Exegesis of Plato's Euthrypro

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Plato’s Euthyphro begins with Socrates and Euthyphro meeting at the Hall of Kings regarding charges made against Socrates, that he is an impious man corrupting the youth of Athens. Euthrypro is at the Hall of Kings prosecuting his father, and is quick to brag to Socrates about what a pious man he himself is, for making such scandalous accusations against his own father in the name of piety. Socrates of course takes the opportunity to begin questioning Euthyphro about what it truly means to be pious, under the ruse of wanting knowledge to use in his own trial. Although the dialogue seems to be simply an argument about what piety really is, Socrates is teaching Euthyphro (Plato is teaching the reader), about the nature of definition and the importance of questioning things that may seem incredibly natural.

Euthyphro’s initial attempt at defining piety is really just to reiterate his plan to prosecute his father. Socrates points out that this is not a definition at all, merely an attempt to give an example of a single pious action. Socrates explains to Euthyphro that he is not interested in examples of the word, only in the fundamental characteristic of the word in order to be capable of defining it “Bear in mind I did not bid you to tell me one or two pious actions…. Tell me then what this form itself is” (6e).

The second definition offered by Euthyphro is that Piety is that which is pleasing to the Gods. In response, Socrates agrees that if this definition were a good one, that which the Gods loved would be pious and that which they hated would be deemed impious. He then points out to Euthyphro that the Gods are frequently found in a state of disagreement regarding what is pleasing and what is displeasing. Therefore, if one God loved something that another hated, that thing would be both pious and impious simultaneously “The same things then are loved by the Gods and hated by the Gods…. And the same things would be both pious and impious according to this...
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