The dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro in front of the King Archon’s court reveals two individuals at crossroads on how to define and comprehend holiness. The two were to attend court hearings on different cases. During their discussion, they reveal to each other reasons why they are to appear in court.
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According to Burrington (n.d.), Socrates was to attend a court hearing in which Meletus accuses him of distracting the attention of young people from believing in the gods that the state religion recognizes. Instead, Socrates was propagating for the belief in new gods. On the other hand, Euthyphro was at the court to file a case against his father, who, he argues, has made his family and friends be unkind to him.
The father had isolated a servant, who killed a family slave, in a ditch to prevent religious pollution. Later, the servant died even before the messenger could report on what religious steps could be taken against the servant. Euthyphro explains that it is wrong, in line with his accepted beliefs, to protect a manslayer.
In addition, he says that his actions would prevent poisoning his father’s associates. According to Socrates, it is a taboo to lodge harmful proceedings against one’s father. This different points of view or different reasoning perspectives prompted the two to discuss in depth the concept of holiness or piety.
Notably, Socrates wanted to understand the interpretation of the term holiness from other people’s standpoint. This step could help him in defending himself at the court (God, 2009). Socrates wanted to gage whether his action of preaching to the youths to accept foreign gods could be viewed as holy or not. Additionally, he wanted to know whether his act was appeasing or annoying all the gods and whether it was right or wrong.
The concept of holiness also took prominent position, as Socrates wanted Euthyphro to evaluate his decision of arraigning his father in court. In the dialogue, Socrates aimed at making Euthyphro back his actions with solid premises, which are religious.
According to Socrates, many people have confused religious actions that are wrong or right, as they argue from archaic religious contextual. Remarkably, these two characters were faced by cases, which required deep philosophical explanations and comprehension.
Socrates requested Euthyphro to define what is meant by piety. In his first response, Euthyphro defended his ‘religious’ actions by alluding that even Zeus punished his father the same way. Socrates refuted this response by saying that, though it can be genuine, but the exemplification cannot be part of the definition.
Therefore, Euthyphro needs to understand the difference between what he considers religious and what he considers moral. Further, Socrates adds that he had difficulties in comprehending how misunderstanding arises among the gods. In the second definition, Euthyphro suggested that pious is what pleases the gods (God, 2009).
Socrates responded by indicating that what is appealing to one god could be unappealing to another god. Euthyphro felt frustrated and lastly defined piety as that which pleases all the gods. This definition prompted Socrates to ask Euthyphro a query, “Is what is pious loved by (all) the gods because it is already pious, or is it pious merely because it is something loved by them?” (Burrington, n.d.).
At this point, the two agree with the partial definition and go ahead to formulate schemas, that is something is considered pious if it is already holy in its own before god’s love it. These steps qualify the holiness of any act. Socrates added that what attracts the gods to love any pious act is its being morally right. Afterwards, they engage in explaining what actions one can accept as morally right.
Euthyphro argues that our moral actions involve helping our gods by protecting our people through offering sacrifices and prayers. Socrates then wonders why we ask the gods for things and offer them to the same gods as sacrifice.
Socrates’s objective in this dialogue was to show Euthyphro that there are different perspectives of viewing or understanding a concept, rather than having a fixated conception on an idea. Therefore, he wanted to understand the religious expert’s argument and widen his points of argument. This was Socrates’s intention because he assumed the role of a student or learner in the dialogue.
From this scenario, Euthyphro was fully able to give his understanding of piety and morality. Notably, in the dialogue Socrates played a passive role, as he could allow Euthyphro to respond to his questions, then offers suggestions to provoke further response from Euthyphro. Moreover, there is no point at which Euthyphro asked Socrates questions.
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In my opinion, holiness refers to a state or an act that is morally right in itself and that the gods love. The definition fails to give the level or point at which an act qualifies to be morally right. Additionally, who qualifies an act as morally upright?
Is it not the people? Is what is morally right loved by gods to make it morally right? On the other hand, is it morally right because people have accepted it to be so? There are individual differences in people’s arguments, cultures, perceptions, and understanding.
Burrington, D. E. (n.d.). Guides to the Socratic Dialogues: Plato’s Euthyphro. Hartwick College. Web.
God, F. (2009, April 23). Socrates versus Euthyphro. No Double Standards. Web.