Euthyphro's Definitions of Piety

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  • Topic: Euthyphro, God, Virtue
  • Pages : 3 (1027 words )
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  • Published : April 24, 2006
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Euthyphro offers at least four definitions of piety. Analyze each one of them. According to you, what are the shortcomings and fallacies that Socrates finds in each one of them?

In Euthyphro's initial dialogues with Socrates he is in the process of prosecuting his father for the murder of a murderer. Socrates did not quite understand the philosophy behind Euthyphro's actions but nevertheless wanted to learn. Socrates chose to speak with Euthyphro with hopes to better understand Euthyphro and how he came into being in such high power in the state. Socrates was about to face trial himself and wanted to be able to command the same respect that Euthyphro already achieved. Euthyphro claims to fully understand with complete accuracy the divine law of piety and impiety. However, through the dialogue he offers four distinct definitions of piety, some with clear contradiction. Socrates finds flaws in each of his definitions and continues to pry for a complete answer. The first definition is found in the statement, "piety means prosecuting the unjust individual who has committed murder or sacrilege, or any other such crime." (p. 5) This is in context with Euthyphro prosecuting his father for murder. Piety is then the action of not keeping justice in the city; one man who acts wrongly should be prosecuted and justice should be enforced. A reference is made to Zeus and his father Cronos. Zeus bound Cronos for consuming his own children, where Zeus escaped. And Cronos castrated his own father for similar reasons. Yet, Euthyphro argues, Zeus is still considered the most just of the gods. Euthyphro is attempting to live up to the standards of the gods and be the most just by prosecuting the wrong-doer, in this case and in the case of Zeus, his father. Socrates presents his question of piety again to Euthyphro suggesting that Euthyphro gave an example of a pious act and not of piety itself. Socrates argues that other actions are pious other than...
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