’s Euthyphro Essay, Research Paper

Plato’s Euthyphro

One of the most interesting and influential thinkers of all time was Socrates, whose dedication to careful reasoning helped form the basis for

philosophy. Socrates applied logical tricks in the search for the truth. Consequently, his willingness to call everything into question and his

determination to accept nothing less than an accurate account of the nature of things made him one of the first people to apply critical

philosophy. Although he was well known for his philosophical ways of thinking, Socrates never wrote anything down, so we are dependant

on his students, like Plato, for any detailed knowledge of his methods or ways of thinking. One of the early dialogues in which Plato had

written was Euthyphro.

The Euthyphro dialogue begins with Socrates becoming involved in a touchy conversation with an over confident young man, Euthyphro.

Socrates finds Euthyphro perfectly certain of his own ethical morality even in the situation of prosecuting his own father in court. Socrates

asks him to define what piety, or moral duty really is. He asks for something more than just lists of what pious actions are. Euthyphro is

supposed to provide a general definition that captures the very basic nature of what piety is. Euthyphro claims that he knows what it is to be

pious, but every answer he offers is subjected to the full force of Socrates’ critical thinking. Socrates systematically refutes Euthyphro’s

suggestion that what makes right actions right is that the gods love, or approve of them. First, there is the problem that since questions of right

and wrong often create endless disputes, the gods are likely to disagree among themselves about moral matters just as often as we do,

making some actions both right and wrong. Socrates lets Euthyphro off the hook on this one by agreeing with him, but only for purposes of

continuing the discussion. More importantly, Socrates instigates a formal problem for Euthyphro from a deceivingly simple question, “Is the

pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” Neither choice can do the justice for which

Euthyphro intends his definition of piety. If right actions are pious only because the gods love them, then moral rightness is completely

optional, depending only on the impulses of the gods. But if the gods love right actions only because they are already right, then there must be

some non-divine source of values, which we might come to know separately from their love. Plato’s final answer to the question of what

makes a pious act pious is to say that there is a form, piety itself, by virtue of which a pious act is pious. Euthyphro leaves the scene seemingly

unaffected by the entire process; he is no less self-confident than he had been at its beginning.

This dialogue clearly shows Socrates’ method of inquiry. It shows how Socrates asked leading questions and the idea of cause and effect to

get the answers he wants. You can also see how he frustrated Euthyphro by pushing the argument in a circle. Even though he does frustrate

Euthyphro, this is not Socrates main purpose. The moral of the dialogue and Socrates main point he is trying to get across to the reader is for

us to ask ourselves, who are we to judge one another, especially about what is just or pious. Furthermore, we might be better off if we were

careful of those of us who think we have all the answers.


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