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Concluding the Euthyphro: Last time we left off after orienting ourselves to what is going on in the dialogue.

I pointed out that the dialogue is fraught with irony. Now I want to look at some of its philosophical content. As pointed out, Socrates wants something from Euthyphro, i.e. he wants a definition of piety. What is it to seek a definition of something? (To provide the necessary and sufficient conditions to identify the thing. In other words, you want precisely enough information to identify that thing when you see it. So, definitions are going to take the form, “X is Y if and only if…”) So, let’s look at how Euthyphro attempts to satisfy this request: Middle of p. 69 “To prosecute the wrongdoer.” Does this satisfy Socrates? No. Why? Let’s put this definition to the test: “X is pious iff X is prosecuting the wrongdoer.” What’s the problem? Euthyphro has given a sufficient condition to identify one act as pious, in other words, he has merely pointed to an example of piety. But that is not what Socrates asked for. For there is more than one act that could be named “pious.” See p. 170 “You agree, however, that there are many other pious actions.” This would be like me asking you to define what it is to be a square by drawing one, (draw it and call it Bob) and saying “X is a square iff X is Bob.” But clearly this won’t work, because that would be too narrow. It would rule out other squares (draw a smaller one and call it Jim). So, Euthryphro has to try again. Middle of 170, he makes a second attempt: “What is dear to the gods is pious, what is not is impious.” So, “X is impious iff X is dear to the gods.” So, Socrates says, well let’s examine this. Does it hold? No. Why? Because the gods are in a state of discord against each other. The same thing can be dear to one God, and not to another. So, the same thing would be both pious and impious. (See middle of 171) Well then, that’s no good.

Socrates says, “well, let me help you here Euthyphro…suppose that we do find an action that all of the gods do hate, or an action that all the gods love…would we then have a sense of piety?” How about this definition Euthyphro? Euthyphro agrees to go along with this. So he makes his third attempt at defining piety at the top of 173: “I would certainly say that the pious is what all the gods love, and the opposite, which all the gods hate, is the impious.” “X is pious iff X is loved by all the gods.” (Now, later, Socrates will tell Euthyphro that this answer is as equally unsatisfying as the previous two attempts. He will point out that such a definition does not clarify the nature of piety itself, but merely relates a quality about piety—viz. that it is god loved. And this too fails to answer his question.) But, in the interest of time, I wish to direct you to a question that Socrates asks before pointing this out, as it will be something to bear in mind in the reading of our next essay. Following this, Socrates asks a question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” This question takes the form of a dilemma: says choose—either: 1. X is pious because X is god loved (The thing’s piety comes from its being loved) 2. X is god loved because it is pious (The gods love a thing because it is pious) This question can be equally put to the monotheist. What are the consequences of choosing either 1 or 2? This question is a classical dilemma presented to “Theological voluntarists.” Next essay is a written defense of TV.