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Is Medea guilty of murdering her two children?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/18/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,090 times Debate No: 28409
Debate Rounds (4)
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J:In Euripides" adaption of the Medea play he depicts a woman torn by her conflicting wills. Torn Between getting revenge against her husband, Jason, who despite her own loyalties and sacrifices has proved to be unfaithful, and to ignore her desire for revenge and just live out her life happily. In Euripides" play she tries to imagine how to get back at him in a way that will cause him to suffer the most severely. She comes to understand that the best way to get back at her husband is to kill their children, to leave him with nothing when he returns from his quest for the Golden Fleece.
Although passage shows her evaluating the positives and negatives for killing her children, this in my view does not indicate guilt in a legal or moral sense. While such premeditation may make it seem that she is a rational agent, able to evaluate the pros and cons of her possible actions I will argue that she was in fact not mentally stable, or in control of her actions. I will also argue that the passage we are given does not show what Medea actually does, and although one could say it is implied by the passage that she kills her children, it is never directly stated on this version of the myth, and going to other versions of the myth that give support for her actual killing, leads to more support for the idea that she is insane. My arguments will show that she is not guilty on four different levels, firstly that (1) she can be seen to be insane just from the Euripides" reading. Secondly, the Euripides" passage does not clearly state she actually committed the act. Thirdly (3) even if you allow for the use of other sources of the myth, that too will lead to evidence of her being not guilty, by insanity, and by suggesting that her act was not a crime. Fourthly (4) even if Medea was not insane, her action and statements indicate she was not wholly in control of her actions, and did not act with true free will and therefore is resolved of guilt.

Argument (1)

Even within only the confines of Euripides version of the myth we see evidence for Medea"s insanity (and because of insanity, her lack of legal/moral responsibility). Firstly we must (1a) understand that to answer this question we must assume that Medea is a real figure, and that this passage is her actual words, if we did not do this then all we would have is an assertion of what Medea said as retold by Euripides. Accepting (1a) we are struck with how dramatic and deranged Medea seems when speaking to what could only be herself or her children. Imagine for a moment a real women, Medea or otherwise, in a room with her two children or possibly alone, speaking quickly and out loud, pacing and making statements like " Ah,Ah! Why do you gaze at me with your eyes children, why do you smile your last smile?", or "Ah, Ah! Don"t, my heart don"t you do this!, leave them alone, wretched heart, spare the children"
(1b)No sane individual yells back and forth between themselves while they try to decide on an action, perhaps if this was a calm inner monologue it would lend credence to the idea that she is a rational calculating individual, but how this is written instead makes her appeared unhinged.
Not only does her manner of speech indicate her mental instability, some of her statements indicate that she does not actually think what she is about to do to her children is a cruel thing, that in fact letting them live would be the cruelty. In page 111 She states that " I swear I"ll never leave these children for my enemies to insult and torture!", this is a reference to the shame that will be placed on her and her children because of Jason"s unfaithfulness, which she has come to fully believe is something that she must prevent her children from suffering. This passage shows (1c) that she, in regards to the actions effect on her children (death), sees it as a good thing, and one of the key markets for the upholding of an insanity defense in most legal systems is that the accused does not understand the actual nature of the act they commit and this seems to be the case with Medea, she does not understand that the act is one of evil but one that is good. And while one may attempt to argue that Medea"s last statement about knowing what she does is bad suggests the opposite of the previous argument, it seems to me that it does not in fact do so. When she states it is bad she is referring not to it being bad for the children but bad for her, bad for her happiness as a mother, but right (as shown with her previous statement), for her children.


I will argue against the statement that Medea is not guilty by proving with evidence and statements by Medea herself. I will prove that the though she may be considered insane by my opponent, she was clearly not since she was able to weigh over the pros and cons of her options. It was also clear that she did the action because she was forthright in the clear decision of the certain death of her children. She could not have acted out of rage because how would that allow for her to reason with herself over what the better option would be.
Medea is guilty of premeditated and first degree murder of her two sons.
Medea she wished to obtain revenge against her husband who left her to marry another. Evidence in the defendant's monologue proves her premeditation. She's states "Ill take my children from this land, Why shouldn't I, in harming them them to give their father pain make myself suffer twice as much? I cannot." In this statement, Medea goes against the idea of killing her children because she feels that It would hurt herself twice as much with addition to the pain of Jason leaving. This is the first evidence of reason. She must have had enough reason to even allow this thought enter into her mind. Yet she still continued to kill her children. Though her husband did a horrible thing that must have hurt Medea, it did not give her a legal or moral right to kill her own children. The children that she gave birth to and raised on her own; that she killed because of her own feelings being hurt. Everyday, women are cheated on and are verbally and physically abused by their husband but yet Medea's actions are far beyond the normal responses.
My opponent argues that Medea's screaming back and forth to herself may lead to the proving of her insanity because no sane person would ever do that. I know that in my own experience, when distraught about an event, I have verbally debated and weighed over my options out loud. Did that mean that i was mentally unstable and could not therefore take responsibility for my actions? No. It only proves that the feeling of inferiority lead to a temporary influx of irrational thought. Such thoughts are quickly overcome with reason which Medea clearly displays. Therefore, Medea's behavior was no difference than the normal human being. It was her actions that were inhumane, unethical and clearly definable.
Debate Round No. 1


