Plato, Euthyphro 

PHIL 102, Spring 2018

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  1.  What questions do you have about this text?

At the end,why does Euthyphro fail to provide substantial viewpoints to Socrates’ opinions on what is pious and impious but instead keeps on agreeing to whatever he says?

As noted in class, this is probably because Plato is the one who wrote the dialogue, and he wants it to go in a way that Euthyphro is shown wrong! Remember that this is a fictional dialogue written by Plato, even if it’s between two people who did exist.

Why did plato present his thoughts as a fictional story?

I wish I knew the answer to this! But a couple of things it does (as discussed in class):

Does Socrates assume that Euthyphro does not know the definition of piety, while also not knowing the answer himself? And if so is Socrates goal simply to prove to Euthyphro that he (Euthyphro) also does not know the answer?

I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this. The dialogue is not clear on whether Plato meant to portray Socrates as knowing the answer himself or not, or whether Plato meant to write the dialogue to suggest that Socrates knows Euthyphro doesn’t know the answer.

Still, if Socrates really did walk around Athens doing this sort of thing, as Plato suggests, and if Plato’s account of Socrates’ trial is correct in having Socrates say that many people were shown thereby to not know what they are talking about, then Plato may very well have meant to write Socrates as knowing that Euthyphro doesn’t know the answer here! That would be what Plato would think usually happened with Socrates and the people he talked to.

Was the reading a direct excerpt of a plato text? It seemed simplistic in wording, but the concepts were hard to understand still…

Yes, this is a direct Plato text (it’s the whole text), except insofar as it is a translation from ancient Greek into English. Different translations are somewhat different, of course, but they do present the same general ideas & arguments.

I wonder how he would go about it if Greece had believed in one god instead of multiple gods.

Good point; the argument Socrates gives about how gods disagree wouldn’t work anymore!

Socrates does this thing on page thirteen where he switches from talking about minstration to talking about a specific form of minstration, he does the same thing a few times during the text and I’m wondering what it’s called and if it logically follows

I can’t think of a name for this kind of argumentative move, except basically what he is doing is saying that ministration (service) has certain characteristic(s), and the examples he gives are meant to show that all forms of ministration have that/those characteristic(s). So he moves from the general to the specific in order to show what characteristic(s) the general form of ministration has. That’s my sense of the passage, anyway!

What is the significance of the Daedalus comparison

Socrates claims in the dialogue to be descended from a sculptor named Daedalus, who was said to have made statues so lifelike that people thought they could move. Here are my thoughts on what Euthyphro is suggesting here: he may be saying that Socrates is skilled in illusion in that he seems to be making the arguments move around in a circle (note that at this point they are coming back to the earlier definition that was rejected, namely that piety is what is dear to the gods). This would mean that Euthyphro is accusing him of some kind of rhetorical trick, making the arguments seem to move back to that earlier point when they don’t really, logically do so. Euthyphro, then, would be saying that Socrates is trying to use words to get him to believe something that isn’t the case.

I wonder if socrates believed in anything because he kept questioning even if he started to believe

It’s not entirely clear, since Socrates himself didn’t write anything down. All we have as sources of information about him are from others, mostly Plato.

How fictional is this?

A reminder from class: this is a dialogue about two characters who were, according to some sources, real people. That Socrates was a real person isn’t disputed, but I’m not entirely sure about Euthyphro. Still, even if both were indeed real people, the dialogue is fictional; there is no reason to suppose Plato was sitting around writing during this dialogue. It was probably written after Socrates’ death.

Socrates describes how justice is partly conducted through man whilst justice is also related to the gods and that which is regarded as holy. I find the connection between man and god in Athenian society fascinating and who is the ultimate controller of justice.

I think the last question here, about who is the ultimate controller of justice, may differ according to whom you would ask at the time. Plato, according to what he says in a number of his works, clearly thought that the gods didn’t get to decide what is just or morally right just based on whatever they thought. Plato thought there was some single, universal, objective truth about justice and morality, and even the gods would have to adhere to that. That isn’t clear in the dialogues we’re reading, but it is clear in another text by Plato called Republic.

How does this work relate to Socrates idea of the Good and how did athenians and Greeks react to these ideas?

Do you mean Plato’s idea of the form of the Good? That is the universal, objective truth about morality that I referred to above. I think these dialogues may have been written before Plato wrote Republic, which is where he talks about the form of the Good. We don’t know for sure if Socrates thought there was a single definition of goodness or if it was Plato who came up with this idea and put it into the mouth of Socrates in Republic.

Either way, these dialogues don’t clearly connect to that idea of the objective truth of goodness, except insofar as in Euthyphro Socrates is searching for a single definition of piety, which would be the kind of thing that Plato would later call a “form” (a universal, objective truth about concepts like goodness, justice, piety, etc.).

Are these ideas originally Plato’s or Socrate’s?

Sadly, we will probably never know because we don’t have original written works from Socrates himself to compare to!

How were these ideas translated into famous Athenian works (such as Medea)?

