone".

 

 

The human condition is far greater than the human being, it constitutes us as subjects.

 

"Sub-ject" means ethymologically to surrender, to give up. What is it that we have to sub-ject to, in order to become a subject?

 

 

As I see it, it is the six conditional conflicts:

 

 

I.The conflict between the sexes.

 

II.The conflict between the generations.

 

III.The conflict between the individual and the society.

 

IV.The conflict between life and death.

 

V.The conflict between mortals and gods

 

VI.The conflict between our conscious and our unconscious, constituted by "logos" – language.

These conflicts are not primarily external ones, but certainly also internal.

 

They are what all art is about, created in different ways in our culture. As long we have a life in this world they deal with us and we deal with them, constantly and persistently, night and day.

 

All of them lays down conditions for the subject set by gender, age, community, death, ex-istance and by the potentials of re-flecting upon our lifes and the world.

 

 

Pythagoras is said to be the first using the concept "cosmos", concerning the universe as well as each one of us, a cosmos in miniature. He and his followers the Pythagoreans developed the idea that human beings, and the world consist of union of opposites. The well-being of an individual, and the world is founded on the harmony between opposite qualities. This notion came to be a corner-stone in Greek medicin and within that field normative to the Christian and Muslim world long after the Middle Ages.

 

Very much later Freud realized the impact conflicts have in our mind, how much of our interpretations of the world and ourselves, even language itself are constructed upon opposites.

 

The theory of conflict is fundamental in psychoanalysis.

 

During the 5´th bentury BC Greek tragedians started to investigate the human condition, using the myths. The conflicts and sufferings Homer and Hesiodos had told about in a more unreflecting manner were now subject to psychological and existential inquiry.

 

Sophocles´ "Antigone" is the only Greek drama concerning all six of them.

 

The form is a drama with the conflicting opposing positions created by different personae, voices of our souls, mainly Antigone-Creon, Creon-Haemon, and Antigone-Ismene , commented and sung by the Chorus.

 

 

I

 

The heart of drama is the meeting of a man and a woman.

 

Although it takes some time in the play when Antigone and Creon meet each other on the stage, the intensity of the forecoming confrontation is anticipated already in the opening words of Antigone to her sister Ismene:

 

 

 

             "And now, a public announcement!

 

             They say the general has plastered it around the city.

 

             Have you heard this terrible news or not?

 

             Our enemies are on the march to hurt our friends."

 

 

 

And in the end of Antistrophe (a) of First Stasimon:

 

             Chorus:

 

 

             " For he is Man, and he is cunning.

 

             He has invented ways to take control

 

             Of beasts that range mountain meadows:

 

             Taken down the shaggy-necked horses.

 

             The tireless mountain bulls,

 

             And put hem under the yoke."

 

 

 

To which Woodruff comments:

 

"The quarrel between a man and a woman that lies at the heart of the play is in background; Greek men of this period frequently used images of taming and controlling animals for the relation between the sexes."

 

 

 

But when they meet, after Antigone has been caught with her second try to bury her brother Polyneices, they clash:

 

 

 

            Creon:

 

               "This girl was a complete expert in arrogance

 

               Already, when she broke established law.

 

               And now, arrogantly, she adds insult to injury:

 

               She´s boasting and sneering about what she´s done!

 

               Listen, if she´s not punished for taking the upper hand,

 

               Then I am not a man. She would be a man!"

 

 

 

               "But how I hate it when she´s caught in the act

 

               And the criminal still glories in her crime."

 

 

 

               Antigone:

 

               "You´ve caught me, you can kill me. What more do you want?"

 

 

 

               Creon:

 

               "For me that´s everything. I want no more than that."

 

               Antigone:

 

               "Then what are you waiting for? More talk?

 

               Your words disgust me, I hope they always will.

 

               And I´m sure you are disgusted by what I say."

 

 

 

             Creon:

 

             "Go to Hades then, and if you have to love, love someone dead.

 

             As long as I live, I will not be ruled by a woman."

 

 

 

And to his son Haemon.

 

 

 

             Creon:

 

             "And there must be no surrender to a woman.

 

             No! If we fall. Better a man should take us down.

 

             Never say that a woman bested us!"

 

 

 

             "What a sick mind you have: You submit to a woman!"

 

 

 

              "Don´t beat around the bush. You´re a woman´s toy, a slave."

 

 

 

II.