I will respond to my opponent"s arguments that (1) premeditation means she is guilty. That (2) my opponent gives support to my argument with her own words, and respond (3) to her claims that a normal person can shout out in the manner that media did and not be insane. I (4)will also point out her failures to address some of my arguments, and if space allows add another argument supporting my case for Medea"s lack of guilt.
First I wish to present my argument that nowhere in the text does it state that media killed her children. At very most we have is the intent to commit a crime, not any depiction of the crime itself, this must be addressed. It is not enough to state that it is implied that she killed her children, you don"t find someone guilty of murder because you think they MAY do something.
Secondly, (1) my opponent argues that the fact that Medea premeditated the murder is evidence that she is of a sound mind. This is false; the ability to premeditate or even weight pros and cons of a situation does not mean one is of a sound mind. Take for instance an insane man who believes the world is run by aliens wearing human skin, he comes to believe this fully, and decides he must act to save the few human left, he plans out different types of attacks he could do to kill the most largest possible amount of imposters, weigh the pros and cons of each attack, in the end setting one and carrying it out, killing many innocent people he fully believed to be alien invaders. Such a person is clearly insane yet they clearly employed reason to weight the best method of attack and engaged in premeditation. The analogy works because the both the man and Medea (a) believe something fundamentally false, (b)and commit immoral actions based on those beliefs all the while being. In the case of media instead of aliens she believed that killing her children was a good thing, that it would spare then from the horrible fate of being shamed and tormented for their father adultery. (4)And I should note that my opponent never really added my arguments about Medea believing what she was doing was a good act, not just for herself but for her children. This is the crux of the matter of insanity, Medea came somehow to wholly believe that death for her children was better than life, and despite her own reluctance to kill them, because how sad it would make her, my quotations from the first round give support for this view. As I Said one of the key markets for the upholding of an insanity defense in most legal systems is that the accused does not understand the actual nature of the act they commit, and clearly Medea does not understand the true moral nature of her actions.
My opponent (2) at once points states that "Every day, women are cheated on and are verbally and physically abused by their husband but yet Medea's actions are far beyond the normal responses" And I completely agree with this statement, Medea"s response is not a normal one, indeed are far removed from it, this is because she has become deluded by the emotional strain of Jason"s unfaithfulness, to the point she believes that killing her children is a good thing.

My opponent also argues that (3) normal people can indeed shout out loud and rant and rave, and claims to herself to have done it. Perhaps, she has, but I doubt it, at least in the manner in which Epictetus depicts Medea as doing. Her boisterous cries are not some melodramatic hand waving, but serious neurosis. The only time I have ever seen such behavior in my life is when i'm around extremely inebriated individuals, and such individuals I think it is fair to say are similar to an insane person in that they have reduced mental capacities.


Round 2 Response:
I will further respond to my opponents arguments by pointing out further flaws in his points made and addressing the basics behind my own. Though it does not state that Medea killed her children, Medea is also found to be the only suspect of the murder. She had intent due to the pain shewas feeling and the hatred she had towards her husband. She also knew how much he loved his sons. Intent is proven through her statements and her feelings towards the whole situation. Therefore, though the present text did not explain the death of her children, it may be found in other writings or from a witness that of course can not provide testimony today.

The argument in which i failed to address is faulty as shown in the text. My opponent is incorrect by saying that Medea believed that what she was doing to her sons was a good thing. In the text, while Medea is weighing over the pros and cons of the murder, she states that "Do I want to make myself ridiculous, letting my enemies go unpunished? I must go through with this." She feels that Jason has made a fool out of her in a sense and therefore she must take revenge on him by murdering his sons. Therefore, Medea is doing the action strictly due to her own needs and emotions. She feels that since he hurt her so, he should also suffer. She is acting upon her own selfish gain. In Media's time, If someone "slighted" you like Jason did to Medea, it was always a response to do something rash back to that person in order to keep your honor (statement made in Geiger's Philosophy Class while discussing the case). Medea wanted Jason to feel the same hurt that she felt and therefore acted in murdering her poor innocent children.

