Site Network: Intro Home | | Media Studies | Non-violence

Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Plato: Euthyphro

Reading Plato's dialogues is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in Western philosophy. Understanding the structure of the dialogues will enhance your ability to follow Socrates' line of questioning.  All of Plato's dialogues are named for the interlocutors that are with Socrates during the dialogue.

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Plato's Euthyphro:

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: To revisit the roots of Western philosophy beginning with Plato's Euthyphro. This involves understanding the structure of the Platonic dialogues and the particular themes that are salient in the the discussion between Socrates and Euthyphro. After reading the Euthyphro, reviewing the resources and attempting the guide questions below, you should be able to:

  1. describe the structure of the Platonic dialogues
  2. follow the discussion of piety between Socrates and Euthyprho
  3. distinguish between moral relativism and absolutism within the realm of ethics
  4. describe connections between the Ancient Greek's view of piety and our modern notions of ethics
  5. summarize at least three of Euthyphro's definitions of piety and Socrates' analyses of these definitions


Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. I will check to see if you've completed them; the subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

  1. 2d-3a: Is it necessary to "take care of the young plants first and of the others later"? or, Is Euthyphro correct when he charges Meletus (Socrates' accuser) with "harming the very heart of the city" by accusing Socrates of corrupting the young?
  2. 3c-e: Socrates tells Euthyphro that he would not be concerned with Meletus' charges if his life was not at stake: "for the Athenians do not mind anyone they think clever, as long as he does not teach his own wisdoms." What is at stake for Socrates, for Athens? Public opinion can be a dangerous thing. If the citizens of Athens can be persuaded that Socrates is "dangerous" and a corrupter of the young, then both Athens and Socrates are in danger.
  3. 4e: Euthyphro states that "their ideas of the divine attitude toward piety and impiety are wrong." Who are "they"? Where do ideas of piety and impiety come from?
  4. 5c-d: Socrates asks "what is piety?" for the first time. This is the beginning of the dialectic.
  5. 5e: Euthyphro's first answer: to prosecute the wrongdoer, no matter who it may be is pious and not to prosecute is impious.
  6. 6e: Socrates rephrases the initial question: "what is pious action?"
  7. 7a: Euthyphro's second answer: "what is dear to the gods is pious, what is not is impious."
  8. 7c-8a: Socrates points out that since the gods often disagree as to what they love and don't love, there is no universal action/thing that is loved/dear to all gods. Thus the same action could be both pious (loved by some gods) and impious (hated by other gods), and therefore, god-love can be no standard for piety.
  9. 10a: Is a thing pious because it is loved by the gods or do the gods love a thing because it is pious? Socrates makes this move so that he can further show Euthyphro that piousness is not a quality that be defined by referring to god-love/mystical standards.
  10. 11a-b: Socrates again tells Euthyphro that god-love is just an attribute of the pious, an effect of being pious and not piousness itself.
  11. 11b-e: Euthyphro accuses Socrates of making arguments move in circles, but in the next few paragraphs Socrates will show Euthyphro that it is his own imprecise definitions of piety that are problematic, making the argument move in circles.
  12. 12d-14b: Socrates helps Euthyphro think through a definition of piety, but still the interlocutor insists that piety is a service of/for the gods. Men are pious in their transactions with gods, yet this provides no benefit to the gods, so Euthyphro is again forced to return to his original god-love definition of piety.
  13. 15b: Once again, Socrates and Euthyphro are no nearer to learning about piety than at the beginning of the dialogue. What does their predicament say about defining piety/impiety?

Closing questions:

1. Are there actions/beliefs that are clearly either pious or impious? Is there universal human agreement on these matters?

2. Since life demands that we make moral choices, regardless of whether or not we absolutely define piety, how can we examine our actions to decide their moral content?



Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Week 2 Lecture:







home | guide questions | journal guidelines | syllabus | contact dr. bowser