• Fooloso4
    2.4k
    Socrates meets Euthyphro on the steps of the courthouse. Socrates is there to face charges of impiety and corrupting the youth. Euthyphro is there to bring charges against his father. The name Euthyphro means straight thought. The name is apt. He is not straight in the sense of being true, but of being incapable of seeing beyond his narrow focus. He says that because of his knowledge of divine things he is laughed at in the assembly and thought to be mad. (3c) He represents a character type. A type that seems incapable of knowing his ignorance.

    Euthyphro claims to be a diviner and to know divine and pious things precisely (5a). Socrates ironically proposes that he become Euthyphro’s student. He asks him to identify the “idea” of the pious and impious. (5d) Euthyphro responds that what he is doing is pious. His answer is typical and the problem obvious. He assumes he knows what the pious is and so is certain that what he is doing is pious.

    He points to Zeus’ castrating his father as justification for his bringing charges of murder against his own father. He assumed that by imitating Zeus, “the best and most just of the gods” (5e) that he too will be doing what is best and most just. The question of what is pious is then connected to the question of what is best and just. But to question whether if what Zeus did is just is, it would seem, impious. But it is necessary. Euthyphro unquestioningly accepts that Zeus is just. The evidence points in the opposite direction, but he accepts what he has been told and bends the idea of justice to conform.

    Socrates returns to the question of the eidos of piety. Euthyphro now gives the kind of answer Socrates is looking for:

    What is dear to (loved by) the gods is pious, and what is not dear is impious. (6e)

    Socrates reminds Euthyphro of the quarrel between the gods. He points out that there is no quarrel when it comes to such things as calculation, greater or less, weight, that is not easily resolved. But when it comes to questions of the just and unjust, noble and shameful, good and bad we differ and these differences make us enemies. It is not because we are enemies that we differ but because we differ that we become enemies. (7d)

    Socrates asks whether the gods disagree about such things. Euthyphro first denies that they do but then admits that they do (8a). The question of what is just, noble, and good has not been answered by the gods. It would seem that they have no knowledge of such things, for if they did there would be no disagreement.

    The same thing then would both be loved and hated, pious and impious. What is loved by Zeus would be hated by his father Cronus. Euthyphro revises his answer, the pious is what all the gods love, and what all the gods hate is impious. (9e)

    Socrates asks:

    Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved? (10a)

    Euthyphro says he does not understand. Socrates says he will “try to explain it more plainly”, but what he says seems designed to confuse rather than make it clear. Or rather, it is intended to show the incoherence of the claim. It says no more than that what is loved is loved. The question of why this is loved and that is not loved is not addressed. That this is loved and not that tells us nothing about whether what is loved is best and just.

    In confusion Euthyphro says:

    But Socrates, I have no way of telling you what I have in mind. For whatever we put forward somehow always keeps going around for us and isn’t willing to stay where we place it. (11b)

    Socrates now offers to show Euthyphro how he can teach Socrates about the pious. (11e) Things have indeed gone around with the need for the student to teach the teacher. Socrates proposes that the pious is what is just. (11e)

    Socrates gets him to agree that where odd is there number and not where there is number there is odd. (12b) But there cannot be odd without number. The significance of this becomes clear when Socrates asks whether where the just is there too is the pious, or if it is that where the pious is there too is the just. Is the pious part of the just? (12d)

    Just as there is no odd without number there is no piety without the just. If Euthyphro were to give an answer that is consistent with what was said previously and with his answer regarding number and odd, he would answer that without piety the just would not be. One consequence of this is that the just would be whatever is loved. No matter what gods or men do it would be just if a god loved it.

    But Euthyphro seems to have forgotten all that and now agrees that the pious is part of the just.
    Socrates asks what part of justice the pious is. If we follow the example of number and odd, just as the other part of number is the even, the other part of justice would be impiety. Socrates’ pursuit of justice is in part impious, he questions what should be piously accepted as true.

    Euthyphro says that the part of justice that is pious is tendance to the gods. (12e) As tendance to horses requires knowledge of horses, and tendance to dogs or tendance to cattle knowledge of dogs and cattle, there must be knowledge of gods if one is to tend to them. (13a) Euthyphro does not object to this because he assumes he has knowledge of the gods, but when Socrates says that tenance to horses or dogs must benefit horses and dogs Euthyphro objects. He denies that man benefits the gods, that we make the gods better. (13c)

    Euthyphro says that tenance to the gods is as slaves tend to their masters. (13d) Socrates asks what the noble work is that the gods do with us as their servants. (13e) Euthyphro answers “many noble things”. Socrates presses him to name the main thing they produce, Euthyphro says:

    … if someone has knowledge of how to say and do things gratifying to the gods by praying and sacrificing, these are the pious things. And such things preserve private families as well as the communities of cities. (14b)

    Euthyphro is prepared to destroy his own family and to the extent the family is necessary for the city, destroy the city as well in order to, as he imagines it, please the gods. And all because this “straight thinker” thinks he knows what pleases the gods.

