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The Oedipus Plays of SophoclesPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Paul Woodruff

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190669447

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190669447.001.0001

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The Goodness of Death in Oedipus at Colonus

The Goodness of Death in Oedipus at Colonus

(p.209) Chapter 8 The Goodness of Death in Oedipus at Colonus
The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles

Franco V. Trivigno

Oxford University Press

In Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus, the third choral ode presents a dark and pessimistic view of human life, whereby it is best never to have been born and second best to die young. This chapter provides a detailed analysis of the pessimistic position advocated by the chorus, the core of which is an endorsement of the goodness of death. Their conclusion rests on two premises: a quantitative account of the amount of pain a typical human life contains and a narrative account of the life trajectory of a typical human life. After laying out the chorus’s position, the chapter assesses their view and situates it within recent philosophical debates in two areas: on the nature and value of death and on the relationship between well-being and time. In the end, the life of Oedipus, as presented in the tragedy, exemplifies the chorus’s dark perspective.

Keywords:   Sophocles, Oedipus, death, chorus, pleasure and pain, antinatalism, narrative, time

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