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Summary of Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro

Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro occurs outside the court of Athens, after running into Euthyphro and knowing about why Euthyphro is there, Socrates is not convinced that Euthyphro prosecuting his father for murder is the just or pious thing to do. He asks Euthyphro to educate him about what piety and impiety are, so that he can see for himself whether or not what Euthyphro is doing to his father is a pious act. This will just begin the heart of a rigorous discussion on what piety and impiety are.

Euthyphro first attempts to explain Socrates what piety and impiety are by giving examples. He says that “the pious is to do what I am doing now, to prosecute the wrongdoer, be it about murder or temple robbery or anything else, whether the wrongdoer is your father or your mother or anyone else.” Then Socrates complains that he wanted to know what piety and impiety are but not a list of the pious and impious things. For example consider an analogous case where two people are sharing a pizza at dominos and if one among them wants to make a pizza at home. But if he doesn’t know anything about how to make a pizza at home and hence he asks his friend who seems to be rather knowledgeable about pizza, What is pizza? and if he says that what we are eating is pizza, what the people over there are eating is pizza, what we ate last night is pizza and so on. Then obviously the person will get annoyed because he wanted an explanation of what is pizza i.e like what it is composed of, what are the essential ingredients of pizza and how is it different from pasta and so on. But simply pointing at the instances of pizza is very less help to the person. In the same way Socrates is interested in what piety is i.e what is it composed of, what are the things that are essential to make it stand different from other qualities like mercy or kindness.

Euthyphro then defines piety and impiety as “what is dear to the gods is pious, what is not is impious.” Then Socarates tries to relate it with what he has earlier confirmed in the discussion that Euthyphro believes in the greeks gods and all of the stories about them. For example he believes that they fight, and that there is war between them, and that they disagree about many things. Recalling this point Socrates points out that this will prove problematic for Euthyphro’s definition of piety. Consider that what is dear to the gods is pious and what is not dear to the gods is impious, and then if some gods disagree and fight about what is dear to them, then it will turn out that one and the same action will be both pious and impious, since it will be dear to some gods and not dear to others.

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