Plato’s Euthyphro: The Pious

22 Jun

Euthyphro is a dialogue of Plato with the conversation between Socrates and Euthyphro. Both people in the conversation are involved in court cases and the dialogue is filled mostly with the argument about Euthyphro’s court case. Here, I want to talk about Euthyphro’s case, the pious actions, and Daedalus’ characteristics as explained by Socrates.

The court cases of Socrates and Euthyphro are explained in the dialogue.  Socrates case of course is charged by Meletus for corrupting the youth and conducting experiments not pleasing to the gods. Socrates involves his own case where he states he wants to use Euthyphro’s argument to help his case against Meletus. Euthyphro is the plaintiff of  a case where he charges his elderly father for muder. His father murdered a servant and threw the servant in a ditch. Euthyphro finds out about his father’s actions and turns him in and prosecutes him. Socrates creates the argument over whether or not Euthyphro’s actions were pious or impious.

Socrates analyzes Euthyphro’s entire actions using the entity of piety. Piety is defined in the text as certain actions that which are holy, good, pleasing to the gods, attentive, and just. Euthyphro states that he is prosecuting his father because he thinks that this action is pious. The definition of piety (holiness, goodness, pleasing to the gods, attentiveness, and justice) is debated between the two. Socrates seeks the entire entity of piety and not just certain actions that reflect piety. He begins to destroy and found Euthyphro’s argument in different places, and asks Euthyphro to state whether turning his father in was pious or not (as coherent to piety’s definition).

Piety is clearly yet unclearly explained in this dialogue with a few characteristics. First, it is argued that piety and pious actions are and reflect holiness and the holy. Holy means as the gods would do, that which is pleasing to the gods, and that which is good. Holiness and piety are words that directly reflect the gods (God in my opinion). Euthyphro states that he turned his own father in and is prosecuting him because he feels that it pleases the gods. He also feels that the action is reflective of the good. Also, by piety, Euthyphro feels his actions in turning his father in were pious because they satisfied justice. Euthyphro specifically states in the dialogue that Socrates is odd for dividing possible criminals that need to be turned in between strangers and close relatives. According to Euthyphro, if you are satisfying justice, you are serving justice where it is needed. If a stranger killed a man you should turn him in ( according to Euthyphro’s pious justice) and even if the one that killed a man was your father or mother you should also turn he or she into satisfy pious justice. Finally, piety is defined to reflect attention. By attention, the dialogue states the business of praying (asking the gods for things) and sacrificing/giving back to the gods (returning the favor by doing things that please the gods). If someone asks the gods for things, it is implied that this person should give something back to the gods by doing good things. Euthyphro states that by turning his own father in for murder he is attending to the gods. Overall, Euthyphro’s action in prosecuting his father is not what he would love to be doing but, it is a pious action and it pleases the gods.

He justifies his actions because prosecuting his father for an unjust action is pious regardless of his relation to the man who did the injustice. Socrates argues back with questions arguing the possible impiety of the action of turning in his own father because of the fact that one cannot be sure whether or not each god approves (or even one god) of turning your own father in. I feel this is an argument against polytheism for another time, but I want to turn this argument towards the God with Jesus and the Holy Spirit we perceive and obey today. The argument of Euthyphro’s piety is never answered because when Socrates is finally getting to his point, Euthyphro asks to argue another time and he says he must leave. This leaves poor Socrates high and dry because his argument is not answered and he has not been helped towards his own court case as the defendant.

Concerning the definition of piety (holiness, goodness, justice, attention), I want to discuss Euthyphro’s position when he heard about the injustice of his father when he murdered the servant. I want to argue about it concerning what the Judeo-Christian God (mostly Christian) considers pious. The thoughts and opinions of God are often highly ambiguous, but the Bible often casts enough shadow on any issue about His opinion that we may have enough knowledge and faith to make the right decision. First, I think that if you are personally involved in an injustice that a close relative of yours does, you are obligated to turn him or her in. You are doing yourself an injustice if you do not turn in those who go against the ten commandments and other biblical laws. However, in Euthyphro’s case, if your father kills a man that is not involved with your life, and your father has shown wisdom like Euthyphro’s father, you should rely on your father’s wisdom to turn himself in for the injustice. If he does not do so, and possibly commits other injustices, one should reconsider not turning him in.

Am I saying that Euthyphro was wrong in turning his father in? Possibly. I am directly saying that he should have evaluated the situation further about the piety of the action of turning him in before acting hastily.

What would you do if your father committed a murder? Would you turn him in immediately? later on after further evaluation?

If my father committed a murder ( he would never do such a thing however), I would hope that he would turn himself in. I would not get involved unless I felt targeted. If I was not initially involved, I would stay the hell out. I would not get myself into things I had no place in. Turning my father in for murder would be putting myself in places I need not be into. If however, I somehow felt that God wanted me to turn him in, I would do so. I am saying this without having experienced the situation. Things may be different if I actually were to go through something like this. But now, I feel it would be impious to immediately turn my father in for an injustice he committed. I would pray for him and pray that he would turn himself in.

The piety on the subject cannot be assessed unless you experience the situation yourself. I am not able to arrive at an inference of piety or impiety about the subject because I have not experienced the situation.

A few quotes in the dialogue sparked my thoughts and interest besides the piety argument.

Socrates compares their argument to the work of Daedalus when Euthyphro notes on the fact that their argument’s foundation seems to get up and leave to go somewhere else, therefore there is little progress in the dialogue towards a conclusion. If I have no knowledge about a certain topic, and just begin reading on some of the arguments about that thing, I will have a certain opinion. But, as I read more and become more and more educated, my further knowledge will change my opinion because of knowledge and further analysis. As Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the argument of piety, they analyze the argument about Euthyphro’s place as plaintiff continuously and their foundations build up and then are destroyed because of Socrates further analysis and knowledge about the topic with discussion with Euthyphro. This is a characteristic I have observed in all topics we observe on this world. As we know more about and further analyze a certain topic, we become more educated and less ignorant, causing the shift in our opinions and grounds for those opinions.

Also, Socrates calls Euthyphro out for his laziness when Euthyphro begins to not understand Socrates. Socrates states that Euthyphro’s abundance of wisdom makes him lazy. I think Socrates says this because as you become more and more wise through education and reading, you feel that you understand a certain situation more than another could, and you do not feel the need to explain things to people because they will not understand as well as you. Also. wisdom makes one lazy because you stop arguing about things and stop trying to prove things at some times because you feel you have nothing else to prove about your knowledge and wisdom.

I have experienced this feeling a little (not saying I’m wise because I am not by any means, but I felt I was at one point) and it made me not feel like studying anything or discussing things. When I began reading for recreation, I understood the fact that I had not even begun to hit the tip of wisdom. Through education, reasoning, logic, and discussion, we understand the world around us. These beginning feelings of laziness should be overcome quickly if one wants to succeed in anything. I am not saying Euthyphro was not wise, but I am saying by this that wisdom is such a huge entity that even the brightest philosophers have not even began to get past the beginning parts of wisdom of this world. The only one who has wisdom is God. He is wise in all possibilities. A human in this state cannot become very wise.  Plato, Socrates and Aristotle (etc.) were very very wise for this world. They were probably the wisest mortal beings on this planet (other philosophers too), but even they  did not get past the tip of wisdom.

Thanks for your support.

Dont forget to comment below your thoughts about the pious and any other thoughts.


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