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EnragedWhy Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths$
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Emily Katz Anhalt

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300217377

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300217377.001.0001

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The Dangers of Democratic Decision Making (Sophocles’ Ajax)

The Dangers of Democratic Decision Making (Sophocles’ Ajax)

(p.115) 5 The Dangers of Democratic Decision Making (Sophocles’ Ajax)

Emily Katz Anhalt

Yale University Press

This chapter examines how the Ajax tackles the problem of rage and highlights the dangers of democratic decision making. In Ajax, Sophocles shows that democratic institutions alone cannot eradicate the burning desire for vengeance because they do not address the fundamental problem. Ajax rejects not only the flexibility of democratic values and decision-making procedures, but also the cyclical processes of nature and the movement of time itself. The chapter considers how, following Ajax's death, the Ajax exposes the double nature of moral flexibility. It also considers how Odysseus's awareness of human vulnerability and mortality infuses the concept of justice with humanity and compassion. Ajax's rage reminds us to approach consensus and compromise carefully, with a farsighted, Odyssean understanding of self-interest.

Keywords:   rage, Ajax, democratic institutions, vengeance, democratic decision making, moral flexibility, justice, humanity, compassion, consensus

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