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  1. PHL Euthyphro Argument and Divine Command Theory
  2. Euthyphro dilemma
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  4. Euthyphro, by Plato

This text is part of: Greek and Roman Materials. Search the Perseus Catalog for: View text chunked by: Current location in this text. Enter a Perseus citation to go to another section or work. Full search options are on the right side and top of the page. For it cannot be that you have an action before the king, as I have. Socrates Our Athenians, Euthyphro, do not call it an action, but an indictment. Somebody has, it seems, brought an indictment against you;.

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Commentary references to this page 1: Is not piety in every action always the same? Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime — whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be — that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others: For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?

And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

PHL Euthyphro Argument and Divine Command Theory

May not this be the reason, Euthyphro, why I am charged with impiety — that I cannot away with these stories about the gods? But, as you who are well informed about them approve of them, I cannot do better than assent to your superior wisdom. What else can I say, confessing as I do, that I know nothing about them? Tell me, for the love of Zeus, whether you really believe that they are true. And do you really believe that the gods fought with one another, and had dire quarrels, battles, and the like, as the poets say, and as you may see represented in the works of great artists?

The temples are full of them; and notably the robe of Athene, which is carried up to the Acropolis at the great Panathenaea, is embroidered with them. Are all these tales of the gods true, Euthyphro? Yes, Socrates; and, as I was saying, I can tell you, if you would like to hear them, many other things about the gods which would quite amaze you. I dare say; and you shall tell me them at some other time when I have leisure. When asked, you only replied, Doing as you do, charging your father with murder. Remember that I did not ask you to give me two or three examples of piety, but to explain the general idea which makes all pious things to be pious.

Do you not recollect that there was one idea which made the impious impious, and the pious pious? Tell me what is the nature of this idea, and then I shall have a standard to which I may look, and by which I may measure actions, whether yours or those of any one else, and then I shall be able to say that such and such an action is pious, such another impious. Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.

Euthyphro dilemma

Very good, Euthyphro; you have now given me the sort of answer which I wanted. But whether what you say is true or not I cannot as yet tell, although I make no doubt that you will prove the truth of your words. Come, then, and let us examine what we are saying. That thing or person which is dear to the gods is pious, and that thing or person which is hateful to the gods is impious, these two being the extreme opposites of one another. Was not that said? And further, Euthyphro, the gods were admitted to have enmities and hatreds and differences? And what sort of difference creates enmity and anger?

Suppose for example that you and I, my good friend, differ about a number; do differences of this sort make us enemies and set us at variance with one another? Do we not go at once to arithmetic, and put an end to them by a sum? Or suppose that we differ about magnitudes, do we not quickly end the differences by measuring? But what differences are there which cannot be thus decided, and which therefore make us angry and set us at enmity with one another?

I dare say the answer does not occur to you at the moment, and therefore I will suggest that these enmities arise when the matters of difference are the just and unjust, good and evil, honourable and dishonourable. Are not these the points about which men differ, and about which when we are unable satisfactorily to decide our differences, you and I and all of us quarrel, when we do quarrel? Yes, Socrates, the nature of the differences about which we quarrel is such as you describe.

They have differences of opinion, as you say, about good and evil, just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable: Does not every man love that which he deems noble and just and good, and hate the opposite of them? But, as you say, people regard the same things, some as just and others as unjust — about these they dispute; and so there arise wars and fightings among them.

Then the same things are hated by the gods and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear to them? Then, my friend, I remark with surprise that you have not answered the question which I asked. For I certainly did not ask you to tell me what action is both pious and impious: And therefore, Euthyphro, in thus chastising your father you may very likely be doing what is agreeable to Zeus but disagreeable to Cronos or Uranus, and what is acceptable to Hephaestus but unacceptable to Here, and there may be other gods who have similar differences of opinion. But I believe, Socrates, that all the gods would be agreed as to the propriety of punishing a murderer: Well, but speaking of men, Euthyphro, did you ever hear any one arguing that a murderer or any sort of evil-doer ought to be let off?

I should rather say that these are the questions which they are always arguing, especially in courts of law: But do they admit their guilt, Euthyphro, and yet say that they ought not to be punished? Then there are some things which they do not venture to say and do: Then they do not argue that the evil-doer should not be punished, but they argue about the fact of who the evil-doer is, and what he did and when?

And the gods are in the same case, if as you assert they quarrel about just and unjust, and some of them say while others deny that injustice is done among them. For surely neither God nor man will ever venture to say that the doer of injustice is not to be punished? But they join issue about the particulars — gods and men alike; and, if they dispute at all, they dispute about some act which is called in question, and which by some is affirmed to be just, by others to be unjust.