Sorry...I don’t have any information about that! That would be a cool research project for an honours or graduate thesis (unless it’s already been done!).

Socrates describes euthyphro as lazy because he, in his opinion, does not challenge his mind to think crucially. Did Socrates view the Greeks as lazy as they did not traditionally challenge traditional thinking?

If Plato’s description of Socrates’ trial in Apology is accurate, then Socrates did consider the Athenians to be lazy. He calls himself a “gadfly” that was sent by the god Apollo to wake up the lazy, sleepy horse that is Athens! We’ll talk about this more in class…

Does Socrates’ questioning help him become more philosophical?

My own sense is that the questioning itself is the practice of being philosophical. I suppose if one gets to satisfactory answers then one can say one has knowledge or perhaps wisdom, but the process of getting there itself could be considered being philosophical. That’s how I think of it, anyway!

  1.  How would you characterize Socrates’ method of discussion here? How does he act?

Diaclectic Method -> he pointed out the contradictions in Euthyphros arguments and the points which lacked evidence and seemed inconsistent.

socrates uses leading questions to draw euthyphro into making contradictory statements. socrates uses a sort of false modesty or flattery through self deprecation to keep euthyphro talking. he comes across as arrogant (and is eventually executed).

Socrates takes the stance of a disciple yet asks questions as if he were the mentor.

He basically does a proof on Euth.’s claim and throws euth’s own logical fallacies in his face, while being super sarcastic. I can see why people hated him but also pretty dope

He takes Euthyphro’s views and assumes them to be true, and explores what the world would be like if that were true. He draws contradictions.

<< His irony is what he belives, in

Socrates is quite blunt and challenges Euthyphro’s opinions to the point where he’s a little cruel towards E.

He is more of an interrogator, trying to make people realize the fallacies in their arguments via their own fruition

He lets you take a stance then confuses you

He never stops questioning anything → but he also never seems to come to a solid answer which frustrates me

What is the meaning of life???? Questions cant all be answered… >:(

He acts ignorant

^^Without actually believing himself to be ignorant

He lets the individual direct the discussion while prompting them with questions of deeper underlying meaning

The socratic method

Christina: Yes, this came to be called the Socratic method later!

He acts like the teacher while pretending to be the student

He asks a lot of questions

^I know right its kinda like he’s answering his own questions lmao, like hes directing it but oh welll

He asks Eutyhphro to state his main argument, then asks him to clarify the terms he uses in his argument. Then Socrates breaks down that argument and uses reason and logic to further question it.

He breaks down euthypros argument like he knows more about it, he asserts his ignorance by asking for euthypro to teach him by then continuing to tell euthypro what is wrong with his views etc.

Socratic and ironic at some points

He questions what has been said to him by asking for clarification

He doesn’t believe in an absolute solution or truth

Christina: As discussed in class, I’m not sure this is the case, just from the evidence in Plato’s other dialogues. Of course, it’s hard to know what Socrates the real person thought, but Socrates as a character in Plato’s dialogues does seem to think there really is a truth to be found when he is asking others questions like this. In a dialogue called Gorgias Socrates says that the way he goes about doing philosophy is to ask questions and then test answers to those questions, trying to find flaws, over and over, until the answer seems correct.

He doesn't believe and acts ignorant. Ask8ng for clarifications.

By questioning and comparing answers

Socrates begins his long winded argument by asking Euthyphro to educate him on the matters of piety, for he says he believes this can help him on his own case. He then breaks down the argument into smaller questions and comparisons until the conversation culminates into Euthyphro leaving in a hurry to avoid answering a question.

By asking/breaking down Euthyphro’s argument

Clever sort of questioning that reveals Euthyphro’s ignorance

In Euthyphro, Socrates seems to try to find a universal meaning in everything. His technique in questioning Euthyphro is to apply the same logic to everything without considering the subjects in question and they might differ.

He breaks down Euthyphro’s argument not by directly attacking it but by asking leading questions to pick apart the contradictions

<<<<Does socrates know that his views are ironic,, and would Euthyphro agree??????>>>

Christina: I’m not quite sure what you mean by his views being ironic, but if you mean that he might know that he is falsely flattering Euthyphro, saying he will treat him as a teacher and that Euthyphro must be wise and must know the truth of piety, well, it may very well be that Socrates is doing this to encourage Euthyphro to sepak (and Socrates knows it). It’s hard to tell from the dialogue whether Plato meant to write Euthyphro as if he can seems to me that the character of Euthyphro is written as if he can’t tell that Socrates may be pretending here.

Generally, Socrates approaches this as if he knows nothing, resulting in the other person giving a more detailed definition of their own beliefs. In doing so, he seeks out the wisdom of the other person and seeks to find the truth that they claim to know.

With each step in his explanations, he makes sure that Euthyphro understands and agrees with him before moving on. Therefore, when he arrives at the conclusion that Euthyphro’s argument is flawed, the latter must agree with him.