The insanity defense can also not be used in this type of situation due to the last statement in the reading. It states " I know what I am about to do is bad, but anger is master of my plans, which is the source of the greatest troubles for human kind." This statement proves the validity of my argument because she is providing testimonial evidence that she KNOWS that what she is doing is bad. One who is insane clearly does not know right from wrong. Also, shes states that "anger is the master of my plans." So she is clearly acting out of anger rather than insanity. That is clear testimonial evidence from the defendant herself that she acted out of anger. But how would she know that anger is controlling her if she was indeed insane? She wouldn't, and if insanity is the valid defense for allowing Medea off trial, then why couldn't every murderer go against the Justice system by saying "well anger was the master of my plans." There would be killings all over the world if this was the case and no justice system would be needed.

My opponent claims that Medea's cries are "not melodramatic, but serious neurosis." This is an unjustified claim. Unless my opponent can provide proof that he has some medical experience, he can not make such claims. This statement was based solely on opinion and can not be classified as neurosis which is a class of functional mental disorders. How can my opponent prove that Medea had a type of neurosis that he speaks of. He can not, which makes his argument less credible and should not be taken into account when determining the case of this clearly dangerous woman.
Debate Round No. 2


A number of issues must here in be addressed. Firstly (1) your response to my critical point of it not stating that Medea actually killed her children does not work. If we are forced to move to other writings that explicitly state Medea's killing then we must also accept the other statements those other writings make. One problem with moving to other texts is their contradictory nature, some versions of Medea's tale talks explicitly of her not kill her children, and main version that does, has her rewarded by the gods for it, with her being lifted into the heavens on a golden chariot and taken away with the bodies of her children, and if we are to take such a story literally i can see no way to discern the reality of events. For if a god really did help Medea it seems hard to believe she did a wrongful act and that the killing was in fact divine will. Because of all these contradictory accounts of the events surrounding Medea and the killings we cannot move to outside sources lest we be caught in a debate on which is more valid. we are therefor force to only take the original tale and what is written within it, and that which is written is not enough to prove guilt of murder. If i was given a transcript or a video of a woman saying these things, and was then told that she killed her children later on, with no supporting evidence i would not be able to find her guilty of murder

My opponent suggests that the text indicates that Medea wanted to punish Jason and this is true enough, but this does not negate the fact that she thought she was protecting her children from torment by killing them. As my opponent states " In Media's time, If someone "slighted" you like Jason did to Medea, it was always a response to do something rash back to that person in order to keep your honor " she indirectly gives support to the reasons Medea believed she had for killing her children, because it was not only herself that was shamed, by also her children and in those times to live in shame was a terrible and horrible thing, and though this view is deluded, it stands to reason that Medea's acceptance of it was also deluded. Giving further support for her impaired mental capacities.

In response to my opponent's argument asserting that anger and insanity are mutually exclusive,must disagree, I see no reason why Medea could not only be angry, premeditation, and also insane, the support for her insanity stems from her falsely held belief that she does good in protecting her children from the shame of their fathers act. You ask why could not any murderer get off by just saying " anger is the master of my plans"? The answer is simple, they cant. My argument is not that Medea is controlled by her anger or that anger absolves one of guilt, it is that holding deluded beliefs about the results of your actions is. Her thinking Jason would be mad and she would have revenge it self was not deluded, but thinking she needed to kill her children in order to preserve her self and them from shame was.

My opponents misunderstands part of my last point, i did not intend to suggest that Medea was literally neurotic, as neurosis does not includes deluded beliefs as Medea by my arguments clearly has. but only to suggest that she was acting in a truly hysterical manner, which suggests her unstable frame of mind. But to respond to my opponents charge of my inability to make such claims, because have no credentials: Credentials are not required for a position that one presents to be true, i can comment on Medea's mental state with the same authority that you can comment on the legality of Medea supposed "first degree murder" without actually being trained in law.


Many issues on the Medea case has not yet been settled and I will attempt to do so by supporting my previous claims. When I stated the fact about going into other readings, I did not mean other's opinions about the case. However, the play does continue and what was given is only a mere excerpt of Medea by Euripides. Though it is not hard, written evidence that Medea killed her children, an assumption based off of common sense and good judgment can be made. The woman spoke of killing her children, she planned it, she had a clear intent. Also in the picture given in the text she even held a deadly weapon in her hand as she hid it from her children.. She states "I who gave birth to them, shall kill them." .The children then turn up dead, and yet there is still question as to who is to blame.

My opponent states that Medea believed that she was doing what was right for her children by killing them and was therefore insane. I can not help but find flaw in this argument. If she believed she was doing right for them, why would she say "I know what I am about to do is bad." This only proves that she knows that killing her children is bad and illegal. She knows that they wouldn't want it and that nobody in the family would approve of her behavior. She states that she is taking them away from the evils of the world like their father, but who gave her the right to take the life of two small children? Nobody did, and Medea knows this as shown in the last statement made on page 112, right before the monoloug cuts off.

