October 15, 2012
Analysis of Euthyphro
Socrates was put to death in Athens for subverting the youth of the city. He was indicted by Meletus and awaiting his trail on the porch of the King of Archon when he met Euthyphro. It was at this point he engaged in a debate about piety. In this paper, I will examine that debate and present my own conclusion about its purpose as well as my own definition of piety. Holiness, or piousness, is the center of the conversation between Socrates and Euthyphro. Both of the men met on the porch of the King to deal with a legal matter; Socrates the defendant and Euthyphro the plaintiff. Socrates was being charged with impiety, and Euthyphro was bringing charges against his father for murdering a servant. When Socrates heard of the nature of Euthyphro’s case, he concluded that Euthyphro must have understood the nature of impiety and piety. Since Socrates was being persecuted for a lack of piety, he began a conversation to understand the nature of piety and impiety.
In the dialogue, six different definitions of piety were given and refuted by Socrates through Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning has three main goals: to challenge assumptions and self-proclaimed experts, discover a deeper understanding, and apply rational standards critically. Each of the six definitions failed to stand up to the Socratic questioning, and in the end we are left even more confused about what piety really is.
The first definition of piety given by Euthyphro was that it was doing what he was doing, and any other similar acts (Plato & Jowett). This was easily refuted by Socrates as he had asked for a clear standard from which to judge all acts, and Euthyphro had given examples only.
Piety is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them is the next definition given by Euthyphro (Plato & Jowett). Piety and impiety are...