Intellectual Heritage – Midterm Assignment

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In class we discussed the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Through his endeavors, Socrates realizes there is a difference between the two, and this helps him form his own definition of human wisdom. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates attempts to challenge the prophecy that claims that he is the wisest man of all. After having conversations with men who are considered to be wise, including a politician, a few poets, and a few artisans, he concluded that he was superior to these men each time. The reason being that all of these people knew things for which Socrates was ignorant of, but they were not wise. Socrates observed that “upon the strength of their [work] they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise” (Jowett). Socrates considered himself to be wiser because he could acknowledge and accept his own ignorance.

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When the jury asked Socrates to propose a sentence for himself, Socrates mentioned the possibility of being exiled. He then claims that if his own city is to reject him for spreading his ideas, then there is a great possibility that the elders of other cities will as well. He will then be traveling from city to city just to get the same result. Socrates then mentions that he could go through with being exiled and “[hold] his tongue,” but he rejects the idea, stating that “the life which is unexamined is not worth living” (Jowett). It is apparent in his apology that life is meant to be questioned and that a life of obedience to a particular ideology is not meaningful enough to endure.

At the end of his trial, Socrates is sentenced to death. Rather than beg and plea for his life, he accepts his fate. Socrates claims that there is no reason to fear death, because no one knows what happens after one dies. In the final line of his apology, Socrates states, “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows” (Jowett). This statement exemplifies his fearlessness towards death, and how we should all be fearless of death, because all except gods are ignorant as to what it will be like and whether it will be better than life itself.

We are all – probably – going to die. How does the text of Gilgamesh help us with this eventuality? Almost the entire plot of The Epic of Gilgamesh shows us that we are all going to experience death whether we want to or not. Every human and every animal is going to die at some point, regardless of the actions one takes to try and fight against their inevitable fate.

The main character that The Epic of Gilgamesh focuses on is, obviously, Gilgamesh. “Gilgamesh was his name from the day he was born, two-thirds of him god and one third human. It was the Lady of the Gods drew the form of his figure, while his build was perfected by divine Nudimmud” (pp. 2-3). This is one the many factors of the story that show that death is something that will affect all of us. Gilgamesh was literally sculpted by the gods and is proportionally more god than human. However, as we learn at the end of the tale, he still is affected by mortality just like any other human (who is 100% human and not godly) would be.

Another repeated idea in the story is the attempt to go against what is meant to be. In this first case, it was the punishment for Gilgamesh’s rejection of Ishtar. Ishtar was given the Bull of Heaven to wreak havoc on the city of Uruk after Gilgamesh insulted her. However, once the Bull caused over 200 men to fall, “Enkidu sprang up and seized the Bull by the horns” (pp. 52). Then, Gilgamesh finished off the Bull and killed it. In retaliation, the gods made Enkidu ill, which eventually killed him. This sequence of events exemplifies that no matter how hard one tries to go against whatever is intended to happen to us, our fate is our fate. Which, for humans, means death.

Finally, after Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality fails, he realizes that even though he must face his own death at some point, his work in ruling Uruk will exist forever. Gilgamesh says to the boatman, “climb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth! Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork! Were its bricks not fired in an oven? Did the Seven Sages not lay its foundation? … Three square miles and a half is Uruk’s expanse” (pp. 99). Gilgamesh is appreciating the work he has done in the city of Uruk, and that will exist forever even though Gilgamesh himself will not. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King is a bit of a mess of a storyline, with many of the characters’ pasts being connected in some way. The gruesome ending probably could have been avoided if Oedipus had understood more about his origin, as well as his own personality traits that would soon work against him.

Had Oedipus known who his true parents were, he may have proved his own prophecy wrong and avoided killing his own father, Laius, as well as his mother and wife, Jacosta. Additionally, he would have prevented his own exile and blinding. And even if Oedipus did not know who his own parents were, if it weren’t for his stubbornness, he might have figured out that he fulfilled his own prophecy sooner than he did.

