A Few Notes on nosos and Language in Sophocles Philoctetes

Abstract: 

This article aims at an investigation of the motif of Philoctetes’ nosos in relation to the way the characters interact through the means of language. A central issue is how Philoctetes’ nosos effectively jeopardizes Neoptolemus’ capability to speak, marking a dividing line between divine and human speech. Emphasis is placed on the crisis of Neoptolemos’ logos in lines 865-909: Neoptolemus, deeply sympathetic for Philoctetes’ pain, is no longer able to deceive the infected hero with his words. The language of Neoptolemus does not fall into aporia (895-897) merely because it has been used wrongly: his aporia seems to con­cern the nature itself of signs as a warrant of the unity of signifier and signified. Finally, in the light of Heracles’ epiphany, we are not warranted to claim that divine language or my­thos is truer than human language or logos, but rather that the two cannot be compared: they are incommensurable linguistic systems, even though their vocabulary and syntax coincide.