Relativist Justice in Antigone

The trio of classic Greek texts, The Last Days of Socrates, Antigone, and The Eumenides all strike a contrast between public and private morality. In each work one person carries forth an unpopular action that he alone believes in, and must later justify the result that, while deemed unsatisfactory by the greater public, he feels was necessary for his own private conscience. For Socrates, philosophizing his version of the truth was his own private responsibility that was scorned by the public. Antigone's loyalty lay with her brother rather than the state that decreed he not receive a proper burial. Orestes sought vengeance against his mother for killing his father, though that meant committing a heinous crime he knew would not be well received. Each hero challenged the absolutist notion of justice and shifted the public's attention to a more relativist interpretation as he appealed to common sense rather than entrenched archaic tradition, and each one valued the word of the gods over the word of his human rulers.

In The Apology, Socrates defends himself against the charge of "...committing an injustice, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger,...

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