Euthyphro_Handout - Euthyphro: What is piety? As the...

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Euthyphro : What is piety? As the Euthyphro opens, we witness a conversation between two men in the entryway of an Athenian magistrate’s office. The first man, Euthyphro, is a dogmatically religious landowner, who thinks he is an authority on all holy matters and often foretells the future. He is in court because he has brought his father to trial on a murder charge. The second man, Socrates, is probably one of the most important philosophers that have ever lived. The Socratic Problem Unfortunately, from what we can tell Socrates never wrote any of his philosophy down so all of our accounts of him are second hand. We have three main sources for these accounts (Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes) but most of what we would consider his philosophy came from his devoted student, Plato. Yet we still can’t be sure which views were Socrates’s own and which should be attributed to Plato; this quandary is called “the Socratic Problem.” Know Thyself What we have ended up attributing to Socrates is a style of enquiry called the Socratic Method or the Socratic Dialectic (just two ways of describing the same thing). Socrates seemed to mainly be interested in figuring how a human could best lead a good life. In service to this goal, Socrates urged those around him to constantly examine and challenge their beliefs, concepts, and assumptions; anything that was found to be misguided, misconceived, or ungrounded was then abandoned or revised. So Socrates would start by asking someone a question about the essential nature of something (like justice, beauty, or knowledge.) The student would propose a tentative answer and Socrates would follow by asking a question that might undermine the given answer. This would go back and forth until either a satisfying answer was given (one that does not admit counter-argument) or the enquiry was given up. The Euthyphro is a prime example of Socrates taking on this role of interlocutor by challenging an Euthyphro’s views of piety and holiness. (1 st ) Piety Principle: Piety is prosecuting guilty parties, whomever they might be. “Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any other similar crime—whether he be your father or mother, or some other person, that makes no difference—and not prosecuting them is impiety” (pg. 4) This definition is rejected because it doesn’t tell us what piety is; it only amounts to an example of pious behavior. The problem is that an example doesn’t supply us with the essential nature of piety or its fundamental definition (a.k.a. it doesn’t give us the necessary and sufficient conditions for our concept of “piety”). The suggestion here is that “piety” is what we would call a closed concept where it is possible to specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for it. On the other hand, it is argued that we also His motto, taken from an inscription at the Oracle of Delphi, was “know thyself.” This seems to be a succinct way to state the goal of the Socratic Method.
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Euthyphro_Handout - Euthyphro: What is piety? As the...

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