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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 69, 2018

Political Philosophy

Devrim Sezer
Pages 357-367

Medea’s Wounds: Euripides on Justice and Compassion

This paper explores the moral and political implications of Euripides’s Medea. Drawing critically on Aristotle’s and Nietzsche’s readings of Euripidean tragedy, I will show that in his Medea, Euripides brings to the attention of his Athenian audience that the Greek democratic ideal of persuasion can also be used by a foreigner/woman in her demand for justice. In doing so, Euripides at once advocates the civilizing power of Athenian political life and its civic ideals, and demonstrates its limitations and injustices, in particular with regard to women and “barbarian” foreigners. But at the same time, Euripides also emphasises that the politics of revenge (and violence) initiated by Medea herself, in response to her failure to persuade her opponents through speech, demonstrates not only the error in her judgement (i.e., Aristotle’s concept of hamartia) but also the deeply wounded moral psychology of the oppressed and marginalised people. The paper finally examines the principal contributions of Euripides’s tragic storytelling to political theory with particular reference to the concepts of cruelty, compassion and “enlarged mentality.”

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