Is not that true? Well then, my dear friend Euthyphro, do tell me, for my better instruction and information, what proof have you that in the opinion of all the gods a servant who is guilty of murder, and is put in chains by the master of the dead man, and dies because he is put in chains before he who bound him can learn from the interpreters of the gods what he ought to do with him, dies unjustly; and that on behalf of such an one a son ought to proceed against his father and accuse him of murder.

How would you show that all the gods absolutely agree in approving of his act? Prove to me that they do, and I will applaud your wisdom as long as I live. I understand; you mean to say that I am not so quick of apprehension as the judges: But they will be sure to listen if they find that you are a good speaker. There was a notion that came into my mind while you were speaking; I said to myself: But I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither.

Shall this be our definition of piety and impiety? But whether this admission will greatly assist you in the task of instructing me as you promised, is a matter for you to consider. Yes, I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious.

Ought we to enquire into the truth of this, Euthyphro, or simply to accept the mere statement on our own authority and that of others? What do you say?

We shall know better, my good friend, in a little while. The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods. I will endeavour to explain: You know that in all such cases there is a difference, and you know also in what the difference lies?

Well; and now tell me, is that which is carried in this state of carrying because it is carried, or for some other reason?

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And a thing is not seen because it is visible, but conversely, visible because it is seen; nor is a thing led because it is in the state of being led, or carried because it is in the state of being carried, but the converse of this. And now I think, Euthyphro, that my meaning will be intelligible; and my meaning is, that any state of action or passion implies previous action or passion.

It does not become because it is becoming, but it is in a state of becoming because it becomes; neither does it suffer because it is in a state of suffering, but it is in a state of suffering because it suffers. Do you not agree?

Plato's Euthyphro A Summary

And the same holds as in the previous instances; the state of being loved follows the act of being loved, and not the act the state. And what do you say of piety, Euthyphro: And that which is dear to the gods is loved by them, and is in a state to be loved of them because it is loved of them? Then that which is dear to the gods, Euthyphro, is not holy, nor is that which is holy loved of God, as you affirm; but they are two different things.

I mean to say that the holy has been acknowledged by us to be loved of God because it is holy, not to be holy because it is loved. But that which is dear to the gods is dear to them because it is loved by them, not loved by them because it is dear to them. But, friend Euthyphro, if that which is holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which is dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him.

But now you see that the reverse is the case, and that they are quite different from one another.

Euthyphro, by Plato

For one theophiles is of a kind to be loved cause it is loved, and the other osion is loved because it is of a kind to be loved. Thus you appear to me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence — the attribute of being loved by all the gods. But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is, whether dear to the gods or not for that is a matter about which we will not quarrel ; and what is impiety?

I really do not know, Socrates, how to express what I mean. For somehow or other our arguments, on whatever ground we rest them, seem to turn round and walk away from us. Your words, Euthyphro, are like the handiwork of my ancestor Daedalus; and if I were the sayer or propounder of them, you might say that my arguments walk away and will not remain fixed where they are placed because I am a descendant of his. But now, since these notions are your own, you must find some other gibe, for they certainly, as you yourself allow, show an inclination to be on the move. Nay, Socrates, I shall still say that you are the Daedalus who sets arguments in motion; not I, certainly, but you make them move or go round, for they would never have stirred, as far as I am concerned.

Then I must be a greater than Daedalus: And the beauty of it is, that I would rather not. For I would give the wisdom of Daedalus, and the wealth of Tantalus, to be able to detain them and keep them fixed. But enough of this. As I perceive that you are lazy, I will myself endeavour to show you how you might instruct me in the nature of piety; and I hope that you will not grudge your labour. Tell me, then — Is not that which is pious necessarily just? And is, then, all which is just pious? And yet I know that you are as much wiser than I am, as you are younger.

But, as I was saying, revered friend, the abundance of your wisdom makes you lazy. Please to exert yourself, for there is no real difficulty in understanding me. What I mean I may explain by an illustration of what I do not mean. I should not say that where there is fear there is also reverence; for I am sure that many persons fear poverty and disease, and the like evils, but I do not perceive that they reverence the objects of their fear.

But where reverence is, there is fear; for he who has a feeling of reverence and shame about the commission of any action, fears and is afraid of an ill reputation. Then we are wrong in saying that where there is fear there is also reverence; and we should say, where there is reverence there is also fear. But there is not always reverence where there is fear; for fear is a more extended notion, and reverence is a part of fear, just as the odd is a part of number, and number is a more extended notion than the odd. I suppose that you follow me now?

That was the sort of question which I meant to raise when I asked whether the just is always the pious, or the pious always the just; and whether there may not be justice where there is not piety; for justice is the more extended notion of which piety is only a part. Then, if piety is a part of justice, I suppose that we should enquire what part? If you had pursued the enquiry in the previous cases; for instance, if you had asked me what is an even number, and what part of number the even is, I should have had no difficulty in replying, a number which represents a figure having two equal sides.