Socrates and Euthyphro: What Piety Means

In the case of Euthyphro, there is much that he says which refutes the thoughts that Socrates has on the same matters. For instance, Socrates often finds himself focusing on trying to escape situations rather than confronting the root of the problem outright (Gonna have to disagree with you there.). Euthyphro, on the other hand, is bound to explain occurrences the logical way and by using examples to clarify meaning. When Socrates is once again dealing with Meletus, and thus involves Euthyphro to attempt to gain a better understanding of what he would deem as pious or impious and what piety means to him. Euthyphro attempts to appeal to Socrates but ends up being unsuccessful because of the way in which Euthyphro is asked to define piety even when he is standing trial against his own father. Euthyphro also incorporates the ideas of holiness and describes a sort of barter with the Gods in order to have favors granted and is frustrated when Socrates does not approve of Euthyphro’s contribution towards his being held trial by Meletus again.

When asked to define ‘piety”, Euthyphro goes back and forth between describing piety and the acts which can be considered to be pious and impious. Though he spends the majority of his dialogue discussing the matter, Socrates is not easy to understand of the definition that Euthyphro gives (Socrates understands it perfectly well. He just thinks it’s a poor definition). Because they have differing viewpoints on the matter and because Meletus is once again involved (No he’s not. Which dialogue were you reading?), Socrates has a difficult time processing what Euthyphro is explaining about piety (No he doesn’t). According to Euthyphro, “Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting anyone 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”. Euthyphro is trying to make Socrates believe that impiety comes upon those who cannot seek out other impious people and bring justice to them or that it makes an individual impious to cover up other people’s transgressions. He makes it seem that prosecuting the wrongdoers is the only way to reinstate piety among men. It is not up to the men to decide upon piety and to prosecute one another yet it should be left to those with power, the Gods in control who can contribute to defining piety, and Gods are not impious.

Because Socrates was held on trial by Meletus for what would be considered impious acts (his relation with deities and false Gods) he refutes Euthyphro’s definition of piety because it goes against the very acts he was trying to get away with in the face of the judges (This is backward, as Socrates’ trial has yet to occur. Also, Socrates’ objections to Euthyphro are almost entirely a result of Euthyphro’s logical inconsistency when explaining his own position.). This is further proved in relation to the definition of piety when he says, “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, and the pious?”. Here Socrates is trying to figure out if Euthyphro is being consistent when he defines piety in regards to his prosecution against his father the way he does when looking at other examples of impiety. Euthyphro believes that it is enough to stand trial against his own father to show what he believes it means to sell out the impious people; however, Socrates finds that his logic is flawed and that there is no way that there is any consistency with passing judgment if there are personal emotions and moving parts involved (The issue of personal emotions does not platy a role here).

Overall, Socrates is not convinced by the logic which Euthyphro presents him with because it is incomplete as Euthyphro walks away from Socrates once it is revealed that the definition of piety is almost always subjective and dependent on the situation (When is this revealed, and by whom?). Piety cannot be divulged by someone who deems themself to be a pious person but whom others find to be impious. This disconnect between Euthyphro’s definition and the way in which the public views those who judge others shows why Socrates does not believe what Euthyphro is telling him about piety and the way it is present within their society among the Gods. It is because of this that Socrates remains up against Meletus and is guilty and does not believe what Euthyphro tells him about the nature of piety and how to attain it.

07 July 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now