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Response to Plato's Euthyphro

In the Euthyphro dialogue by Plato, Socrates finds out that the main protagonist Euthyphro, is prosecuting his father according to the city’s law, and considers his action to be pious to the Gods the city’s law. Socrates goes through the dialogue by posing various arguments such as what is considered pious by Gods, and why the same might be considered impious by other Gods; which reveals the very fact that Euthyphro’s method of reasoning makes leaps in logic.

Euthyphro approves the claim posed by Socrates on whether we can count something pious based on the views of some Gods but ignore the views of other Gods who think the same judgment is impious, and vice versa.1 This statement itself questions the integrity of judging someone based on an unreliable source of judgment that contradicts good reasoning. Assuming that all Gods have opposing views on all possible questions, the definitions of pious and impious become abstract; since anything can be counted as a rejection or an acceptance based on whatever prejudice. Therefore, it becomes meaningless and reasonless to judge a person based on differentiating beliefs of various Gods.

Based on this argument, whichever way Euthyphro chooses to prosecute his father—either way will turn out acceptable, since either decision can be justified as pious. But Socrates seems to point out that a source of reasoning should be consistent and a reliable one. Socrates points out that Euthyphro’s source of reasoning is inconsistent; the opinions of Gods become an abstraction and reasonless and Euthyphro is left with his own reasoning—he takes the role of a God. It would certainly be acceptable to prosecute the father either way, but not logically correct since Euthyphro would be judging his father based on abstract rules that can also be considered contradictory to one another, or even nonexistent. The most logically correct decision, would be not judging the father at all, until a more reliable method of reasoning is found that does not rely on the opinion of Gods.

Socrates makes many other interesting arguments, such as the questioning where something is pious because it is loved by Gods, or is is it loved by Gods because it is pious2. Irony can be found throughout the whole dialogue especially at the end when Euthyphro decides to abandon their conversation. When Euthyphro decides to do so, Socrates in return complains that his hope to discover the difference between piety and impiety, has now been lost now that Euthyphro is leaving; he claims he no longer has hope in the improvement of his life, without first finding out Euthyphro’s belief on the subject.3

  1. Euthyphro, 9c 

  2. Euthyphro, 10 

  3. Euthyphro, 16