‘Xenophanes’ Theory of Knowledge and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King’

In 'Euphrosyne: Studies in Ancient Philosophy, History, and Literature'. De Gruyter. pp. 95-108 (2019)
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Abstract

Sophocles’ Oedipus the King is an extended meditation on the limits of human intelligence, or more precisely, on how a man renowned for the power of his intellect could fail to know the most important truths. One could argue, however, that Sophocles intended for his audiences to take away a second, narrower lesson: namely that divinely inspired seers such as Tiresias have a surer claim on truth than do those who, like Oedipus, seek to gain knowledge through their own efforts. Thus, the Oedipus can be seen as a defense of prophecy and a reaction against the complex of scientific and philosophical ideas known as “the 5th-century Enlightenment.” I offer some support for this reading of the Oedipus. I also argue that part of the cultural background of the Oedipus consisted of ideas about knowledge introduced into Greek thought by the outspoken critic of Greek popular religion, Xenophanes of Colophon

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