Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taking Personal Responsibility for Our Fated Lives

At the end of Oedipus the King, Oedipus takes full responsibility for everything he has done, even though by modern standards he is in no way responsible for any of his actions, not knowing he was doing anything wrong. The play is a play of discovery, and when he discovers all that he has done, he takes full responsibility for those actions, and punishes himself for those actions. All, despite the fact that he was fated to do what he did.

Today, we argue that you are not responsible for the things with which you're born, that you're not responsible for the environment within which you're born. But these are fates in the same way Oedipus was fated. You cannot get away from them -- but does that mean you should not be responsible for your actions? If I have behaved a certain way in the past, because I have Asperger's, say, and I later learn I have Asperger's and that that was why I behaved the way I behaved, should I own that behavior and take responsibility for it and apologize for that behavior, or just chalk it up to fate and declare I was not responsible for my actions?

The tragic choice, the choice Oedipus made, is to take responsibility for those things you did, that you were fated to do. That is the soul of tragic morals.
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