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Plato`s Euthyphro Essay, Research Paper

One of the most interesting and influential thinkers of all time was Socrates,

whose dedication to careful reasoning helped form the basis for philosophy.

Socrates applied logical tricks in the pursuit for the truth. Consequently, his

willingness to call everything into question and his determination to accept

nothing less than an adequate account of the nature of things made him one of

the first people to utilize critical philosophy. Although he was well known for

his philosophical ways of thinking, Socrates never wrote anything down, so we

are dependant on his students, like Plato, for any detailed knowledge of his

methods or ways of thinking. One of the early dialogues in which Plato had

written was Euthyphro. The Euthyphro dialogue begins with Socrates becoming

involved in a touchy conversation with an over confident young man, Euthyphro.

Socrates finds Euthyphro perfectly certain of his own ethical morality even in

the situation of prosecuting his own father in court. Socrates asks him to

define what piety, or moral duty really is. He asks for something more than just

lists of what pious actions are. Euthyphro is supposed to provide a general

definition that captures the very basic nature of what piety is. Euthyphro

claims that he knows what it is to be pious, but every answer he offers is

subjected to the full force of Socrates’ critical thinking. Socrates

systematically refutes Euthyphro’s suggestion that what makes right actions

right is that the gods love, or approve of them. First, there is the problem

that since questions of right and wrong often create endless disputes, the gods

are likely to disagree among themselves about moral matters just as often as we

do, making some actions both right and wrong. Socrates lets Euthyphro off the

hook on this one by agreeing with him, but only for purposes of continuing the

discussion. More importantly, Socrates instigates a formal problem for Euthyphro

from a deceivingly simple question, "Is the pious loved by the gods because

it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" Neither

choice can do the justice for which Euthyphro intends his definition of piety.

If right actions are pious only because the gods love them, then moral rightness

is completely optional, depending only on the impulses of the gods. But if the

gods love right actions only because they are already right, then there must be

some non-divine source of values, which we might come to know separately from

their love. Plato’s final answer to the question of what makes a pious act pious

is to say that there is a form, piety itself, by virtue of which a pious act is

pious.


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