argument v.summaries Essay

Hegel on Antigone

Adapted from:

Russon, John. “Reading and the Body in Hegel.” CLIO 22.4 (1993): 321. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.


When Creon and Antigone act, they act on the authority of law, that is, they both act as representatives of a greater subject: Antigone acts for what she sees as divine will, and what Hegel sees as the foundations of patriarchal society, while Creon acts for human law and the institution of the city.  If one wants to understand the logic of Antigone’s action, it will not do to ask her to report on her own motivations; rather, one must analyze the needs of the family, and even Antigone would say, “You must ask the gods.”

What is crucial in Antigone’s actions representing the law, is that she acts the way she does because she feels herself compelled to so act.  Likewise, Creon opposes her out of duty, for he sees it as necessary that law-breakers be opposed.  For both of them, their actions are law-governed, that is, their acts appear necessary: …  Antigone is prioritizing divine law while Creon prioritizes human law.

Antigone is, more particularly, divine law;…dictated by its own internal logic.  Because Antigone acts from a duty which is socially required, her act reflects the Creek society as well as religion.  Of course, the same could be said of Creon’s act: indeed, Antigone and Creon fight because they each act on a one-sided logic, and their logics are mutually exclusive.  In this case, both characters are equally justified, since each is legitimately rooted in the necessary institutions of their social existence.  This is Hegel’s point: both act justly, and the contradiction of their actions demonstrates the tragic collision of right against right, with both sides equally justified.  The conflict in the play is not good vs. evil, but rather right v. right.

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