While heading to court to answer charges of corrupting the youth, Socrates meets up with Euthyphro who is reporting his father for murder. Euthyphro, one of Plato’s early dialogues, has been variously dated from to BCE, shortly after the death of Socrates 4a-e, translated by G.M.A. Grube. Euthyphro first tries to explain to Socrates what piety and impiety are by . of Socrates, translated by G. M. A. Grube, Hackett Publishing ().
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This is a summary of some of the points we covered in lecture.
After running into Euthyphro outside of king-archon’s court and hearing about why Euthyphro is there, Socrates is not convinced that Euthyphro prosecuting his father for murder is the just or pious thing to do. He asks Euthyphro to teach him about what piety and impiety are, so that he can see for himself whether what Euthyphro is doing to his father is a pious act. This, then, begins the heart of the dialogue–a rigorous discussion about what piety and impiety are. He says, “the pious is to do what I am doing now, to prosecute the wrongdoer, be it about murder or temple robbery or anything else, whether the wrongdoer is your father ot your mother or anyone else.
Socrates complains that he did not ask for a list of the pious and impious things; he wanted to know what piety and impiety are. To see why he was frustrated, consider an analogous case: The only problem is that you know hardly anything about beer.
So you ggube your friend, who professes to be rather knowledgeable about such matters, “what is beer?
By simply pointing out instances of beer is of very little help to you. Likewise, Socrates is interested in what piety is –i. Earlier in the dialogue 6c Socrates has confirmed that Euthyphro believes in the greeks gods and all of the stories about them–e.
Euthyphro by Plato (trans. G.M.A. Grube) | The Consolation of Reading
Recalling this, Socrates points out that this will prove problematic for Euthyphro’s definition of piety. For if what is dear to the gods is pious and what is not dear to the gods is impiousand yet if the gods disagree and fight about what is dear to them, then it will turn out that one and the same action will be both pious and impious since it will be dear to some gods and not dear to others. It is here where Socrates brings up what we called in class the Euthyphro Problem.
He asks of Euthyphro whether “the pious is loved by the gods because it is pious, or is something pious because it is loved by the gods? Either the gods recognize pious things and grybe them because they are pious, or else the gods simply love whatever things they do, and it is because gods love these things that they are pious.
So it looks like we are faced with a dilemma: For what the gods may love or not love seems to be as arbitrary as whether you like or dislike mint chocolate chip ice cream.
That piety and impiety could be as willy-nilly as all this seems to euthyphgo counter to our initial intuitions about what piety is.
However, on the other hand, if things are pious independently of the gods, and the go end up loving the pious things because they are already pious, then it looks like the role of the gods is diminished. For why would we need the gods if things are pious and impious independently of them?
Euthyphro – Wikiquote
Moreover, defining “piety” as that which all the gods love grhbe not getting us any closer to figuring out what piety is. For it may be fine and good that all the gods love what is pious, but Socrates wanted to know what piety was, not what a consequence of it was e.
This leads Socrates to complain, “you told me an affect or quality of [the pious], that the pious has the quality of being loved by all the gods, but you have not yet told me what the pious is.