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Ebook Euthyphron by Plato read! Book Title: Euthyphron
The author of the book: Plato
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Edition: Reclam
Date of issue: 2003
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Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.52 MB

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The Ominous Dialogue: Socrates aka, Josef K.

As I read The Euthyphro, I started to realize why it is considered one of the most dramatic of the Dialogues. Set as a prelude to the Grand Trial, Euthyphro is a disturbingly ominous dialogue.

So, instead of seeing this as one of the usual glib dialogues of Socrates, where he employs his sublime skill to teach his debating partner and thus help him ‘examine’ and gain more meaning out of his life, I tried to re-imagine it… and found it quite unsettling. Let me share the experience here.

Imagine a common man who has been condemned for heresy (For details see here: by Meletus) but cannot understand the nature of what this ‘impiety’ it is that he is being accused off. Desperate, he tries to get some answers from a representative of the ‘orthodoxy’ who he is confident is the expert.

He receives an early answer that is a tautology:

That being pious is simply being loved by the gods; being loved by the gods is achieved by being pious.

But to his logical mind this cannot do, since one needs to know first what the gods do in fact love. Pious acts and people may indeed be loved by the gods, but that is a secondary quality, not the ‘essence’ of piety — it is not that which serves as the standard being sought.

The definition proposed does not help him understand why his own actions are impious, without which he cannot defend himself.

But he is undaunted in his faith and keeps pressing E in the hope that once he can reason out the essence and nature of what this impiety is, he will be able to show his accusers that he meant nothing like it.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

In the course of discussion, multiple (well, five) definitions are canvassed about what constitutes piety:
1. The prosecution of wrongdoers

2. Whatever is agreeable to the gods

3. Whatever is agreeable to ALL the gods

4. The requirements concerned with ministering to the gods

5. Expertise in prayer and sacrifice to the gods
As S & E discuss, each of these is rejected in turn:

All the definitions seems to Socrates to be contradictory. How, he keeps asking, are we defining an ethical property such as ‘being pious’? To him, all Euthyphro is doing is giving examples of particular actions which are already known to possess the property, without what they have in common.

And without an underlying definition, how could we know that an action even has the property we are trying to define?

And even more perplexingly, how could one ever prove that any particular action satisfied a requirement such as ‘it has to be agreeable to the gods’? How can proof even be solicited in such a case? Who decides what is agreeable?

For example, when Socrates asks Euthyphro how he could show that all the gods approve of his prosecuting his father in the circumstances he has described, Euthyphro evades the question.

After these convoluted turns, he realizes that they have arrived back at the same tautology:

The pious act is pious because the gods love it; and they love it because it is pious.

Socrates is confused.

Is the  pious act pious because the gods love it? Or do the gods love it because it is pious?

Surely the piety cannot consist in their approval of it.

Then how can the same property also be the ground for their approval?

The predicate ‘pious’ cannot therefore be equated with 'loved by all the gods'. Even if all pious actions and persons are loved by all the gods, their being so loved is only an attribute of them, and not the essence of their piety.

What then is the essence? How can Socrates know when he is not being pious? The tautology surely cannot help him in everyday life!

The Euthyphro Evasion

Socrates tries to point this out to the orthodox-representative who reiterates his conviction about piety being what is approved by the gods, pretends to be busy and hurries away.

He does not realize that this is what the religious orthodoxy always does. He does not realize that as he claimed during the dialogue, we should hold tight like to the legendary Old Man “Proteus” and never let go. We should question them till they take their original form and answer us straight.

Instead, our Kafkaesque hero is left standing, confused — mourning that if only he could understand better, he could have had a chance in this ‘pious’ world…

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Read information about the author

Ebook Euthyphron read Online! (Greek: Πλάτων) (Arabic: Platón, Platone)
Plato is a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.

Plato is one of the most important Western philosophers, exerting influence on virtually every figure in philosophy after him. His dialogue The Republic is known as the first comprehensive work on political philosophy. Plato also contributed foundationally to ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. His student, Aristotle, is also an extremely influential philosopher and the tutor of Alexander the Great of Macedonia.

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