Hegel, the Author and Authority in Sophocles’ Antigone

In Leslie G. Rubin (ed.), Justice vs. Law in Greek Political Thought. Rowman & Littlefield,. pp. 129-51 (1997)
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Abstract: William Conklin takes on Hegel’s interpretation of Sophocles’ Antigone in this essay. Hegel asked what makes human laws human and what makes divine laws divine? After outlining Hegel’s interpretation of Antigone in the light of this issue, Conklin argues that we must address what makes human law law? and what makes divine law law? Taking his cue from Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author?”, the key to understanding Sophocles’ Antigone and Hegel’s interpretation to it, according to Conklin, is the relationship between legal authority and an author. Antigone’s divine law opposes Creon’s human law in terms of whether the sense of legal authority presupposes an author. Antigone’s tribe recognises divine laws as nested in an impersonal Fate or Moira common to the Helenes as experienced through rituals and other personal experiences. Such an unwritten law lacks an author “whose origin we know not when”. The city-state’s citizens recognize authority in terms of whether a law has a source in a juridical representer of an invisible author. The invisible author is the city-state external to the representers. The representers interpret human laws in a manner which tries to access the invisible author. What becomes important is that philosophical consciousness observes how the characteristics of the two senses of legal authority clash.

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William Conklin
University of Windsor


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