Creon and Antigone Origins of Conflict through the Concept of Relative Virtues

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Dmitry A. Rakul Ethics and Leadership Dr. Frick February 23, 2007 Creon and Antigone: Origins of Conflict through the Concept of Relative Virtues One of the values of ancient literature is its reflections of fundamental societal realities on the most basic level, allowing for deeper interpretation of social rules and interactions. One example of these ancient texts, Sophocles’ Antigone, presents dilemmas between socially-constructed laws and sacred norms and the choice of individuals to overcome these constraints. Reactions of individuals when faced with situations constructed by Sophocles stem from the nature of their characters, and might be interpreted utilizing ethical theories. Particularly, conceptions of virtuous ethics might be superimposed upon two major characters

of Sophocles’ text, Antigone and Creon, to uncover ethical foundations of their actions in origins and causes of the central conflict which indicates that the conception of virtues is relative. The basic foundation of virtuous ethical theory is an assumption that to be perceived as a virtuous person, there is a necessity for several factors to be present. Waller claims that a virtuous person “is one who consistently does right acts for the right motives” (98). However, a better classification of a virtuous person follows from Aristotle, who insists a virtuous agent should first possess the knowledge, then choose acts for their own sake, and lastly his actions must proceed from character (98). Nevertheless, despite the wide range of variations among virtue theories, two

basic elements remain essential for considering virtue – consideration of character in conducting ethical judgments and the necessity for consistency of ethical actions. Strong emphasis on character of the person performing the act originates from the idea that ethical choices are not a product of chance, nor they are derived or calculated as a mere response to the particular situation. Instead, the final moral judgment is a result of the specific intention originating from a certain personal moral code – virtue, which consists of internally developed set of moral ideals that a person consistently strives to improve or at least to come as close as possible. Waller acknowledges that “one cannot be virtuous or perform good acts by accident… it requires deliberate practice

and consistent effort at character building… we aren’t naturally virtuous, but we have the capacity to become virtuous by practice” (98). Therefore, the idea of constant improvement of character in the quest for striving for ideal personal traits is vividly seen throughout the virtue theory. Nonetheless, similar accentuation is made on the consistency of performing good moral judgments and acts. This is the key to identify true virtuous character in a person; otherwise, if the person will be inconsistent, or willing to “give some slack” in particular situations (especially those who will satisfy egotistical desires), or otherwise refrain to follow set moral standards, he or she is not considered a virtuous person. Waller insists that inconsistency in moral decisions

might lead to developing a habit, which suggests that a habit is a slippery slope towards acquiring vicious personal traits ultimately leading to vicious character. Thus, both considerations of character traits and consistency in making right acts for the right motives constitutes the backbone of virtuous theory, and thus are the principle criteria for identification of virtuous moral choices. However, the notions of virtuous character and consistency of actions are not given at birth, but rather developed in the process of moral growth and ethical coming of age. Moreover, how does one receive the notion of ethical standards which, according to virtuous theory, he or she should always strive to achieve by conducting ethical choices? The underlying answer to this question lies in