Is it better to apply the law rigorously or to take into account the extenuating circumstances, the legitimacy of someone’s behavior? Should we prefer injustice to disorder? Can justice be reduced to law? Such a dilemma takes a dramatic turn in the work Antigone by Sophocles.
In the tragedy Antigone by Sophocles:
Creon forbids Antigone to bury her brother, because the latter has betrayed the city and sided with the enemies.
But for Antigone, it is a moral duty, a divine legitimacy: she must bury her brother. What she does.
What behavior should Creon adopt then ? Antigone has disobeyed the law, which provides for a death sentence. Antigone is condemned by Creon to death.
Justice transcending the law (Justice is not reduced to laws)
On the one hand, justice for Antigone went beyond the law, it was a matter of honor, of moral duty.
In that Antigone has a vision of justice transcending the law, which touches the legitimacy.
Justice is the application of the law: legal positivism (Justice is reduced to the laws)
On the other hand, justice for Creon is to respect the law, in order to preserve peace in the city. If one allows oneself to disobey the law, he risks disorder, but order is better for peace and the common good.
In this, Creon has a vision of justice which is confused with the law : Kelsen’s legal positivism (law is justice).
In the same way, Goethe, who prefers order to justice, prefers to obey even unjust laws.