Stockholm History of Philosophy Workshop: Pieta Päällysaho (Jyväskylä)


Date: Friday 25 November 2022

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700

Neoptolemos looks ugly – shame and ethical evaluation in Sophocles’ Philoctetes


In my presentation I will offer a philosophically informed reading of Sophocles’ last tragedy, the Philoctetes. More specifically, I will read the play as a study on the processes and problems of ethical evaluation, and how this evaluation is informed by the feeling of shame (aidôs/aischunê) and by the negative value of shameful or ugly (to aischron). The plot of the Philoctetes revolves around the question of whether one of its central characters, the young Neoptolemus, recognizes the shame involved in his actions – and whether this shame can inhibit shameful action. In this, Sophocles’ play seems to anticipate the later formulations of Plato and Aristotle who both maintain that a proper capacity for feeling shame (especially aidôs) is essential for the young, because shame has the power to keep them from committing shameful and ugly deeds. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that in the Philoctetes (as well as in Plato and Aristotle) recognizing something as shameful is not only an emotionally charged ethical evaluation but also an aesthetic one – for aischron can mean, simply ‘ugly’. Therefore, I will argue that the Philoctetes presents a model of ethical evaluation that is at once emotive and aesthetic.

 This is a hybrid seminar. Please, find the zoom-link here: