At the beginning of Plato's dialogue "Euthyphro," Socrates meets Euthyprho on the steps of the courthouse of Athens. He has come there because charges are being leveled against him for atheism and the corruption of the youth of Athens. Euthyphro has come to press charges against his father for impiety. Of course, Socrates is determined to find out what Euthyphro means by the terms piety and impiety. Out of this exchange we get a wonderful illustration of the Socratic method in action as well as one of the earliest attempts to develop a philosophical approach to virtue ethics.
As you read, be sure that you are able to answer the following questions:
How does the dialogue open. What is Socrates doing at the courthouse of the King Archon? (§ 1) Why is Euthyphro there? (§ 2)
How does Socrates draw Euthyphro into a debate on the nature of piety? What contrast does Plato draw between the characters of Socrates and Euthyprho? (§ 3)
What does Euthyprho means when he says that piety is "doing what I am doing?" What problem does Socrates have with this "definition" of piety? (§ 4)
Euthypho's next attempt to define piety is "that which is dear to the God's." What is Socrates' objections to this definition? (§ 5)
Socrates' deviously attempts to draw Euthyphro further into the debate by suggesting that perhaps Ethyphro actually means to define piety as "that which is loved by all the Gods." The objection that Socrates raises here is somewhat complex and has actually been given it's own name by philosophers. It's called the "Euthyphro dilemma". A dilemma is a situation that allows for no favorable outcome. In what has Euthyphro put himself in a dilemma with his latest definition of piety ? (§ 6-7)
How does the dialogue end? Did we ever learn anything about the nature of piety from this discussion?
If you think that you understand the basic ideas in the text, take the quiz for this unit. Note: this quiz includes questions from the Introduction to Socrates in the text as well as from the Euthyphro, so be sure that you've read both selections carefully before you begin.