Heidegger, Death and 'Originary-Ethics'
The Finite Venture of Antigone’s Heroic Act in Sophocles’ Tragedy
Keywords:da-sein, deinon, death, dikē, selfhood
Outside the claim that Antigone’s blood relationship is a primal incentive towards her transgressive act, Heidegger’s readings of Antigone couch an overarching insight, which dovetails with the terrible (deinon) in Introduction to Metaphysics. For Heidegger, the deinon as the ‘terrible’ reconciles the historical role of Antigone with the utmost of risk of death. Antigone is able to preserve the essence of dik? through death’s radical negativity. In a remarkable passage, Heidegger says that the deinon is ‘the terrible in the sense of the overwhelming sway’. Instead of claiming that the deinon is transgression or kinship, and thereby reduce the terrible to an objective experience. I argue that the deinon resides precisely in the relationship between death and dik?. Death’s insurmountable risk is what preserves the deinon between fittingness and unfittingness; between homeliness and unhomeliness. I concur that this confrontation can only occur if Antigone’s impulse is neither her brother nor the gods. Both of these affirmations attenuate the risk of dik? since their essence reifies the inarticulate character of Antigone’s impulse. Antigone’s impulse carries that which cannot be named, or more acutely, that which elopes articulation. Antigone’s act is a consequence of a ‘risk’ that keeps itself more risky, more transgressive, and more terrible. As we ponder Heidegger’s understanding of death, it becomes clear that the ‘more terrible and distant’ is the limit beyond all limits. Death fulfills Antigone’s heroic venture in that her act is a concretion of the inarticulate nature of the deinon. The aim of this essay is to ascertain that neither familiar kinship nor transgression cohere with Heidegger’s claim on Antigone’s individual act. It suggests that dik? is the non-metaphysical risk that allows Antigone to envisage death’s radical negativity as the utmost limit that cannot be extinguished. The conclusion of this study ascertains that death’s radical negativity allows Antigone to perceive the finitude of her historical role as a citizen without naming her individual impulse, chiefly because she realizes that transgression is not a final resolve.
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