From Hegelian Ethical Substance to Lacanian Impossible Thing: An Ethical-Psychoanalytic Study of Sophocles’ Antigone

Document Type : Original Article


1 Faculty Member, Islamic Azad University, Abadeh Branch, Abadeh, Iran

2 Assistant Professor of English, Islamic Azad University, Abadeh Branch, Abadeh, Iran



Hegel’s approach to tragedy is innovative and impressive, putting such a tremendous impact on the ethical canons that has been unprecedented since Aristotle. Hegel studies both the modern and the Greek classic tragedies, concluding that the Greek tragedy, in particular, Sophocles’ Antigone is superior to all the masterpieces of the classical and modern world… the most magnificent and satisfying (Aesthetics II 1218). Resorting to his dialectics, he declares that Antigone is a brilliant demonstration of what he names the ethical substances, the universal pathos or divine wills of the Greek mythological gods incarnated in the particulars, that’s is, the human beings that consciously choose to actualize them. Hegel thus illustrates that in Antigone the characters’ wills and actions are counterpoised by the unseen and intangible ethical substances just to confirm the triad of the Dialectal method where the thesis and anti-thesis’s dispute will subside down at the reconciling synthesis. Jacques Lacan, despite the incontrovertible impacts he takes from Hegel, argues that the essence of tragedy has to be sought in the very private world the subject internalizes in itself in interaction with the object-cause of its desire. Lacan adds that the object-cause of desire, unlike Hegel’s dynamic and lively external stimuli, is a common object that the subject elevates to the level of sublimity. Lacan also proposes that the very incomprehensibility of the Thing causes the subject to encounter the blinding Real, as an essentially-internal part of the subject’s symbolic world.


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