Greek Tragedy and Political Philosophy: Rationalism and Religion in Sophocles' Theban Plays

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In this book, Peter Ahrensdorf examines Sophocles' powerful analysis of a central question of political philosophy and a perennial question of political life: should citizens and leaders govern political society by the light of unaided human reason or religious faith? Through an examination of Sophocles' timeless masterpieces - Oedipus the Tyrant, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone - Ahrensdorf offers a sustained challenge to the prevailing view, championed by Nietzsche in his attack on Socratic rationalism, that Sophocles is an opponent of rationalism. Ahrensdorf argues that Sophocles is a genuinely philosophical thinker and a rationalist, albeit one who advocates a cautious political rationalism. Ahrensdorf concludes with an incisive analysis of Nietzsche, Socrates and Aristotle on tragedy and philosophy. He argues, against Nietzsche, that the rationalism of Socrates and Aristotle incorporates a profound awareness of the tragic dimension of human existence and therefore resembles in fundamental ways the somber and humane rationalism of Sophocles.