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Philosophical analysis on Oedipus Rex

The Oedipus Rex, a Greek play written by Sophocles, has been analyzed by philosophers over the years and so many interpretations derived from it. Some analysts view the play as drawing attention to the conflict between destiny and human will, and others as the play being psychoanalysis of Oedipus.

“What walks on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon and three feet in the evening?” The answer, Man, was only clear once the riddle had been solved. Oedipus boasts of divining the riddle without any divine intervention. Upon uttering the word man, the sphinx kills herself, Thebes is free and as a reward, he acquires a bride. This brings forth the issue of enlightenment, since man can defeat evil without invoking the gods and ancestral spirits. Oedipus represents the philosophical facet of Greek enlightenment.

Oedipus’ heroism is very different from the more conventional scene where the hero slays the monster using violence. Instead, violence is replaced by clever words in solving major problems. Oedipus’ clever words cause him not to be fully initiated and he does not escape the family curse. Oedipus eventually administers the brooches and goes to Cithaeron where he can wander alone. In this instance, death is not considered as an end but liberation since he willingly kills himself.

Oedipus is born to solve the sphinx’s riddle, and is presumed to know everything else too. However, whenever he is challenged on this particular claim, he always responds with suspicion and in an angry manner. In addition, Oedipus is ignorant of his parentage. As he analyses himself, he reveals truths to the audience but he remains opaque to the truth. This same knowledge eventually leads him to end his life when he discovers that he killed his father and married his mother.

Philosophers have concluded that oedipal desires are a price to be paid for enlightenment. The Oedipus complex, coined by Freud in his letter to Wilhelm Fliess, deducing that the play portrays every child’s secret desire: to possess one parent and do away with another. The complex stems from anger, abandonment and is characterized by a strong sense of independence, just as seen in Oedipus.

In conclusion, Sophocles designed the Oedipus Rex as a complex psychological, political and philosophical lesson. Oedipus’ wisdom caused him to be enlightened and his self-knowledge led to his end. Enlightenment, Liberation and Oedipal desires strongly resonate throughout the play and the play can be used to make very strong philosophical inferences.

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