Author Information

Shoshana Primak


The concept of free will is practically inescapable in modern day philosophy. Indeed, questions regarding the power of free will are of no shortage in philosophy: While one philosopher might assert that humans have absolute free will, another may accept free will as present but questions how powerful it is, while a third explores the implications of a deterministic universe in which there is a complete absence of free will, and so it goes on until an entire library can be filled with texts that deal exclusively with freedom. I make note of this modern captivation with the concept of free will not because I intend to add this work to the aforementioned figurative library, but to remind my reader of a simple, chronological fact: the ancient Greeks did not have a concept of free will, nor did they care to question the significance of such a notion. It is of the utmost importance that this fact be viewed not as a mere triviality; rather, this knowledge must be taken into account when considering any aspect of an ancient Greek text that, to the modern eye, appears to be concerned with a battle between free will and Determinism. To make an argument in which an ancient Greek author is portrayed as a supporter of the concept of absolute free will is an anachronistic fallacy and must be disputed as one. Resultantly, although Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus looks to the modern eye to be a play centered around issues of Determinism and free will, it is no such thing; instead, the play addresses questions of choice, agency, and most of all, meaning. Through the lens of Albert Camus’ philosophy of the absurd, and backed by a philological investigation of the presence of ‘fate’ in the Sophoclean universe, I will argue that that Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus gives a firm answer to if and how man can go on living in a world that he has discovered to be meaningless.

Note on the Author

Shoshana Primak is a graduating senior doublemajoring in English and Philosophy. Her research was completed in Summer 2019 under the mentorship of Dr. Kevin Kalish (English) and was funded through the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research summer grant. Shoshana plans to pursue a PhD in Philosophy following graduation, and she intends to continue making connections between her undergraduate fields for the rest of her academic career.

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