    Socrates asks once again what piety and impiety are. Euthyphro agrees that it is a certain kind of knowledge of sacrificing and praying, of giving gifts and making requests of the gods. (14c) Socrates calls this a kind of commerce. (14e) Euthyphro momentarily forgets that he had denied that the gods are benefited by us, but now recalls this. He says that what they get from us is honor, respect, and gratitude. (15a) But, Socrates points out, what is gratifying is what is dear to the gods.

    The argument has gone around in a circle. Socrates proposes they begin again with the question of what the pious is. It is only if Euthyphro knows plainly what the pious and impious are that he can be sure that he is acting correctly in prosecuting his father. (15d)

    But Euthyphro is unwilling to begin again:

    Some other time, then, Socrates. For now I am in a hurry to go somewhere, and it is time for me to go away. (15e)

    Where is he going in such a hurry? Has Socrates convinced him of his ignorance and prevented him from causing harm? Or is he in a hurry to proceed with the prosecution before he begins to doubt himself?

    It is not piety that makes one just but rather one must be just in order to be pious. To answer the question that engendered this post, belief in god is not necessary for being good. In Euthyphro’s case, it is his belief that leads him to do what is unjust to his family and the city.
  • Apollodorus
    2.1k
    I don't know what the question is but I'm sure Karl Marx has all the answers. Or so they say ....
  • DingoJones
    2.4k
    What are we discussing? Anything specific or just the Euthyophro story? What is the point if this thread (not intended as snide, honest question)
  • Apollodorus
    2.1k
    Fooloso4 started it at the instigation of Banno. So maybe he knows
  • Valentinus
    1.3k

    Please refrain from the gratuitous ad hominem commentary.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k
    Anything specific or just the Euthyophro story?DingoJones

    The specifics of the dialogue, centering around the question of the relationship between piety and justice, or, based on the thread that led to this, belief in God and morality.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    The argument has gone around in a circle.Fooloso4

    It was ever so. The conclusion is aporia; an impasse; a hurried withdrawal.

    Yes, this thread is a branch from a zombie. But we might take the point that what is right and what god wants are not the very same.
  • DingoJones
    2.4k


    Could you elaborate what is meant by “piety”? Piety to what?
    Are we just talking about ones dedication to justice and relating that to god being definitive of justice means piety to god is piety to justice?
  • Banno
    13.5k
    It's a rather neat, short example of Socratic method at work. It, or similar dialogues, ought be basic to the education of any with pretences to philosophical thinking. It was, I understand, long used as the first dialogue to which novices we exposed. A fine example of the sort of conceptual analysis that is the defying feature of philosophical enquiry.

    Could you elaborate what is meant by “piety”?DingoJones

    Indeed! But try it for yourself. That's what the discussion is - what is piety? What is Justice? What is good?
  • Janus
    10.4k
    No one has addressed this yet in the other thread, so I'll post it again (with slight alterations) here:

    The "Euthyphro problem" for theism is commonly misrepresented; as its central question being "Is something pious because it is beloved by God or is it beloved by God because it is pious?" The actual question in the text is "Is something pious because it is beloved of the gods, or is it beloved of the gods because it is pious?".

    What is forgotten is that the Greek gods were quite capable of disagreement, and that that is the problem with equating piety with what the gods love. That something should be pious because it is beloved of (a single omniscient) God and beloved of God because it is pious presents no contradiction, inconsistency or paradox as far as I can tell. I'm open to correction on this..
  • Tom Storm
    1.6k
    Christian apologists have also tried to deal with the Euthyphro dilema.

    Here's Dr William Lane Craig (one of the more competent).

    Dr. Craig: For those that aren't familiar with it, the question is: does God will something because it is good, or is something good because God wills it? If the theist says that God wills something because it is good then the good is independent of God and, in fact then, moral values are not based in God. They are independent of him. On the other hand, if you say something is good because God wills it then that would seem to make what is good and evil arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred is good; then we would be morally obligated to hate one another, which seems crazy. Some moral values seem to be necessary, and therefore there would be no possible world in which hatred is good. So the claim is that this shows that morality cannot be based in God.

    I think it is clearly a false dilemma because the alternatives are not of the form “A or not-A” which would be an inescapable dilemma. The alternatives are like “A or B.” In that case you can always add a third one, C, and escape the horns of the dilemma. I think in this case there is a third alternative which is to say that God wills something because he is good. That is to say, God himself is the paradigm of goodness, and his will reflects his character. God is by nature loving, kind, fair, impartial, generous, and so forth. Therefore, he could not have willed that, for example, hatred be good. That would be to contradict his very own nature.

    So God's commands to us are not arbitrary, but neither are they based upon something independent of God. Rather, God himself is the paradigm of goodness.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k
    But we might take the point that what is right and what god wants are not the very same.Banno

    I would go further and say that if we do not simply accept what we have been told that god wants then in trying to determine what god wants we move in the direction of trying to determine what is right. Or we can forego the question of what god wants and go right to the problem of determining what is right.

