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Moral Beliefs Discussed In Sophocles' Antigone And Western Philosophy By David Papineau

2544 words - 10 pages

Imagine someone in your family just dieda member you are very close to. This relative of yours is hated by your entire family because they thought this person displayed selfish and duplicitous behavior. Instead of sympathizing for their relative’s loss, they express feeling of antipathy, wishing the worst for this person in the afterlife and expecting you to do the same. You want to honor your loved one’s memory by throwing a memorial service, but your family forbids it and threatens to cut all ties with you if you choose to do so. Given this difficult situation, what do you feel is the right thing to do? Sophocles attempts to approach these issues of right and wrong and human morality through the characters in his play Antigone. Since there are many different takes on moral obligations and they alter between different principles of religion, civic duty, family commitment and commitment to loved ones, we learn there is no right or wrong behavior, just what we believe in our own minds to be justifiable or what is favored by society at the time.
So what exactly is morality and why does it pose such a complicated question? In the book Western Philosophy by David Papineau, it discusses the many different approaches to moral beliefs. Illustrious philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle’s take on morality are one’s personal behavior and set of inner values. Morals can also derive from a social standpoint, where the popular belief rules over all others; if most believe it to be true, then it must present itself as being true. But as stated in the book, even these interpretations can be “very narrow view[s]” (134). Morality also stems from a religious standpoint. Religion has perhaps had the biggest impact on people’s lives and the way they live it ever since people started to develop the mental capacity to question their own origin. Followers of Socrates suggest that if there was no set of religious guidelines and no type of ultimate punishment resulting from our actions, people would become completely demoralized. The world would then be completely submerged into chaos. Socrates also believes that the presence of justice is there to fulfill one’s happiness, since morality is fabricated into the wants and needs of human nature. British philosophers share a similar perspective on this subject matter, rationalizing that a person’s principles coincide with decisions that will provide them with the most pleasurable outcome. In this case, a person’s principles become self-indulgent and do not pertain to the wants and needs of others, since others do not know what is in that one person’s best interest. Immanuel Kant, philosopher of duty ethics, takes a more solid, ethical approach. He argues that the law should always be upheld and never broken under any circumstances (137). Most philosophers are in disagreement with Kant’s belief, saying that his take on morality serves as being “too stringent for everyday life” (137). If a person were to follow Kant’s...

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