The concept that needs to be defined is that of piety/ holiness. Euthyphro is in the verge of prosecuting his father because of the crime he committed. Socrates is surprised by the action of Euthyphro. However, Euthyphro argues that his action is pious.
This action makes Socrates to wonder whether impiety and piety knowledge that Euthyphro posses are adequate enough to allow him prosecute his father by not behaving impiously. As a result, they search for piety definition as understood by Euthyphro. The dialogue between the two terminates without getting a clear definition of what piety means (Cohen, N.D).
The definition of piety is offered by Euthyphro in four different perspectives. From the initial dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro, Euthyphro is in the verge of prosecuting his own father. This is because he murdered a murderer. The underlying philosophy behind the actions of Euthyphro is not understood by Socrates.
However, he is keen to learn with an aim of understanding Euthyphro and how he ended holding such a super power in the whole state. Socrates was preparing himself to face trial. As such, he wanted to attain the same respect that had already been achieved by Euthyphro. In their dialogue, Euthyphro understands the various definition of piety.
On the contrary, throughout their dialogue, Euthyphro gives out four different piety definitions some of which contradict each other (Brickhouse & Smith, 1995). According to Socrates, there are numerous limitations with regards to his definitions and continues to insist for an answer that is satisfactory. His initial definition can be found in the following statement, “piety means prosecuting the unjust individual who has committed murder or sacrilege, or any other such crime” (Plato, N.D, p.5).
This is in reference to his father’s prosecution for murder charges. Piety is therefore considered as that action which does not maintain the city justice. Therefore, if a single man acts in a disgraceful manner, he needs to face justice by being prosecuted and justice enforced. To emphasize on this point, a reference is made to Kronos the father of Zeus and Zeus himself. Kronos was bound by his son Zeus because he consumed his own children.
After being bound, Zeus escaped. Ironically, Kronos managed to castrate his own father because he consumed his own children. However, it is argued by Euthyphro that, in comparison to all gods, Zeus is the most just. Therefore, Euthyphro is trying to appease the gods by being just. Thereby prosecuting the society wrong doers such as in the case of his father, Zeus and his father as presented in the book.
Another definition of piety provided by Euthyphro to Socrates states that, “the pious is to do what I am doing now to prosecute the wrong doer” (Plato, N.D, p.9). In that case, he prosecutes his own father despite people being against his actions. This definition is not accepted by Socrates because it is only an example given rather than a definition.
According to Socrates view, the definition of piety given by Euthyphro is not objective as they are not similar in each and every situation and they are not explanatory. Another definition of piety by Euthyphro is that” The pious is what is dear to gods (6c-8d). This definition is fine to Euthyphro. Nevertheless, Socrates argues that, a lot of things are disagreed upon by gods. For instance, the idea of him prosecuting his father might be okay with Zeus but not appealing to the overthrown Kronos.
From the dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro, the main goal of Socrates was to have a clear definition of what piety was. However, Euthyphro gave him examples rather than a single definition. In addition to that, Socrates wanted to understand Euthyphro better and how he raised to that powerful position in the state. Socrates was about to face trial and his main objective was to make sure he worn the case by understanding the true meaning of piety.
According to my own definition, piety is the reverence and devotion to God and religious practices. For instance, going to church and listening to sermons is a good example of piety. Therefore, Euthyphro was obeying his gods by prosecuting his father. Given the fact that his father had committed a crime, he was supposed to face justice and pay for his sins.
Additionally, piety can be perceived as the science of sacrifice and prayer. In essence, piety is acknowledging what needs to be done in sacrifices and prayer in order to please gods. Therefore, individuals should have a clear knowledge of how they can address their gods in times of prayers and sacrifices. Hence, an individual needs to please god.
However, according to Socrates arguments, he believes that there is no co-existence between the god-loved class and pious things class. His arguments are based on substituting the two terms” god-loved” and “pious” in his statements. The substitution result to sentences that are false.
Brickhouse, T. C., & Smith, N. D. (1995). Plato’s Socrates. New York: Oxford University. Press.
Cohen, M.C. (n.d). Socrates on the Definition of Piety: Euthyphro 10a- 11b. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/Euthyphro.pdf
Plato, M & Jowett, B. (n.d.). Euthyphro: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1642