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Literary Analysis of the Euthyphro


Plato’s Euthyphro features Socrates and Euthyphro, who is apparently “a professional priest who considers himself an expert on ritual and piety” (2). Although Socrates acts as though he accepts the fact that Euthyphro has knowledge of the divine, as everyone else seems to, he challenges his knowledge by asking him about piety. The two of them are standing around the king-archon’s court, waiting to go on trial for different things. Socrates has been indicted for being “a maker of gods, and…[creating] new gods while not believing in the old gods” (3), while Euthyphro is prosecuting his own father for murder. The two subjects become intertwined when Socrates discovers that Euthyphro is pressing charges against his own father because he believes that it would be impious not to just because of their relation. Since Euthyphro claims to have authority on what is pious and what is not, Socrates presses him for clarification on the subject in regards to the gods and in doing so shows his doubt in the gods just as he was indicted for.

Socrates never comes right out and says that he does not believe in the gods or what Euthyphro is saying, instead questioning everything as if he believes that the other man really can help him reach some sort of understanding on the matter and ultimately coming up empty. Euthyphro’s idea of things that are pious are things that are loved by the gods, which Socrates refutes by pointing out that different gods love and hate different things, so “what is loved by the gods is also hated by them” (9). Their discussion continues in a similar fashion throughout, and they seem to be making progress until Euthyphro’s final reasoning, that the pious is “of all things most dear to [the gods]”, brings them back to his initial definition that Socrates found fault in. Thus, the cycle begins again and the question of what makes something pious or impious remains unanswered. In failing to prove what is pious and what is impious in relation to the gods, Euthyphro inadvertently shows Socrates that he is right to be skeptical about the gods and those who follow them blindly.

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