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Plato's Euthyphro


Posted on Aug 2017



Euthyphro is defined as a discussion that usually takes place some weeks before the Socrates trial takes place. Euthyphro and Socrates usually try to get the meaning of the word piety which in other words is called holiness. Euthyphro and Socrates encounter each other around the court of Archon Basileus where the discussion takes place. Each of these men is in court for the preliminary hearings that would possibly go to trials. Euthyphro has come to the court concerning charges that were pressed against his father concerning manslaughter. His father had allowed a worker to pass away after he was exposed to some elements and he failed to give him the right care.

            In the estate known as Naxos Island, a slave had earlier been murdered by this dead worker. The employee had passed away on a ditch because Euthyphro's father was waiting to get some information from the exegetes on how he was going to handle this situation. Socrates was rather shocked about how Euthyphro was very confident to the extent of prosecuting his father on charges concerning manslaughter. This was contrary to the laws of Athenian that allows only the relations of the dead person to file accusations of murder. Euthyphro doesn’t get to witness how Socrates is surprised, and this is quite a confirmation for Socrates concerning the critical judgment he has on issues relating to ethical and religion. Socrates declares that Euthyphro had a good understanding of what was going on because he was exactly facing the charges of impiety. Socrates expresses the wish to learn more from Euthyphro so that when the trial comes he can be able to defend himself.

             Euthyphro says that impiety charges were all behind Meletus, Socrates, and all the others against the charges. Socrates says that there is a divine sign that usually cautions him against some courses of action. Socrates had some skeptics concerning the Greek gods putting into consideration the perspective of the Athenians. Euthyphro and Socrates usually go through this issue before they get to the major argument of their discussion and that is to describe the word piety. Socrates has some major reservations about the Greek gods concerning the inconsistency and cruelty that is expressed upon them. Socrates said that this was very had to accept the castration of the sky gods by his son that is Cronus.

            Socrates asks Euthyphro to define the term piety so that he can be able to actively defend himself in the trials that were coming because he was impious from Athens. Euthyphro, in turn, gave him four definitions. The first definition of piety was exactly what he was doing by prosecuting his father over manslaughter. Socrates doesn’t agree with this definition, and he terms it as an example of piety and doesn't offer characteristics that make the pious action pious. The second definition of piety according to Euthyphro is what is pleasant to the gods. Socrates agrees with this definition, but he has a reservation because the gods do not agree within themselves to the meaning of pleasing. This meant any action by the gods would be either impious or pious which is impossible logically. Euthyphro further argues that the gods would not agree on whether a person who commits murder without any justification should be punished. Since both actions are pious and impious, this definition can’t define piety.

            The third definition of piety was an amendment of the second definition. He said that hate is impious and love is pious. Socrates was able to rule out this definition by saying that the fact that the gods love an action that is pious it doesn’t mean it is actually. The love of the gods must follow something in particular and in this case the recognition of pious is made before. At the middle of the discussion, Euthyphro does not comprehend why the definition of piety is a circular discussion, and he just reasons with Socrates that an action is loved by the gods because it is pious. Euthyphro had the fourth definition of piety. He gave a suggestion that piety was actually from the genus justice. He can take the lead over this definition when he poses a question on the difference between genus and species. The information that Euthyphro gave concerning this question was not enough according to Socrates regarding on the description of piety. This was because there are some actions that are just other than the actions that are pious even though pity refers to the just actions meaning what is morally right. Socrates poses an action on what makes another form of actions that are regarded to as just different from piety. He said that there must be a proof of something that you regard to as the truth.

            Euthyphro gave a final definition of piety that regarded it as a form of prayer and sacrifice. He says piety is a notion of how to conduct an exchange because it’s knowledge. Socrates says that exchange of knowledge is commerce and Euthyphro should explain the perception of gods based on the human gifts. Euthyphro says that the gifts are a sign of favor, honor, and esteem that is given by man to the deity. Euthyphro acknowledges that the likes of gods are bound to piety. Socrates is faced by a trial of impiety after he is left by Euthyphro without an actual definition of the term piety and the discussion comes to an end.

The various arguments presented by Socrates against Euthyphro are acceptable due to some reasons. First, Socrates argument against what is submitted by Euthyphro as a definition of the piety and impiety is aimed at ensuring that a concrete argument is provided on the concept of holiness. Socrates identifies loopholes to the arguments given, thereby ensuring that Euthyphro present a concentrate definition about the concept of holiness in the society. Socrates is not satisfied with arguments that do not make sense but want Euthyphro to come up with arguments that can withstand criticism from various sources, especially from different scholars, who might have different views on what holinesses are all about. Thus, in this case, Socrates arguments against what Euthyphro say are in good faith, and aimed at making his argument on what holiness constitute to be strong. Lastly, the arguments are focused towards ensuring that Euthyphro gets the deeper meaning of the concept of piety, rather than looking at in a simple way. Socrates aims at influencing his way of thinking with the idea of justice as part of holiness. Hence, his goal of arguing with Euthyphro is to change him to his school of thoughts on the relationship of justice and holiness in the society.