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Euthyphro Case

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This story of Euthyphro, was one of the first documented by Plato.

It documents the debate between Euthyphro, a religious expert and Socrates

concerning the definition of "piety". Both men were on trial for different

offenses and met in King Archon's court.

Socrates was facing trial for "impiety" (unholiness) and sought better

understanding of religious law. Euthyphro was seeking to punish his father for

the murder of a slave in Naxos. The accused murderer was placed into a ditch

until religious interpreters provided guidance for punishment. While in

captivity, the accused murderer died from hunger and exposure. Socrates felt

confident that he would learn the nature of piety and impiety since Euthyphro

easily charged his father with this offense. What is piety?

Euthyphro's initial response is, "that piety is doing as I do, prosecuting

your father (if he is guilty) on a charge of murder; doing as the gods do."

Socrates didn't consider this as a definition but as an example of piety.

Understanding the confusion, Euthyphro decided to provide another definition.

Euthyphro's next response was, "Piety is what is dear to the gods, and

impiety is what is not dear to them." Socrates challenged this definition as well.

Socrates questioned if there aren't differences of opinion amongst gods as there

are with men? Do they not debate about what's considered as good and evil?

Therefore, what may be dear to one god may not be dear to another, and the

same action may or may not be piety. Euthyphro tries to convince Socrates that

there are no differences of opinion, either among gods or men when it comes to

punishing a murderer. Socrates responded that Euthyphro was assuming that

there were no differences of opinion. He questioned if there were ways of

showing that all the gods were in agreement of Euthyphro's father's

prosecution. Euthyphro tries to amend his definition to say, "What ALL the gods

love is piety, and what they ALL hate is impiety." Socrates again disagrees,

stating that the unanimous approval of the gods is another example of piety and

not the definition.

Socrates then decides to help with defining piety. He asks Euthyphro if

everything that we consider good in the world is piety and vice versa. He

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