Soft Determinism and Oedipus the King

Soft Determinism and Oedipus the King

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The fates of the Greeks and their understanding of those fates bears some resemblance to the modern notion of Soft Determinism. For example, Oedipus was destined to greatness and banishment, but not all aspects of his life were predetermined. In some ways, he seems to have had total control; in others he had none. Fate’s grip was tight, but it was not a death grip.
It seems that the Greeks’ belief in the fates only goes so far. Certain aspects of their lives are fated from the moment of birth. But even with their belief in fate, the laws must be obliged and the transgressors punished. This contrasts with the Modern perspective of the Determinist. This philosophy suggests that everything that we do is only a result of our surroundings, the makeup of our genetics; it is, in a sense, fated. In contrast, the Greeks held individuals responsible for their deeds in spite of the motive.
This can be seen when Oedipus’ accidentally murders of his own father and is banished. Never once did Oedipus attempt to say that the death was not his fault; he did not deny that he had killed his father and slept with his mother. On the contrary, he took full responsibility for his actions, even though he had no evil intent. On the other hand, neither was he fated to blind himself at the end of the chronicle; he could have accepted his banishment and gone on with his life as best he could. As a result, he is shunned by the Greeks for the ghastly deed of self-mutilation.
It seems that fate’s reach stretches only so far and that many Oedipus’ decisions were his own. Oedipus may have been destined to share an incestuous relationship with his mother and to kill his father, but the other aspects of his life were a result of his choices. While every path led in one direction, there remained paths from which to choose. As a result, Oedipus maintained the freedom to choose how his life would end. He could have merely accepted his banishment, leaving to lead a meaningful life elsewhere. Instead, he blinded himself, thus ensuring a life of pain and suffering.
In today’s world, people are consumed with blaming others for their problems, never taking accountability for their own actions.

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If one is not in control of his or her actions, then they are not responsible for them. Who is responsible in this case? is anyone? Someone, it seems, must be held responsible for society to work. People must be held responsible for their actions or there would be total chaos.
The Soft Determinist and the Greeks understood this. The Soft Determinist believes that though many of our actions are only a result of outside stimuli, we remain responsible from them. Much like the Greeks’ fate, one cannot control his life in the entirety, but one must take responsibility for his or her own action. For one to be responsible for his or her actions, all one must do is act. Freedom is the ability to carry through with the action that has been selected. There is usually more that one option in any affair; freedom lies in ability to make a choice and execute that decision.
As Sartre enumerated, men are “condemned to be free.” Yes, men are predisposed and taught to act a certain way, but the process of development is not only determined by the outside world, but by oneself. The complex nature of consciousness allows man to teach himself as much, if not more than, the outside would. The Greeks looked at this as remembering the forms; knowledge was not taught as much as revealed. Self-reflection is one of the things that makes us human and one of the reasons we can and should be held responsible for our actions. Many things are fated to happen because of the situation and genetics of birth, but man’s reality is not only formed by others; man also determines that reality for himself.
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