Paper 1 – Plato
In philosophy, in order to make sound arguments, we must be careful to draw a distinction between subjective and object conclusions and claims. Objective claims are presumed to be without personal influence and moreover an independent observer can recognize the observations of such claims. Objective concepts and objects thus cannot be considered arbitrary in their essence. In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates and Euthyphro contemplate the objective meaning of piety. Many arguments are presented to attempt to address the essence of piety, and in doing so a fundamental problem between arises. That is, if it is possible to have an objective definition of any concept or object. In this essay we will analyze Euthyphro’s definition of piety, and also investigate the contradiction, which arises regarding the subjectivity of piety.
The dialogue is set outside King Archon’s office in Athens. Socrates is standing trail for having corrupted the youth with impiety. Socrates learns that Euthyphro is there to prosecute his father for murdering a house slave. As such, Euthyphro sets himself up as an authority on piety. After brief interrogation by Socrates, Euthyphro reaches his initial definition of piety. “Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them” (Jowett, Kolak 6). After more interrogation by Socrates, Euthyphro is reminded that the Gods disagree on many issues and what is dear to one god may not be dear to another. “Then the same things are hated by the gods and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear to them?” (Jowett, Kolak 7). It’s apparent to Euthyphro and Socrates that the definition cannot hold if same things can be dear and hated by the Gods. Euthyphro amends his definition by claiming, “…I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither.” (Jowett, Kolak 9). With this general definition, Socrates exposes the incongruities of the idea of piety as a logical subjective concept. Socrates proposes the question: “…whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods” (Jowett, Kolak 10). The problem with the argument then becomes that of subjectivity. One simply cannot decipher the reason why pious is pious. Socrates makes this clear by presenting a series of arguments to Euthyphro to prove his point, that is, an affect/changed object is being affected/changed because it is affect/changed. Euthyphro agrees with Socrates conclusion of this particular deduction, “…It does not become because it is becoming, but it is in a state of becoming because it becomes; neither does it suffer because it is in a state of suffering, but it is in a state of suffering because it suffers” (Jowett, Kolak 10). The state of a thing follows from the essence or act of it. From this Socrates argues that the piety is pious because it is beloved by the gods, and thus follows that is in the state of being loved because the gods love it. If one accepts this premise, then piety becomes subjective in its essence. If gods love lying than it is pious, if gods love stealing or murder then certainty those are pious as well. The meaning of piety as whatever the gods like only provides an observation or at most, possibly an attribute of piety, however does not draw a distinction of the essence of piety and the observation that Euthyphro describes as piety.
After more interrogation, Euthyphro agrees with Socrates that piety would be a sort of expertise in mutual trading between gods and men. Socrates asks…