The Euthyphro is a much studied text of Plato’s, which unfortunately has left many people with some very serious questions. Primarily, why does the Euthyphro end in failure? Socrates was the wisest man alive, and for some reason his quest for understanding falls short. Yet somehow, I doubt that this has anything to do with a fault in the argument, but rather, the reason for the failure lies with Socrates main line of questioning.
The problem is introduced with the idea of an “essence.” As Euthyphro comes to understand, it is a nigh indefinable idea. At the end of hours of looping questions, the only thing anyone has accomplished is a kind of hazy confusion about things you once thought you, understood. To be frank and realistic, I question whether anyone can define an “essence.” I personally tried to define the essence of something simple, anything would do. Unfortunately, now I’m no longer quite sure what a biscuit is. To try and define the “essence” of anything, especially something as complex as piety confuses the issue.
Socrates is presented with Euthyphro’s idea of piety. That, in and of itself would not be enough, in my mind to define piety. Yet I’ll assume that Socrates, being the curious individual that he was, asked others about piety, and that should be enough to find a definition. Ethical relativism, an idea that Socrates uses to make several arguments, is in a sense, the “essence” of piety.
Piety is different from person to person, so much so that there cannot be a standard to measure it by. The only universal standard of piety is that it is relative to each individual. Yet Socrates refuses to accept this conclusion, no matter which argument is presented to him, or no matter how clearly the answer is laid before him. Take for example, the argument that piety is defined as ‘that, which is dear to the gods’.
Euthyphro believed he had identified the “essence” of piety by bringing up the fact that the actions and things loved by the gods....
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