Plato's Hidden Intent
At first glance, one would see the "Euthyphro," by Plato, to be a near explanation of holiness from one friend to another. Opinions are introduced, positions are presented, and friendly banter ensues. Would this lead to any breakthroughs? One would think so. Perhaps, though, that was not the intent. Plato uses the dialogue between Euthyphro and Socrates to convey to his audiences that holiness cannot be defined in just one way. Instead, it is a quality that changes from person to person. He uses inductive reasoning through rhetorical questions and blatant logic; and even seems to use Euthyphro as a tool to leave the conversation open ended and show this.
Socrates spends a great deal of time trying to make Euthyphro explain holiness to him in the way he wants it explained. H has a definition in mind that he hopes Euthyphro will acknowledge. So he presents many examples of holiness and explains them to Euthyphro in such a way that Euthyphro might see the error in his ideas. Every time Euthyphro poses an explanation of his own, Socrates challenges him by asking questions that undermine his beliefs. Euthyphro says, "Holiness is doing as I am doing; prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any other similar crime- whether he be your father or mother, or some other person, that makes no difference- and not prosecuting them in unholy." (p.4) To that, Socrates responds with a series of questions. "Do you really believe the gods fought with one another, had quarrels, battles, and the like, as the poets say, and as you may see represented in the works of great artists?
Are all these tales of the gods true, Euthyphro?
What is the holy?
Do you not recollect that there was one essential characteristic or form which made the unholy unholy and the holy holy?" (p. 4)
All of which make Euthyphro question his own values. But he remains firm in his convictions, attempting to reiterate his definition of holiness to...
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