Obstinacy without Wisdom: Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

Obstinacy without Wisdom: Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

Excellent rulers throughout history have typical qualities; intelligence, foresight, wisdom, and strength, to call simply a few. Oedipus, “biggest in all men’s eyes … noblest of men” was called upon by the citizens of Thebes to rescue them, as he did in the past (Sophocles, p. 111-112):

A blight is on the rewarding plants of the earth,

A blight is on the cattle in the fields,

A blight is on our females that no children

are borne to them; a God that brings fire,

a deadly plague is on our town … (p. 112)

Oedipus, like other great leaders, is empathetic and available to the predicament of his people: “I understand you are all sick, yet there is not one of you, sick though you are, that is as sick as I myself … My spirit groans for city and myself and you simultaneously” (p. 113). His actions had precedence; he had conserved the city when: “… the Sphinx began him and all people saw his knowledge and because test he conserved the city” (p. 132).

But knowledge is often short lived, and it can be lost in emotion. Without wisdom, aggressive determination and action is un-tempered and reckless. As Creon cautions Oedipus, “(i)f you think obstinacy without wisdom a valuable possession, you are wrong” (p. 133).

Oedipus can not be blamed for what he does not know, unless his stubbornness and ego keeps him from the reality. He has constantly believed his moms and dads were Polybus and Merope, even when his authenticity was questioned. (p. 145) yet “the story crept about extensively” and Oedipus sought to learn the fact from an oracle; while he did not find out of his real parentage, he was informed of “desperate horrors” that would happen: eliminating his father and sleeping with his mom. (p. 145).

He took what he thought about to be the very best action to avoid the “scaries” from occurring, and fled, seemingly to never ever provide it another idea. This can be thought about a “wise” choice; yet while hearing the words of the oracle, he did not pay sufficient attention to what was not stated. He was not offered any sign Polybus and Merope were indeed his moms and dads.

He can not reverse what has actually been done; fate had actually conspired against him and his mom and partner, Jocasta. She had gotten the same dreadful prediction, and had actually taken discomforts to have her boy killed. Fate intervened, and Oedipus was conserved, to be raised by his surrogate parents. When Oedipus fatefully killed King Laius, it was of no evident significance to him; undoubtedly he had made no queries of Jocasta prior to he made her his other half.

When the messages pertain to him from many sources, he is staggered that it could have been him. Yet stubbornly he declines to think it possible, preferring to believe among the “messengers”, his brother-in-law/uncle Creon is conspiring to remove him from his throne. (p. 138- 141)

Jocasta persuades him her sibling has no such intents; she likewise states the prophecy she had received, and how none of it could have occurred as they had hobbled and cast aside the infant boy. Hence, both Jocasta and Oedipus preserved “so tidy in this case were the oracles, so clear and incorrect” (p. 142) Oedipus is further buoyed by the news of Polybus’ death from old age– evidence to him that the oracles were incorrect, as he had absolutely nothing to do with his assumed dad’s death.

Lastly the one witness to the redemption of the cast-aside infant Oedipus provides the indisputable proof necessary; Jocasta eliminates herself, and Oedipus, in a fury, blinds himself with her fashion jewelry. As Oedipus stated previously, “O God, I believe I have called curses on myself in ignorance” (143 ).

The blind prophet Teiresias states the telling role of “wisdom”: “how dreadful is knowledge when it brings no earnings to the male that’s wise” (p. 123). Oedipus’ failure to look for higher understanding of his paternity, his failure to totally reflect on the murder of Laius and his marriage to Jocasta in light of the oracle’s dark message brought blight unto the land– probably avoidable.

Obstinacy– blindness to factor or wisdom when an option is to be made– has actually haunted leaders given that the era of Oedipus. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen various examples, and 3 of the most glaring have been during war.

Adolph Hitler is truly considered mad, evil incarnate, the designer of the horrors of The Holocaust. To the Allies great benefit, it was his obstinacy in micro-managing the war that helped hasten his death. He selected to micro-manage the war; the World War I Corporal, with no knowledge in tactical, much less strategic war planning, refused to take the counsel of what could be thought about a few of the finest military tacticians and strategists in the German military, if not worldwide. He ignored their counsel repeatedly and decisive battles were lost.

America is no complete stranger to the very same wartime foibles: both Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary Robert McNamara, along with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, were typically photographed peering intently at maps of Vietnam, choosing targets and creating strategies.

The wise input of the military management was secondary to the “wisdom” of the politicians, if it was acknowledged at all. In the existing administration, the argument continues on whether the Bush Administration was so adamant on destroying Saddam Hussein that they overlooked or distorted military and intelligence details as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq.

The dispute specifically fixates whether Administration officials, particularly Vice President Richard Cheney, declined to acknowledge intelligence reports that were “against” their position.

Obstinacy is not necessarily a stopping working found in management; it is common human condition that, as Sophocles mentions, can pay dividends when accompanied by knowledge. It is difficult to picture a more obstinate leader than Martin Luther King, Jr., in the sense of his unrelenting, steadfast, and non-violent quest for civil liberties.

His knowledge was accompanied, if not based on his unshakeable beliefs in the Constitution and bible. He led the campaign despite extensive bigotry and hatred. He might be deemed “swimming upstream” versus the obstacles of whippings, imprisonment, J. Edgar Hoover, and white (and some black) politicians and leaders advising him to “relax” or “take your time”.

In his heart he knew the time for his actions and management might not be post-poned, he knew the marches must continue. Some might consider his obstinacy to have resulted in his death; those who do have no idea regarding the knowledge of his actions.

The crises of this century will also need obstinacy with knowledge. It is a rare day when a range of environmental catastrophes are not in the news. Worldwide warming can not be dismissed; clinical evidence is silently apolitical. Big “dead” locations of the oceans are documented with irrefutable proof.

The disastrous drop in the level of the Dead Sea shows it might vanish within the century, and do so without regard to Arab-Israeli hostilities or which adjacent nation was “at fault”. There will be a point when leadership will emerge with the determination and tenacity to attack these problems full-force, equipped with profundity and intelligence.

Internally, the United States is confronted with the reality of terrorism, hardship, illiteracy, and skyrocketing criminal activity rates. Each concern must be faced with determination and insight, but it is foolhardy to anticipate this from governmental management alone. Each citizen needs to recognize those issues efficient in being attended to on an individual basis as well; Sophocles was talking to a really large audience, not simply rulers and kings.

He has actually provided an outstanding example for the individual; living in euphoric lack of knowledge is a dish for disaster when the private refuses to question whether the depths include implying the surface area guards. Daily actions, in domestic life, in the workplace, or in free time require decisions. Decisions made without advantage of intelligence belong to video games of chance. Decisions and pigheadedness in ignorance of truths is dangerous.

Every person has the chance to consult with “oracles” of sort. Never ever has actually knowledge been more offered to the individual than today’s “Age of the Internet”. Failure to make the most of details is reckless; to repeat and paraphrase Sophocles, knowledge is squandered on those too smart to accept it.


Sophocles. (427BC?) Oedipus the King. Greek Catastrophes. Greene, David, and Latimore, Richmond, editors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

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