I will read this tonight I promise!!!!same

He structures his questions in a manner that forces particular answers out of the person he’s talking to and then uses those answers to enhance his overall argument, that euthyphro has no idea what he’s saying

He continually questions Euthyphro

He asks a lot of rhetorical questions.

Manipulative questioning. Breaking down reason

Socrates seems to be putting euthyphro down a lot. He sounds a little pompous to me. Someone who just believes is right all the time.

Christina: Yes! I agree that he sounds pompous in this dialogue and can be read as pretending to praise Euthyphro only to cut him down later.

Socrates is pretty smart in pretending to be innocent and lacking knowledge, to completely try to extract Euthyphro’s core beliefs fully based on himself and his Sophist ideologies.

Christina: Yes, this could be a very smart move. The only thing I wonder about is whether Socrates was a Sophist. In Plato’s texts he continually claims not to be, and insofar as the Sophists were just interested in winning arguments rather than being right (because they were relativists and didn’t believe there was any objective truth), then this doesn’t sound like the Socrates we get from Plato.

3. In the page range assigned to your section of the room, find one definition of piety given by Euthyphro & give Socrates’ criticism of it.

Right side of room when facing forward: pp. 5-7

 Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime

“Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them”

-Socrates argues that not all the gods will have the same views on what is ‘dear’ to them         

Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.

“Piety or holiness, Socrates, appears to me to be that part of justice which attends to the gods, as there is the other part of justice which attends to men.“-euthyphro

“EUTHYPHRO: Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.” - page 5

-Socrates then says that what is dear to the gods and what is not is controversial since the gods often fight and have varying opinions, therefore this is not a good definition. D


“EUTHYPHRO: Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.” In this example, Socrates argues that this definition is not accurate as gods AND he argues that Euthyphro has a very evidence lacking argument, implying religious belief is based on the motives on receiving gifts from the gods. This seems to taint the divinity and sacredness of the “priest”, very sophist-like…. Plus… what even is “dear to the gods”

Middle of the room: pp 8-10

Euthyphro’s definition: “Yes, I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious.

“The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.”

Socrates simply points out that the gods don’t always agree on all things, because otherwise they would never disagree

Christina: This is indeed part of what Socrates argues, but it’s actually his criticism of the argument above, from pp. 5-7

Things are loved by Gods because they are holy; on the other hand, things are dear to Gods, because they are loved by Gods. Therefore, what’s dear to the gods does not equate to what’s holy.

“It is loved because it is holy, not holy because it is loved?”

“Thus you appear to me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence--the attribute of being loved by all the gods. But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is,”

The gods love pious acts because they are pious acts. Acts do not become pious because they are loved by the gods. In that sense Euthyphro’s definition does not define piety, but just an attribute of pious acts - that they are loved by the gods.

But I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither. Shall this be our definition of piety and impiety?”

Questions about the chicken and egg (egg that didnt come from a chicken)  argument of pious and loved by the Gods. Is something pious because they are loved by the Gods or is it loved by the Gods because it is pious

“I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious”

        “if that which is holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which is dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him.”





Left side of the room when facing forward: pp. 14-16

Christina: FYI: when I ask you in some other context where you’re being marked for something, to explain an argument from the text, it’s best not to just copy and paste from the text--otherwise it’s not really explaining, just copying! :) In several places below it’s not clear what is the definition and what is the argument Socrates gives against it, or what exactly Socrates’ argument is.

SOCRATES: Then piety, Euthyphro, is an art which gods and men have of doing business with one another?


“Let me simply say that piety or holiness is learning how to please the gods in word and deed, by prayers and sacrifices. Such piety is the salvation of families and states, just as the impious, which is unpleasing to the gods, is their ruin and destruction.”

“I have told you already, Socrates, that to learn all these things accurately will be very tiresome. Let me simply say that piety or holiness is learning how to please the gods in word and deed, by prayers and sacrifices. Such piety is the salvation of families and states, just as the impious, which is unpleasing to the gods, is their ruin and destruction.”


“Upon this view, then, piety is a science of asking and giving?”

“Then piety, Euthyphro, is an art which gods and men have of doing business with one another?”

“But I have no particular liking for anything but the truth. I wish, however, that you would tell me what benefit accrues to the gods from our gifts. There is no doubt about what they give to us; for there is no good thing which they do not give; but how we can give any good thing to them in return is far from being equally clear. If they give everything and we give nothing, that must be an affair of business in which we have very greatly the advantage of them.”

Piety, then, is pleasing to the gods, but not beneficial or dear to them?”


“What is the nature of this service to the gods? Do you mean that we prefer requests and give gifts to them?”        


I think that you could have answered in much fewer words the chief question which I asked, Euthyphro, if you had chosen. But I see plainly that you are not disposed to instruct me— clearly not: else why, when we reached the point, did you turn aside? Had you only answered me I should have truly learned of you by this time the nature of piety. Now, as the asker of a question is necessarily dependent on the answerer, whither he leads I must follow; and can only ask again, what is the pious, and what is piety? Do you mean that they are a sort of science of praying and sacrificing?”


I am sure, therefore, that you know the nature of piety and impiety.”