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Ramy Elshenawy

English 10-7/8
Mr. Storch
March 19 2007

I. Background on Philoctetes

A. Story

1. Myth

2. Play

B. Painting

1. Description

2. Symbols

C. Fulfillment of Archetypal Hero Role

1. Quest/Task

2. Fellow Hero

3. Pre-Ordained Fate

II. Critical Quotations

A. Purposes of Myth

1. Mystical

2. Cosmological

3. Sociological

4. Pedalogical

B. Meaning of Symbols

III. Utilitarianism

A. Ideals

1. Rightness-Happiness Relation
2. Measurement of morality of action

3. Justifications of morality

B. Supporting Arguments

C. Opposing Arguments

IV. Utilitarianism in Story

A. Odysseus

1. Pro-Utilitarianism

a. deceive Philoctetes

b. lying and winning > being honest and losing

B. Neoptolemus

1. Anti-Utilitarianism

a. don’t deceive Philoctetes

b. lying is never morally right

V. Utilitarianism- Historical Connection

A. Bush’s “big lie”

1. Bush lies to gain support for war

2. Never justifies lie- unsuccessful war

B. Sam Adams in the Revolutionary War

1. Dramatizes tyranny of England

2. Causes revolution to achieve freedom from England

VI. Utilitarianism-Philoctetes-Historical Connection

A. Roles

1. Philoctetes = American Citizens = Colonists

2. Neoptolemus = Press = Boston Gazette

3. Odysseus = Bush = Sam Adams

B. Effectiveness

1. Bush = Utilitarianistic but utilitarianistically wrong

a. means = lies = wrong

b. end = unsuccessful, costly war = wrong

2. Adams = Utilitarianistic and utilitarianistically right

a. means = deceit/lies = wrong

b. end = successful war/independence = more right

Ramy Elshenawy

Mr. Storch

Honors English 10 / Section 3

19 March 2007


The myth of Philoctetes is one that explores the ideals of morality in a way that is

seldom seen in most other stories. Philoctetes is a character that fulfills the archetype of a

hero in several ways, for instance, the oracle’s prophecy of his necessity in the war

against Troy exemplifies the idea of a pre-ordained fate. Also, despite his initial

intentions of duplicity, Neoptolemus proves to be a heroic companion to Philoctetes,

providing another aspect of a hero. Yet, most importantly, Philoctetes establishes himself

as a hero when he embarks on a quest from Lemnos to Troy, to help the Greeks win the

Trojan War. However, despite his heroic qualities, Philoctetes is also a victim in

Neoptolemus’ and Odysseus’ scheme to steal his bow and arrows. Observing him in this

light illuminates an underlying theme in his story that is ubiquitous throughout history:

utilitarianism. Philoctetes is a symbol of the effects, justifications and the oppositions of

utilitarianism, as well as the utilitarianistic actions of people throughout history.

In order to truly identify, understand and appreciate the significance of the myth

of Philoctetes, it is necessary to first understand the purposes of myth in general.

According to Joseph Campbell there are four: mystical, cosmological, sociological,

and pedagogical. Mystically and cosmologically, myths provide possible clarification

for the unknown, telling stories that explain the aspects of life that are obscure and
not understood by human beings. On the other hand, the sociological and

pedagogical purposes of myth are to illuminate the actualities of life. Sociologically,

myths give insight on the realities and accepted aspects of life and pedagogically,

they, teach us life lessons through symbols, characters and stories. In the story of

Philoctetes, the most significant purposes are both pedagogical and sociological because

the concept of utilitarianism is taught. However, the concept is both supported and

opposed throughout the story, making those that represent it true symbols in the

eyes of Campbell: “… a sign that points itself to a ground of meaning and being that

is one with the consciousness of the beholder”.

Utilitarianism is a philosophy of ethics that originated in the 18th century in

England. One of its leading advocates, John Stuart Mill, wrote an essay defining it and

explaining its ideals. Utilitarianism is essentially a philosophy that is built around the

Greatest Happiness Principle which states: “actions are right in proportion as they

tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

This principle is the basis of judging the morality of one’s actions: the more

happiness or unhappiness induced dictates the morality or immorality of an action.

Works Cited

Adams, Samuel. "Sam Adams, Boston Gazette." The Writings of Samuel Adams. Ed.

Harry Alonzo Cushing. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904.

"Boston Tea Party," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007 © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation.

Collins, Tom. "Mythic Reflections." The New Story 12(Winter 1985/86) 20 Feb 2007


“In Search of Myths and Heroes.” PBS. PBs. 27 Feb 2007


Mill, John Stuart. "Utilitarianism." BLTC Research. BLTC. 20 Feb 2007

North, David.”Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: Bush’s “big lie” and the crises of

American Imperialism.” World Socialist Web Site. 21 June 2003 27 February 2007


Parada, Carlos.”Philoctetes.”Greek Mythology Link. 27 Feb 2007


Sophocles, "Philoctetes." The Complete Plays of Sophocles. Ed. Moses Hadas. 1967:

Bantam Books, 1967.