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Analysis of Philosophical Problem in The Euthyphro Dilemma

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Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro relates a discussion that took place between Socrates and Euthyphro regarding the meaning of piety. Socrates and Euthyphro meet by coincidence outside the court in Athens where Socrates is about to be tried on charges of impiety. Socrates is astounded and bewildered to learn that Euthyphro is prosecuting his father for murder. Euthyphro was trying his father for murder because one of their servants killed a slave so while his father sought advice on what to do about his servant he tied him up in a ditch and left him where he was later found dead. Most people would find a son charging his father impious but Euthyphro claims to know better. Because of this, Socrates asks Euthyphro to answer the question ‘What is piety?’

Euthyphro, a Sophist, claims to be wise concerning such matters, while Socrates, making no such claim for himself, professes only to be ignorant. Socrates wants to see if he is as he claims to be, Euthyphro’s first definition of Piety is “doing as I am doing; that is to say, Piety is prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime-whether he is your father or mother, and not to prosecute them is impiety”. Socrates shoots him down immediately saying that his answer was only an example not a general definition of the concept. Euthyphro’s second attempt to define piety was not any better than the first. His second definition stated Piety is what is loved by the gods’ Impiety is what is hated by the gods. Socrates once again objected to this definition saying that some things that one God hates another God can love. By that reasoning, something can be pious and impious to the Gods. This does not make sense nor satisfy the definition either. So Euthyphro tried again, his third definition was Piety is “what is loved by all the gods. Impiety is what all the gods hate.” From this definition came the philosophical question, Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because the gods love it? In other words, is something morally good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?

Socrates’ argument to this definition is the heart of the dialogue. He uses examples that make Euthyphro look silly. He says things aren’t pious because the gods view them in a certain way. Rather, the gods love pious actions such as helping a stranger in need, because such actions have a certain intrinsic property, the property of being pious. After this. Euthyphro tries yet another definition to satisfy Socrates. His fourth attempt to define pious was “Piety is that part of justice concerned with caring for the gods.” and yet again he was shot down by Socrates. Only this time his definition is unclear. On Euthyphro’s fifth and final attempt he says Piety is saying and doing what is pleasing to the gods at prayer and sacrifice. At this point in the conversation, Socrates believes that Euthyphro is just repeating himself. After five failed attempts to define piety Euthyphro hurries off saying ‘Oh dear, is that the time? Sorry, Socrates, I have to go.’ leaving the question unanswered.

Although Euthyphro leaves the dilemma unsolved, the answer is clear in the Bible. God’s divine character, serves as the standard of goodness. He is the creator of all things, he makes everything for a reason. We define the goodness of a given object by its ability to fulfill the purpose for which it was made. If God makes a thing for a certain purpose, and it does not fulfill its purpose, we have a definition of evil. God can and does define good and evil by the standard of His own good character which solves Euthyphro’s Dilemma.

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Analysis Of Philosophical Problem In The Euthyphro Dilemma. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from
“Analysis Of Philosophical Problem In The Euthyphro Dilemma.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021,
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