 

As the rencounter of gender is, in principle, non-traversable, so is that between generations. A recurrent theme since long before the Iliad. In "Antigone" it is expressed by Creon and the Chorus visavi Haemon and Antigone, who is herself daughter-sister to her father – an incestous off-

 

spring, assaulting the norms of kinship and generation.

 

 

 

               Chorus:

 

               "Now we see the girl´s as wild by birth as her father.

 

               She has no idea how to bow her head to trouble."

 

 

 

The intense dispute between Creon and Haemon beginning with "did you come in anger to your father?" to the last reply of Haemon, "Be crazy! Perhaps some of your friends will stay by you", and the Chorus divergent comments, is a well known tone of voicing the non-communication between generations.

 

But in the end of the drama the antagonisms are screwed to death, as Messenger tells Creon the last words of his wife Eurydice prior to her killing herself with a sword at the altar.

 

 

 

                 Messenger:

 

                 "But first she grieved over Megareus, dead before his wedding,

 

 

 

(Megareus, son of Creon and Eurydice had been sacrificed earlier to ensure victory over Argos)

 

 

 

                 And then over Haemon.

 

                 Last of all she called out to you,

 

                 "These are your crimes, Childkiller!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

III

 

The confrontations between the conscience and the society has been a leitmotif in western culture.

 

"Antigone" has engenedered much serious discussion and still does. One of the most common reading of the drama is also a moral-political one, about ideas and civil disobedience. Shall "what is right?" be defined by power or by the indiviual with the help of her/his personal daemon, and what is to be done when the conflicts are of antagonistic nature?

 

 

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "What laws? I never heard it was Zeus

 

                 who made that announcement.

 

                 And it wasn´t justice, either. The gods below

 

                 Didn´t lay down this law for human use.

 

                 And I never thought your announcements

 

                 Could give you – a mere human being –

 

                 Power to trample the god´s unfailing

 

                 Unwritten laws. These laws weren´t made now

 

                 Or yesterday. They live for all time,

 

                 And no one knows when they came into the light."

 

 

 

Antigone has recieved most sympathies from most of us, a warm-hearted, generous and self-sacrificing young woman struggling for what she believes is right. An auto-nomos, one who is a law unto herself disregarding the casaual laws of a temporary legislator.

 

The sentences of the Nuremberg trials also made it manifest that pleeding to "superior orders" does not free us from neither responsobility nor conviction.

 

But is not Creon, any state authority, justfied in defending the survival of the society against its enemies, whether it comes from outside or inside?

 

As we know anything can be carried out in the name of justice.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "If he honors the law of the land

 

                 And the oath-bound justice of the gods,

 

                 Then his city shall high.

 

                 But no city for him if he turns shameless out of daring."

 

 

 

No city, a-polis, an outlaw is what one turns oneself into when breaking the law, the contract, the Covenant.

 

There is no resolution, not by Sophocles.

 

 

IV

 

As death precedes life, so it does in "Antigone" and pervades the drama to the end.

 

Antigone presents herself in the very opening of the drama as an upset and furious woman enticing Ismene to share her experience of the world. From this moment and throughout she is an obsessed woman, obsessed with death. Her concern for her brother is her means. The deed to bury Polyneices is not enough, it is the announcement that matters.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "For god´s sake, speak out. You´ll be more enemy to me

 

                 If you are silent. Proclaim it to the world!"

 

 

 

When later Ismene is siezed with misgivings and wants to join Antigone, in spite of the deadly consequences, Antigone closes her heart to her sister, denouncing this belated oblation: Ismene is seeking a reward she does not deserve.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "My death is mine……..

 

                                                               Now leave my death alone"

 

 

 

                 "Be glad. You are alive. My soul died long ago.

 

                 It has gone to help those who died before me."

 

 

 

 

 

What matters are the deadly aftermath of the act.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 I´ll die in any case, of course I will,

 

                 Wheter you announce my execution or not.

 

                 But if I die young, all the better:

 

                 People who live in misary like mine

 

                 Are better dead. So if that´s the way

 

                 My life will end, the pain is nothing."

 

 

 

By sub-jecting to the condition of existence; one´s own perishability and mortality Antigone gains the strengh to invalidate that life which fated her with miscarriage.

 

In "Antigone" Sophocles brings into the open the question of what the conceptions – life and death – mean to us.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 " He has the means to handle every need,

 

                 Never steps toward the future without the means.

