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I'm trying to understand 'Euthyphro', a popular book by Plato about Socrates. I believe I'm understanding what Socrates is saying; however I do not think it is correct.

Referring to 10d to 11b

Socrates forces Euthyphro make a definition 'piety'. Then, Euthyphro, quite carelessly, says 'Something loved by all gods is pious.'

Socrates questions this statement in a lot ways to point out that, in fact, Euthyphro knows nothing about so-called piety.

One of the methods that Socrates chose is to show that 'god-loved' and 'pious' are logically not equal. In order to that, first, Socrates persuades Euthyphro (and me) that:

It is not being loved by those who love it because it is something loved, but it is something loved because it is being loved by them

What I understand from this statement is that Socrates is suggesting that something is loved because there exists something that loves it. So a necessary condition for A to be loved is that there exists something that loves A. It would be false to say something loves A because it is inherently loved. That makes sense to me.

Socrates continues:

Then the god-loved is not the same as the pious, Euthyphro, nor the pious the same as the god-loved, as you say it is, but one differs from the other.

Socrates defends his statement:

Because we agree that the pious is being loved for this reason, that it is pious, but it is not pious because it is being loved. Is that not so? And that the god-loved, on the other hand, is so because it is being loved by the gods, by the very fact of being loved, but it is not being loved because it is god-loved.

He, then, concludes:

But if the god-loved and the pious were the same, my dear Euthyphro, then if the pious was being loved because it was pious, the god-loved would also be being loved because it was god-loved; and if the god-loved was god-loved because it was being loved by the gods, then the pious would also be pious because it was being loved by the gods. But now you see that they are in opposite cases as being altogether different from each other: the one is such as to be loved because it is being loved, the other is being loved because it is such as to be loved.

Here Socrates says that if B is pious, then B is god-loved. (Socrates says something is loved because it is pious); but, according to him, we cannot say if B is god-loved, then it is pious.

I do not think this statement is similar to that statement said by him earlier (my first quote). Let me name statements said by Socrates:

P:

Something is not being loved by those who love it because it is something loved; but it is something loved because it is being loved by them

Q:

Pious is being loved because it is pious; but it is not pious because it is being loved.

R:

God-loved, is so because it is being loved by the gods, by the very fact of being loved, but it is not being loved because it is god-loved.

My point: I do not agree with Socrates that statement Q is a consequence of P. I agree with P and I also agree that R is a natural consequence of P. But I cannot see what does Q have to do with P.

To me, it is quite logical to define "pious" as "god-loved" provided "god-loved" is explained well. In this case the necessary and satisfactory condition of god-loved is to be loved by all gods. So if we say something is pious if and it is god-loved; we conclude: if something is loved by all gods, then it is pious. I cannot see the logical mistake here.

Please bear in mind that, I think previous attempts of Socrates are valid. Euthyphro fails to explain why are there wars between gods. If there are wars between them, then we can find something loved by some gods, disliked by other. This is a very valid point. But we can still define "pious" as "something loved by all gods". This itself is not erroneous unlike what Socrates says.

References:

  • All quotes are directly quoted from Five Dialogues - Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, Plato, Second Edition, Translated by G. M. A. Grube, Revised by John M. Cooper.
  • All emphasis are mine.
  • What helped me understand the logical fallacy here was playing the webgame "Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher" – Snowbody Jun 17 '15 at 21:24
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I would agree that this argument hinges on whether something is pious because it is loved by the gods vs. something is loved by the gods because it is pious.

Your wording of P, Q, and R sound a little funny to me, but my copy of the text is in my office. So it's possible the original is worded similarly.

I see the structure as follows:

  1. Socrates asks for a definition of piety or more specifically what makes an act pious.
  2. Euthyphro states that something is pious because the gods love it.
  3. Socrates asks to understand what it means for the gods to love something.
  4. Euthyphro and Socrates clarify 3 to mean something that all the gods love.
  5. Socrates then suggests that being loved by the gods must necessarily have a cause outside of the mere fact that gods love it. The argument here hinges on this not being a possible incidental property.

1-5 create a vicious circle for defining piety, because we are now saying that something is pious because the gods love it because of something else. But that something else would then be piety.

When I compare this with what you write as P, Q, and R, I think you're getting caught up on the wrong things.

P merely emphasizes that it is some feature in the judgment of the one that loves which renders an object loved rather than a feature that objects have without subjects that love them. It matters because the direction of how love works is key for Plato's argument.

Q is precisely the circular problem that 1-5 identifies.

R is the non-triviality that arises from P behind the claims in 1-5. In other words, god-lovedness is not on Plato's account a magical property of objects oractions but a consequence of something that is true about the object or action as it would be reflected in the judgment of all the gods.

Q is vital because it shows what is wrong with Euthyphro's definition when viewed in conjunction with the claims Euthyphro accepts about how love functions (being a property that attaches to objects secondarily and requires the active use of the subject's minds).


You may also want to look at the answer I supplied here: Is there an advantage of a theistic account in terms of being able to define goodness?

  • 1
    "Your wording of P, Q, and R sound a little funny to me", I agree with you but this is how it is worded in the edition I specified in the question. About the 'vicious circle', do you mean if we say "if something is loved by all gods, then it is pious." we still cannot answer "Why is it loved by all gods in the first place?" Am correct or understanding you wrongly? – Ignoculture Jun 17 '15 at 14:52
  • I think I'm finally understanding, reading the link you gave and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma I think when Socrates says: "now you see that they are in opposite cases as being altogether different from each other" he does not mean they are 'different' in the sense that they are 'unrelated' but in the sense that they are 'opposite', referring to each other, creating a cycle. 'To be loved' requires 'to be pious' and vice versa, so we cannot use this definition. – Ignoculture Jun 17 '15 at 16:03
  • V, you delete my answer frequently and your above message includes criticisms "you wording is funny" "you're getting caught up in the wrong things". Where exactly in your above 367 words is your answer to the question? Is there one? If not, do your words add up to an opinion? And if so, are we to answer with opinions here? – Ron Royston Jun 18 '15 at 18:36
  • @RonRoyston if you have questions about why your answers are being deleted, please ask on meta. The op believes this answered their question and 3 voters think it's a good answer. The answer explains the argument Socrates is making in the Euthyphro by structuring it more clearly (Plato's text can be hard to structure as a contemporary argument). – virmaior Jun 18 '15 at 23:03
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Something loved by all gods is pious.

Socrates is saying that this cannot be true because an act is an verb, not an attribute. Pious is is an attribute/state, not an action/verb. Love can be an act or an attribute - loves and loved, respectively, for example.

Something is not being loved [act] by those who love it because it is something loved [attribute]; but it is something loved [attribute] because it is being loved [act] by them.

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