There is something magical about Greek Mythology.  Wikipedia summarizes the story of Antigone thus:

“Antigone is the subject of a story in which she attempts to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices. Oedipus’s sons, Eteocles and Polynices, had shared the rule jointly until they quarrelled, and Eteocles expelled his brother. In Sophocles’ account, the two brothers agreed to alternate rule each year, but Eteocles decided not to share power with his brother after his tenure expired. Polynices left the kingdom, gathered an army and attacked the city of Thebes in a conflict called the Seven Against Thebes. Both brothers were killed in the battle.

King Creon, who has ascended to the throne of Thebes after the death of the brothers, decrees that Polynices is not to be buried or even mourned, on pain of death by stoning. Antigone, Polynices’ sister, defies the order, but is caught…

Sophocles’ Antigone ends in disaster, with Antigone being locked in a tomb on Creon’s orders. Although Creon has a change of heart and heads to the tomb to release Antigone, Creon’s son Hæmon (who was engaged to Antigone) stabs himself after seeing that Antigone has hanged herself in the tomb. Queen Eurydice, wife of King Creon, also kills herself following her son’s death”


There are various interpretations of the play.  Hegel has Antigone stand for the transition from matriarchal to patriarchal rule, but also for the spirit of kinship.   Judith Butler offers a feminist spin on the narrative.  

My interest lies on Hegel’s latter point: the tension between the rights of kinship vs. those of the state.  Antigone claims her kinship rights to bury her brother, while Creon claims his political rights to deal with treasonous behaviour.  Both rights seem valid and a logical outcome of their respective contexts.  

Context brings to mind the notion of the “common good” as a baseline for evaluation of right and wrong. That there is tension, however, raises the question of whose common good is good.  


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