In the Euthyphro dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro converse about what piety or holiness is. This question comes up when Euthyphro revealed to Socrates that he is in court to prosecute his father for murder. This situation where a son accuses his own father of murder shocked the Athenians including Socrates, however, Euthyphro still believes that he is doing what the gods ask him to do and that his action is pious. Socrates did not fully understand Euthyphro’s action, so he ask Euthyphro what piety really means. Socrates asks for a particular definition of the quality that makes an action pious hoping that what he will learn from him can help him in his case of corrupting the youth and impiety. Euthyphro attempted to define piety to Socrates by providing five definitions of piety that includes prosecuting the wrongdoer, what is dear to the gods, what is loved by all the gods, part of justice concerned with the care of gods, and a kind of giving and begging from the gods. In this paper, I will argue about Socrates’ objection to the third definition of piety is successful. First, I will discuss Euthyphro’s third definition of piety and why it is weak and unsuccessful. Second, I will explain the main problem of the definition I will be evaluating and expound Socrates’ objection. Then, I will add reasons that will strengthen my argument of why I think Socrates objection is successful. I will end this paper by stating Euthyphro’s definitions are ineffective and that his action is impious that only proves Socrates’ objection is successful.
When Socrates heard about Euthyphro’s reason for prosecuting his father, he started asking for a particular definition of piety. Euthyphro first said that piety is prosecuting the wrongdoer. However, this definition did not hold up for very long because Socrates disagrees and said that this not a definition of piety but only an example. Then, Euthyphro comes up with another definition which is piety is what is dear to the gods. Just like the first definition, Socrates disagrees because there are a lot of gods and obviously there is a likelihood that they all love and hate different things and certainly it cannot be both piety and impiety at the same time. After Socrates rejection of the first two definitions, Euthyphro said: “I would certainly say that the pious is what all the gods love, and the opposite, what all the gods hate, is the impious.” (9e) and this became his third definition of piety. Socrates problem with this definition is Euthyphro failed to specify what does the gods love or what do they hate. In addition, Euthyphro must also provide qualities that make an act loved or hated by the gods before using this definition to define piety. Therefore, due to Euthyphro’s failure of giving qualities of what makes an act loved or hated by the gods, this definition is weak and unsuccessful.
Socrates continued to question Euthyphro’s third definition of piety. By examining this definition, Socrates asked Euthyphro “Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?” (10a). In the first option, the real question is what makes a certain act loved by all the gods. I understand that they love it, but what quality makes all the gods love this act. Then again, it is still a statement that the gods happen to love a certain act because it is pious, but it still does not define what piety is. If this is the case that the gods love it because it is already pious, then it means that piety is not invented or comes from the gods. This contradicts the truth that gods are an omnipotent, omniscient, and supreme creator of all things because piety does not come from the gods in the first place. If the gods did not create piety, so it informs us that the gods are not omnipotent and the superior creator after all. In the second option which is it is pious because it is being loved by the gods, it just simply means that the love of all the gods decide whether an act is pious or not. If this is the case, then piety then becomes unpredictable and even scary. There is always a possibility that all the gods can change their mind and stop loving a certain act, and so the act that used to be pious become impious just because the gods stop loving it. It means that a certain act can be pious and impious at different times and Socrates objects this and said that it is impossible. I also think that this second option is scary because the gods can command or approve any acts regardless if it’s inhumane or not. For example, in the Bible, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. This is obviously inhumane and evil act in the eyes of men, but it is still considered pious merely because it is commanded by God. Some people might argue that the gods will never command anyone to do any wrong acts, but how can we possibly know that the gods will never command this heinous act. The main issue in this option is that piety becomes arbitrary that makes wrong acts pious just because God commands it. With all the complication in Euthyphro’s third definition of piety, I strongly believe that Socrates’ objection is successful.
After the conversation, Socrates is convinced that Euthyphro does not have any idea or knowledge about the gods or the definition of piety despite what he has claimed to know. Going back to piety being loved by all the gods, Euthyphro never mentioned any qualities that make all the gods love an act. So, saying that the pious is what all the gods’ love does not tell what makes something pious. On the other hand, if an act becomes pious because the gods love it, this becomes arbitrary and dangerous because they can change their mind anytime. I also believe that Euthyphro never really took time to investigate the gods and what it means to be holy, for he only heard about the gods from poets. In fact, he might be just concerned about him being in the right side with the gods regardless of his actions including prosecuting his father of murder.
Socrates discussion with Euthyphro reveals that piety is exceptionally difficult to define. Euthyphro tried to define what piety is by providing five definitions, but this just proves how not well informed he is in the topic of gods and piety. His third definition of piety might help identify pious, but it does not define what piety is, and this is why Socrates’ objection is successful. Saying piety is what is loved by all the gods do not support the truth that gods are supreme creators because they only identify piety and not create it. On the other hand, saying it is piety because it is loved by all the gods makes piety unpredictable and even scary. In the end, I personally believe that piety might be being obedient to something that holds everybody together, while impiety is what destroys the togetherness like Euthyphro’s action.
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