Oedipus was definitely not a stupid guy. He was the only one smart enough to “[understand] that celebrated riddle” (Johnston, 1800-1810) which would make him the king of Thebes and marry Jacosta. However, he lacked the self-awareness that could have helped lead him to a healthy, happy life, rather than one that would end in tremendous shame and turmoil.

While on the quest for the truth about who had killed Laius, Oedipus managed to get some information out of Teiresias. If it were not for Oedipus’s insolence towards Teiresias, he might have been able to reason with him. Teiresias says to Oedipus, “you yourself are the very man you’re looking for.” Oedipus refuses to believe him. “That’s twice you’ve stated that disgraceful lie” (Johnston, 430-440). Oedipus continues to berate Teiresias, saying to him, “Truth is not in you—for your ears, your mind, your eyes are blind!” (Johnston, 440-450). Not only would Oedipus knowing his own family history help him, but him knowing about his own distrusting nature, he might have been able to work with Teiresias to find out that it is actually himself who killed Laius and fulfilled his own prophecy.

Why write? Choose some one of our texts and consider why it should (or should not) be written down. Note: this is not a historical question – use ideas and resources from within the chosen text to address this question.

In every text we read, there is a lesson to be learned. Sometimes it is buried in a text which requires a deeper analyzation, and other times it’s front and center, represented in the plot of a story or the actions of a character. Plato’s Apology is especially interesting because it is a very old text that not only provides historical context, but also paves the way for the rise of free thinking, especially in the youth.

Young people often refer to some elders as “old-fashioned.” Some people grow up a certain way, they accept it as the way things are supposed to be, and they maintain that ideology for the rest of their lives. With the actions of the many people who came between Socrates and those today, and most importantly their documentation, the same message that Socrates preached allows us to contribute to society in a way that makes things better for everyone. If it weren’t for Socrates’ actions and messages, along with the documentation of his trial and eventual execution, we may not value the prospect of change as much as we do today.

Similarly, it is typically older citizens that get upset with the changes brought on by the youth. A recent example of this is the new movement for gun control in the United States, influenced heavily by the shooting that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. The right to bear arms is in our constitution. We’ve had this right for years and until recently, it was mostly supported. But because people like Socrates and the activists who came after him, the youth has been encouraged to challenge what is considered the norm. People are upset and a lot of people simply don’t care that this is how it’s been for so long. A huge movement has been started by high school students, most of whom couldn’t even vote at the time, to challenge the authority that claims citizens should be permitted to carry firearms.

What is the role of gender in the actions, choices, and character of Antigone or Medea? Choose one character to focus on. The actions taken by Medea in Euripedes’ Medea are very difficult to understand and absolutely despicable. However, I find her to be a very strong female character. She defies the traditional expectations of a woman in an extreme fashion, which is especially interesting considering the time the play was written. In the play, Medea abandons everything she knows and loves, all for the satisfaction she will feel in getting revenge on her estranged husband.

A woman is typically thought of to be more of a nurturer than a man. Especially in previous times, the man would typically be the “leader” of the household, with the woman being obedient to him. Medea proved herself to be smarter, more defiant, and more vindictive than anyone would probably ever expect a woman to be.

The first step in Medea’s plot for revenge was convincing Creon to allow her to remain in Corinth for the day before being exiled. She says to Creon, “Suffer me to abide this single day and devise some plan for the manner of my exile, and means of living for my children, since their father cares not to provide his babes therewith” (Coleridge). Creon agrees to let her stay for the day. In that moment, Creon underestimated Medea’s wit, which she used to turn her tragedy into an opportunity for revenge. She also used her underestimated intelligence to use her children as pawns in her plot, sending them to give her husband’s new wife the poisoned gifts.

It’s one thing to kill someone, but Medea’s next actions would go against her nurturing, motherly instincts. She was so devastated and angered by her husband’s actions that she was going to prove herself to be the most powerful by murdering the children she raised herself. As terrible as her actions are, this again shows how she defies the role of the obedient female by creating such havoc all to get revenge on a man.

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Intellectual Heritage – Midterm Assignment. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved September 30, 2022 , from
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