Plato`s Euthyphro: Discussion Questions
Plato`s Euthyphro: Discussion Questions
Timed Writing: An Example
What is the central concept being discussed in
Euthyphro? What is one definition offered by
Euthyphro? Do you think it is a good definition,
why or why not?
Plato’s Euthyphro: Discussion
1. What is this dialogue about? Who are the
interlocutors? How do they meet?
2. What are Euthyphro’s various attempts to define piety
(or holiness) and what are Socrates’ objections to these
definitions? Who gets the better of the argument?
3. What difference does it make whether the pious is
loved by the gods because it is pious, or pious because it
4. What is the relationship between dread and awe?
How does the relationship between dread and awe apply
to the definition of piety?
5. If no satisfactory definition is proposed, what is the
use of the entire discussion in this dialogue?
Euthyphro: What is Piety?
Or, how can an ethical/religious concept be
Def.#1: “the pious is just what I’m doing now:
to proceed against whoever does injustice…” (p.
Def.#2: “the pious is what is dear to the gods”
(p. 48; 7a)
Def.#3: “the pious is whatever all the gods love”
(p. 52; 9d)
The Euthyphro Problem
”Is the pious loved by the gods because it is
pious, or is it pious because it is loved.” (p. 52;
Is the good commanded by God because it is
good, or is it good because it is commanded by
What’s the difference?
”For the one, because it is loved, is the sort of
thing to be loved; the other, because it is the
sort of thing to be loved, is loved.” (p. 54; 11a)
The Euthyphro problem raises the question of
the source of value.
Divine Command Theory
If something is pious or good because of God’s
love or command, then
1. divinity is omnipotent and creates moral
values (implication that without divinity no right
2. moral values are arbitrary, i.e., they depend
on God’s will and preferences (Which God? How
can we know God’s will?)
Natural Law Theory
If God loves or commands something
because it is pious or good, then
1. values of right and wrong are absolute
and lie outside of God’s command
2. values determined by Natural Law of
Reason that even God must conform to
(implication is God’s not omnipotent and
morality is accessible to human reason)
What is the relationship between
dread and awe and how does it
apply to defining piety?
Def.#4: “the pious is that part of the just
which concerns the tendance of the gods”
(p. 57; 12e)
But what does it mean to attend to the
gods (as horsemen attend to horses, and
huntsmen attend to dogs)?
It means to benefit them or make them
better, but surely we can’t do this to the
Euthyphro then says it’s a kind of service,
but Socrates asks what the product of this
service is…what do the gods produce?
Def.#5: “piety is a knowledge of
sacrificing and praying” (p. 59; 14c), “a
certain art of commerce for gods” (p. 60;
But what’s the point of prayer (asking
from the gods), since they must already
know what we want?
And what the point of sacrificing (giving to
the gods), since they already have
everything they need?
Euthyphro admits that the gods don’t
need anything, but he says that sacrifices
please the gods.
Wait a minute…!
What are we to conclude from this
Piety (and perhaps any other ethical or religious
concept) cannot be defined; it remains an open
Perhaps we can conclude that how we should behave
towards the gods is not worth speculating about at all.
The pious (good or right) life cannot be known by
reason and communicated.
Can it be “known” another way?
Are we to conclude that religious duty is a matter of
A Method for Defining a Concept
A definition is not an example.
A definition involves the
substance/essence/eidos of a thing, not
an affection or attribute.
A definition should be both general and
specific (genus species).
The Socratic Method
Dialectic: question and answer, the
importance of the method is that questions
lead to more questions and not answers
Irony: the pose of ignorance on the part of
the teacher, who may know more than he lets
Elenchos: cross-examination, refutation,