Brief Commentary on EUTHYPHRO [Socratic Dialogue written by Plato] by Achaab Daniel Abalansa

Before any other deduction, interpretation or commentary, it is helpful to take note for the benefit of a probably needed further scepticism, that the dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro was not a settled conversation, but one with fragments of uncertainty at the end of discussion. This is so because Euthyphro ended it when Socrates inquired for more of his thoughts on the subject matter “piety”. Euthyphro said “Another time Socrates; for I am in a hurry and must go now.” Piety – (1) the quality of being religious or reverent [Oxford Dictionary, March, 2017]

Euthyphro was a man who was in the process of prosecuting his father, accusing him of murdering a murderer. A prosecution he supposedly justified to Socrates who happened to be shocked at the time considering details of the prosecution. Details for prosecution are as such; Euthyphro’s father threw his servant in a ditch when the servant murdered one of his slaves. He [prosecutor’s father] sent a messenger to go find out what should be done to murderer. Out of delay, the servant dies and hence prosecution comes from Euthyphro. 

Euthyphro justifies his motive, though shocking with the line “the pollution is the same.” Now, in the time of Socrates, murder was perceived as pollution so long as the gods were concerned. By the least, that was the general interpretation given. Thus, Euthyphro sets out to justify such prosecution of his own blood, asserting murder should be punishable disregarding who actually perpetrated it. Then Socrates sets out to find out if Euthyphro is not scared of acting impiously.  Euthyphro gives a haughty one saying he is “superior to the majority of men” because he knows much about piety. 

Socrates then ironically sets himself as student asking “and what is piety, and what is impiety?” Euthyphro answers, “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”, as though that should give an indication in totality of what “pious” is or could be.  Euthyphro goes further in justifications informing Socrates on how Zeus, a god considered “best and most righteous of the gods” murdered his own father (Cronos) after devouring sons. 

Then Socrates goes further asking if such gods had disagreements as is commonly known, that which Euthyphro affirms. In line with answer given, Socrates informs Euthyphro to explain “the general idea which makes all pious things to be pious.”  Euthyphro gives another response that leads to more and more questioning as is known from Socratic style, he says, “piety, then is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.” 

Now, knowing that which is dear to the gods cannot be an easy one because these same gods disagree on a whole lot as affirmed by Euthyphro himself. Thus, “the same things are hated by the gods and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear to them.” So that leads to a hanging uncertainty chained by Socratic style of questioning and understanding, using tools of reverse deductions. For instance, Socrates later seeks to understand in dialogue “whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.

Now, how is this related to questioning Euthyphro’s motive for prosecuting his father in the first place? If Euthyphro did such with assumption the gods were in favour of such an act, it will be flawed to persist because, he cannot know for sure looking at the very disagreeing nature of the gods, unless he wants to postulate his perceptions as that of the gods, which is considered crime. For instance, Socrates is charged by Meletus of something of the sort, accused of being a neologian [one who coins something new.] Thus, rather than judge, Euthyphro should deem it wiser to do the contrary out of same honest uncertainty. For what he might perceive to be dear to the gods might not be so and vice versa.

NB: This is only but my opinion on the dialogue, there could be gazillion deviating deductions from mine so long as philosophy is concerned.

Achaab Daniel ABALANSA
Twitter: @AcHaaB_dAn
IG: achaab_dan_gh

One thought on “Brief Commentary on EUTHYPHRO [Socratic Dialogue written by Plato] by Achaab Daniel Abalansa

  1. I think the dilemma proceeds from the very nature of the gods. If the gods were agreeable in what is dear to them, Euthyphro might know with some amount of certainty wether he was being pious of not.


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