Freedom of Choice (oedipus the King)

Freedom of Choice (oedipus the King)

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People have visited physics’ and fortunetellers for centuries to find out what is going to happen in their future, or to help them make an important decision that they faced. This is what King Laius did in the play “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles. King Laius, Oedipus’s father went to the Oracle at Delphi. Upon receiving the prophecy that his son Oedipus will kill him and marry his mother and commit incest with her, King Laius of his own free will ordered that Oedipus feet be bound by riveting his ankles together and sent him to Mount Cithaeron to perish. “Laius, king of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that his son would slay him. Accordingly, when his wife, Jocasta bore a son, he exposed the baby on Mt. Cithaeron, first pinning his ankles together (hence the name Oedipus, meaning Swell-Foot)”(1).
King Laius exercised his free will when he chose to believe that the prophecy would come true. Had he chosen to disregard the prophecy, then Oedipus would have known who his parents were and would not have murdered King Laius or married Jocasta. If mans future is predestined then it would not matter, but if mans fate lay in his own hands and is determined by the decisions he makes, he would be able to use the prophecies to make better decisions. “Individuals can respond to a proposition or any encountered fact by instantly thinking of its opposite. Every thesis can produce an antithesis; different logical meanings and patterns can then be discerned. This rational ability of the mind to take alternative perspectives means that an individual can then choose or create a new synthesis from different perspectives”(2). It’s not that he chose to take action to action to prevent such a dastardly act, but the way he chose to deal with the situation that set the stage for it to happen. It could be said that Sophocles was trying to demonstrate that if you choose to believe in predestination, you subconsciously deny yourself the ability of free will. “Finally, perhaps faith can be seen as a form of fixing our attention upon God and thereby freely committing ourselves. The theologian Nicholas Lash says that the first words of the Creed, "I believe in God," do not express one's considered opinion about God's existence but affirm that all of my life is "set henceforward steadfastly on God, and God alone.

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" Human beings have freedom to choose their responses”(2).
Jocasta did not believe that the prophecy could be true, because she thought her son to be dead, as she explained to Oedipus, “Apollo was explicit: my son was doomed to kill my husband… my son, poor defenseless thing, he never had a chance to kill his father. They destroyed him”(944-47). One of the themes of this story is blindness. The blindness of Oedipus through his character traits, but it could be argued that it is really the blindness of people who seek answers to their problems or news of their future through mediums of the supernatural, thus denying themselves of their own free will. “A man with a will is one who will do as he will, come hell or high water” (3).
Fate and character are intertwined in that Oedipus did not know who his real parents were, so in his trying to avoid the prophecy by fleeing Corinth, “I abandoned Corinth, from that day I judged its landfall only by the stars”(876-79), believing that King Polybus was indeed his real father, when in fact, he unknowingly met his father at a place called Phocis and killed him, bringing the prophecy to fruition, and thus prove the theory of predestination to be correct, but one must ask themselves had Oedipus known the identity of his biological parents, would he still have murdered his father?
Predestination and free will does co-exist. Predestination does not have to mean one singular place or condition in time or space. An individual’s end is predetermined by the actions and choices that he or she makes. There are many ways to get to one destination, how one gets there is totally up to him or her. It is the choices made today that effect outcome of tomorrow. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the most high’”(4).

Works Cited

1.     "Oedipus." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
26 Apr. 2005 .

2.     “FREE WILL”, By: Callahan, Sidney, Commonweal, 00103330, 06/19/98, Vol. 125, Issue 12, p7, 1p 26-Apr-05

3.     “REPRESENTATION AND THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL”, By: Stampe, Dennis
W., Social Theory & Practice, 0037802X, Fall90, Vol. 16, Issue 3p436, 32p

4.     “Psalms 82:6”, The Holy Bible, New International Version. International Bible
Society, Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 1973,1978,1984



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