    But I think the question of what is right is best approached as part of the question of the good in the way that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle pursued the question. And this should not be confused with Plato's mythology of the Good.
  • DingoJones
    2.4k


    Im trying to understand what other people mean by those words, they weren’t words I used so why would I seek to offer my own meaning of the words?
    I can discuss it once its clear to me, and perhaps offer my own thoughts to n meaning then.
    I understand you are being a teacher guy and getting me to think on my own as part of that but that approach does nothing for me. I just find it frustrating/obnoxious, and I mention that only to illuminate not to be snide or flip.
    I already think deeply about things, I’m asking about those words to establish a baseline for a potentially interesting discussion. I promise I’m not trying to be a dick, I just am explaining myself in hopes of reaching a better understanding with you since I’ve had difficulty discussing things with you in the past and I would always want to smooth out those difficulties.
  • Wayfarer
    13.1k
    The Perseus edition is here http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DEuthyph.%3Asection%3D2a

    It is useful because it’s annotated, you can use the included section numbers to refer to specific passages, as Fooloso4 has done in the OP.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    Im trying to understand what other people mean by those words...DingoJones

    Then watch. Or read the texts provided and question.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    ...Plato's mythology of the Good...Fooloso4

    ...I'm not familiar with this.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k


    If instead of gods there is one god then whatever that god loved would be pious, but if instead of that god it was another god then whatever that god loved would be pious. In other words, unless it can be shown that what is loved is what is "best and most loved", it does not matter whether it is one god or many. Although there would not be disagreement it would still be a matter of the god's preference rather than what is good and right.
  • DingoJones
    2.4k


    Sorry i had gone back and edited that post. I accidentally hit the post button.
  • DingoJones
    2.4k
    Then watch. Or read the texts provided and question.Banno

    Those are options yes, but not as expedient as just having the simple questions answered.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k


    The whole thing in the Republic about the ascent from the cave to the sight of the Forms to Good itself. Socrates in telling it admits this these are not things he knows. He presents it as if the reader is being given access to something only the few know. It is easy to forget that Socrates wisdom was "human wisdom", knowledge of his ignorance. One who knows the Forms and has beheld the Good would have divine wisdom.
  • Janus
    10.4k
    The theistic presumption is though, that there is just one God and that that God is omniscient and omnibenevolent. On that presumption there seems to be no contradiction involved in saying that God loves the good because it is good, and that the good is good because God loves it.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    Good - I had hoped you might bring this here.

    Seems to me we are looking at about 9a, and that Euthyphro adjusts his position to what is beloved by all the gods.

    That is, the point you make is explicit in the dialogue, and hence accounted in the conclusion.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k
    Those are options yes, but not as expedient as just having the simple questions answered.DingoJones

    But the thing about Plato's dialogues is that it is not about providing answers to simple questions. As Banno noted the dialogue ends in aporia. Most of them do.
  • Janus
    10.4k
    OK, it's a long time since I read the text and I had forgotten that. But again the problem in the context of the Greek gods is not only that they may disagree, but that that very possibility means that cannot be omniscient. The equation of the good with what God loves is logically valid only on the assumption that God is omniscient (and omnibenevolent).
  • Banno
    13.5k
    As Banno noted the dialogue ends in aporia. Most of them do.Fooloso4

    ...and yet in the process you and I have concluded that what is pious and what is beloved of god are distinct. Are we justified in this, if the end is inconclusive?

    Hence there may be room for @Janus' objection. Some work is required here.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k


    Euthyphro's dilemma is nowhere to be found in the dialogue. It is, however, something that has been discussed in the literature.

    In my opinion, Craig attempts to avoid the appearance of an arbitrary divine will by arbitrarily positing God's nature, a God who is good. His sanitized God is at odds with what we see in the Bible and what we confront with the problem of evil. Craig, of course, has his responses.
  • DingoJones
    2.4k
    But the thing about Plato's dialogues is that it is not about providing answers to simple questions. As Banno noted the dialogue ends in aporia. Most of them do.Fooloso4

    I Understand that, I have read the dialogues. The Socratic method is about the questions and what they reveal.
    Im assuming that you and banno who understand Euthyohro would posit it for a deeper purpose than to just reiterate what you already understand about it. I was just trying to establish what that purpose might be, if there was something being specifically sought in this revisit to a classic.
  • Fooloso4
    2.4k
    The theistic presumption is though, that there is just one God and that that God is omniscient and omnibenevolent.Janus

    That is a theistic presumption, not THE theistic presumption. It is difficult to square the idea of omnibenevolence with what the God of the Hebrew Bible does, or with a New Testament God who sacrifices his son.

    I do not know when the notions of omniscience and omnibenevolence were introduced. It is often assumed they were there all along but where are they found in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament?
  • Banno
    13.5k
    The equation of the good with what God loves is logically valid only on the assumption that God is omniscient (and omnibenevolent).Janus

    I'd like to see how this connection works. Can you fill in the gaps?
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