 

                 Except for Death: He´s got himself no relief from that."

 

 

 

V

 

The Greek tragedy (tragoidia) was born out of ritual-religious offerings to the god Dionysos – the idea of swelling vitality – performed in his thea-tron around an altar. According to tradition Thespis was one of the first tragedians introducing one actor in addition to the singing and dancing chorus, aloneness versus collectivity. During the 5´th century BC the theaters were still just as much a religious sacrament as it was an artistic event.

 

The content of the material in the tragedies are from mythos.

 

 

 

The god of Gods is invoked in the opening.

 

 

 

                 Antigone:

 

                 "You and I are left alive to pay

 

                 The final penalty to Zeus for Oidipus."

 

 

 

Not very much later the hidden god appears, in the first burial of Polyneices.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "You know, sir, as soon as I heard, it came to me:

 

                 Somehow the gods are behind this piece of work."

 

 

 

In the second burial.

 

 

 

                 Watchman:

 

                 "Suddenly a whirlwind struck. It raised dust

 

                 All over the plain, grief to high heaven.

 

                 It thrashed the low-lying woods with terror

 

                 And filled the whole wide sky. We shut our eyes

 

                 And held out against this plague from the gods."

 

 

 

It has been argued that this plot of the drama can be interpreted as a set up by the gods for Antigone, in line with her opening remark, "to pay the final penalty".

 

 

 

In the 4th stasimon the chorus sings about three myths, that of Danae, Lycurgus and Cleopatra, all of which preaching:

 

 

 

                 "Fate has a terrible power

 

                 That nothing escapes…."

 

 

 

                 "But the eternal Fates kept after her,

 

                 Her too. O my daughter."

 

 

 

In the final 5th stasimon of the drama Creon prays, despite the chorus.

 

 

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "Then don´t pray at all.

 

                 A mortal has no escape from fate."

 

 

 

Creon can not withhold his praying. Sophocles´ drama "Antigone" is not a sermon, it is a prayer, unless of course all sermons are prayers.

 

We can understand all our artefact and culture as a prayer.

 

 

 

VI

 

                 Chorus:

 

                 "Language and a mind swift as the wind

 

                                 For making plans-

 

                 These he has taught himself-"

 

 

 

Many years later Galileo also writes in his "Dialogo" that language is the greatest of all human inventions, a term that is out of place from a contemporary point of view, but no less marvelous. Whether it is given us by nature or by God is a question of ontology.

 

Mythos and Logos constitute each other. Logos is thinking, the ability to be aware of and re-flect upon the world and ourselves.

 

 

Before "logos" has taken us in possesion we live in the world, we are in nature living in direct contact with the world. With "logos" this living in the world is forever lost, and we live in "logos", having only indirect contact with being in the world.

 

"Logos" both separates us from and connects us to the world, at the same time.

 

With "logos" we no longer live in nature, but in the culture.

 

"Logos" enables us to reflect and understand ourselves, other human beings and the world.

 

But at the same time this great gift from God also makes it possible for us to mis-understand and not understand ourselves and other human beings, the other.

 

Just as unconcious presupposes a conciousness, understanding presupposes a not-understanding, and it is this not-understanding that constitute our ex-istance as human beings.

 

When reading "Antigone" we can recognize ourselves in the different personae: "they don´t know what they are doing".

 

We also recognize, quite well, when Phaedra in Euripides´ "Hippolytus" says: "We understand what is right and proper, we know it, but we do not perform it in our acts".

 

 

As we understand St Paul:

 

 

 

                 "I do not understand my own actions.

 

                 For I do not what I want,

 

                 But I do the very thing I hate."         (Rom. 7:15)

 

 

 

Human beings can trick and fool each other. On top of it all, the crowning glory is the only creature in this world who can fool itself.

 

The unconcious is not organized as a language, but it is constituted by it, "logos", and with it we all become strangers to ourselves, a universal human condition. Knowledge about ourselves is not immediatly given, but is only accessible through the conciousness of an other human being.

 

Otherness is a prerequisite for the constitution of subjectivity and selfknowledge.

 

 

In the last words of the chorus Hölderlin has a somewhat daring interpretation of the word "phronein", which he says is "der verständiger Geist", the spirit that makes mutual understanding possible.

 

With language –logos – I can not only talk but also listen to another talking to me. A dialogue is being born.

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Vestin            

         

                  

         

 

                  

         

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