Philoctetes

Ramy Elshenawy

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

Outline 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

Philoctetes 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.

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