My opponent also states that Medea acted how she did because since she felt slighted, and she thinks that her children must have felt that also. However, Medea does not state anything about feeling as if her children were "slighted" also by Jason. She only mentions the horrible things he has done to herself. She states that "Your life here has been taken away from your father." Such statement seems to point out that the actions of the father, Jason, has provoked the killing of the children. Though this is abnormal processes and behavior, it can not be utilized for a plead of insanity. Any murderer may be mentally unstable at the time of the murder. Rage may cause one to murder another or fear as well as hatred. but you can not simply allow one to be free of charge just because they could not see past their anger. This is not allowed. One must be chemically imbalanced in their brain in order to obtain the insanity defense. Since my opponent is not a doctor and does not have doctor testimonial, he can not prove that Medea is chemically imbalanced. Also, the fact that Medea was able to reason with herself and weigh over the pros and cons to killing her children proves her ability to reason and tell the difference between right and wrong. If she had killed the children as soon as she found out about what Jason did, then a plead of insanity would be plausible because the pain may have overcome her ability to reason. however this was not the case and Medea proves her ability to make decisions

Though my opponent can give his opinion about the neurosis that Medea suffers from, it is not a fact that she suffers from it. he can not prove it and he can not diagnosis it based on pure observation and no medical license. Therefore, it is a pure opinion that my opponent thinks that Medea is acting similar to someone who suffers from Neurosis. Also to negate my opponents claim, I think that anyone would agree that the term "first degree murder" is a common term who any regular person who watches television would understand. First degree murder is also a term that is commonly used in trials when explaining the charges of the defendant. However, neurosis is a term that not everybody can follow unless you are a doctor, have a biological background or have easy access to google. Therefore, I believe that the use of the term "first degree murder" is a bit more reasonable than the use of the term neurosis without the ability of diagnosis or understanding from the audience.
Debate Round No. 3


I no longer see any point in responding to my opponents charge that Medea is not insane because of the last sentence where she states that she "knows what she does it bad", for it is clear to me that we are interpreting these words in an entirely different way. But I will respond to her other critiques of my argument, namely about murders and instability and her continued appeals to authority.
My opponent states that being temporarily mentally unstable at the time of a murder does not makes it so that person, yet in my view that is one of the few times killing another would be forgivable, in times when we are aware that a person was unstable, ergo, not in full control of their actions, as in the case of Medea. My opponent also continue to insist that I need some form of credentials to be able to say anything about Medea"s metal state, this is essentially an appeal to authority where in shes not arguing the merits of my argument but the merits of my credentials. My opponent argues that I cannot diagnose, from observation Medea"s metal state, because I have no credentials. If this is true then she cannot make the claim that she is sane simply from Her observations , and we are left with not only not if she is guilty because we don"t know whether or not she really killed her children but also, because neither of us has the credentials to assess her state of mind.
Furthermore my opponent states that, "I think that anyone would agree that the term "first degree murder" is a common term who any regular person who watches television would understand" and goes on to argue that the use of first degree murder is different than that of neurosis or insanity because "neurosis is a term that not everybody can follow unless you are a doctor, have a biological background or have easy access to Google" it seems absurd to me that one to assert that having access to a television in order to gain understanding of the word "First Degree" is any less difficult then coming to understand the word neurosis by using Google. And as it stands, for the record, I went for my Associates degree in biology.


To conclude my argument I am going to sum up each of my points and explain why they prove the guiltiness of Medea.

1) Medea had clear intent since she was hurt by Jason and having a strong hatred for him made her want to hurt him just as much as he hurt her. therefore, the intent was present which is necessary for a murder trial such as this.

2) Medea weighed over her options before killing her children. She stated the reasons why she should and should not kill her children and what would come from it. She doesn't want to at first, but can not live with the fact that Jason "slighted" her. Therefore, she decides that killing her sons would lead to the most beneficial option.

3) Medea's testimony also disproves the insanity defense since she stated "I know what I'm doing is bad." Therefore this means that since she knows the difference between right and wrong she could not be defined as insane.

4)Though my opponent has used the insanity defense and as defined her as having some type of neurosis, this can no be proven through evidence because it can not be proven since there is no medical background to back it up.

5) Since she also had time to discuss the pros and cons of the murder, it is clear that rage and sadness did not overcome her reasoning, since she was able to reason and come to a conclusion, which lead to the ultimate death of her children.

It must be concluded that Medea is guilty of first degree murder of he children beyond a reasonable doubt. The present debate has shown testimonial evidence and critical analysis of the case in order to come to such a conclusion.
Debate Round No. 4
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