Euthyphron

EUTHYPHRON

ΕΥΘΥΦΡΩΝ

On the nature of piety.

(ἢ περὶ εὐσεβείας)

Translated by G. Theodoridis.

All rights reserved 2017

Euthyprhon:
[2]  What news, Socrates? What has happened to keep you from your usual walks at the Lyseum[1] and what are you doing hanging around here, at the King Archon’s porch[2]? Surely you haven’t been brought here to answer a law suit[3] before the Archon?
Socrates:
No, not a suit for a common crime, Euthyphron but something far more serious. I am here for the prosecution of a “civil crime,”[4] as the Athenians call it.

Euthyphron:
[2b] A civil crime? Well, surely it is someone else who is prosecuting you bacause I can’t believe that you would ever prosecute anyone else.

Socrates:
Of course not.

Euthyphron:
So it is someone else then.

Socrates:
Yes.

Euthyphron:
Who is it?

Socrates:
I don’t know the man that well, myself, Euthypro. I think it is a young man whose name, I am told, is Meletos[5] though I have never met him personally. They tell me he is from the deme of Pitthis. Do you remember anyone by the name Meletos from Pitthis, Euthyphro? He has long, straight hair, a slight beard and a hooked nose?

Euthyphron:
[2c] No I don’t, Socrates but tell me exactly what is he charging you with?

Socrates:
The charge? It is quite a serious charge, this one Euthyphro. One which, in my opinion, shows that this is not a common, uneducated young man. Because this man, in all his youth knows such very important things as, so he says, how youth gets corrupted these days and who are their corruptors.
It seems therefore that this man is a very wise young man who has discovered how unwise I am and has come here, before the whole city, as does a young man who runs to his mother and accused me of corrupting his friends.
[2d] I feel that of all our men in politics he is the only one who has taken the occupation seriously because the correct thing to do is to first learn how to take good care of our youth and make them as good as possible, in the same way that a farmer will first tend to the young plants before he takes care of the rest.
[3a] Obviously then, this young Meletos is clearing up the field of us so as not to corrupt the young shoots. Then, he will tend to the older generation and thus bring to our city many wonderful blessing. This it seems to me, will be the obvious outcome of his beginning into the political life.

Euthyphron:
I certainly hope you are right, Socrates but I fear that the opposite might well happen because, as I see it, by attacking you this man has, in fact begun his work by harming the State at its very foundations[6].
But tell me, how does he say you are corrupting the youth?

Socrates:
[3b] He is saying strange things, my dear friend, at least that’s how they sound when you first hear them. The man says that I am a creator of gods and that, by creating these new gods, I show disdain for the old ones and so his charge makes references to these old gods.

Euthyphron:
I understand what he means, Socrates. It is because you often say publicly that you are occasionally visited by some divine power.[7]  This is why he accuses you of giving new interpretations to the city’s religious dogmas and why he has come to court to slander you. He knows very well that the people will readily believe this sort of slander.
[3c]  It’s exactly what they do to me as well. They call me a madman every time I utter things of a religious nature in the Assembly and when I prophesy of things that will happen in the future.[8] They slander me even though none of my prophesies ever failed to materialise.
They hate all of us who are divinely inspired. But we need not take any notice of them and we must stand up to them.

Socrates:
My dear friend, Euthyphro, their occasional ridicule is perhaps not such a serious thing because I don’t think the Athenians care so much if someone is clever, so long as he is not given the freedom to teach his clever views to others.
[3d] But they get very hateful towards anyone who they think is trying to make others be like him, either because, as you say they are envious or for some other reason.

Euthyphron:
Which is why I’ve no interest in asking them what they think of me. I know well the answer to that question.

Socrates:
Perhaps this is so because you very seldom make yourself available to them and you don’t want to teach your wisdom.
As for me, however, I think that because I love people, they think that I am so eager to talk to every man I know, not only for free but that I would be very happy, in fact, to pay someone to listen to me!
[3e] If then, as I said earlier, they want to ridicule me in the same way they do to you, I would find nothing unpleasant in spending a few hours in court fooling around and laughing. If however they are going to take matters seriously then no one but you, seers could know clearly what would be the result.

Euthyphron:
Perhaps though Socrates, nothing will come of this and you will see your case to a satisfactory end, as I think, I will mine.

Socrates:
What is your case, Euthyphro, are you defending or prosecuting?

Euthyphron:
Prosecuting.

Socrates:
Whom?

Euthyphron:
[4] If I tell you who it is, Socrates, you’ll think I’m insane!

Socrates:
Oh? Why, is it someone who has wings and can fly?

Euthyphron:
No, no flying for this man. He’s too old.

Socrates:
Who is it?

Euthyphron:
My father.

Socrates:
Dear man, what are you saying? Your father?

Euthyphron:
Indeed, my father!

Socrates:
But what is his crime? What deed are you accusing him of?

Euthyphron:
Murder, Socrates.

Socrates:
By Herakles! Of murder! Of course, Euphthypro, I think that most people would not believe that what you’re doing is right and just  [4b] and I should think that one would have to be very advanced in wisdom and not just any common man to take up such an action.

Euthyphron:
Quite right, Socrates. By Zeus, the man would have to be very wise to take it up.

Socrates:
Is your father’s victim a relative?
But of course he would be, otherwise you surely wouldn’t be prosecuting him on behalf of a stranger.

Euthyphron:
Why do you find illogical, Socrates the fact that there is no difference between the murder of a relative to that of a stranger? One needs only to examine the act thoroughly, only the act itself and see if the murderer has acted justly or unjustly. And if he has acted justly, then we should leave him alone and not bother him. If not, however, if he has acted unjustly, then it is our duty to bring him to justice [4c] even if the murderer shares our house or our table because the pollution is the same[9] if knowingly you associate with such a man but don’t bring him to justice and pursue his punishment, which is the only thing, Socrates, which will release both him and you from that pollution.
Let me explain to you what the issue is so that you may understand.
The person who was murdered was one of our paid employees and when we were working on our farms in Naxos we had him there with all our other slaves, working for a wage.
One day, after having too much to drink and was drunk, he began a quarrel with one of our slaves and, in a maddened frenzy, killed him. My father immediately clapped irons on his hands and feet, dropped him into a very deep ditch and send a man to Athens to ask a religious interpreter[10] what he should do next.
[4d] In the intervening time, before that man returned from Athens my father took no care of the slave and neglected him totally reasoning that he was a murderer and did not care if the man died there. And this, in fact what had happened Socrates. Hunger and the cold as well as the weight of the irons, the poor man died before the man my father had sent to Athens had returned with the interpreter’s answer.
And so, my whole family has risen up against me with great anger, my father as well as all my other relatives, because I had brought my father to the courts for murder, for the sake of that murderer slave of ours, seeking his punishment. So far as they are concerned, my father did not murder the man, especially since the dead man was an evil man, a murderer and one should not care about murderers.
[4e] It is greatly impious[11], they say, for a son to prosecute his father for murder. These are the thoughts these people have, Socrates. They misunderstand sacred justice and are unable to discern the pious[12] act from the impious one.

Socrates:
Yet, by Zeus, Eythyphron do you truly believe that you understand so very precisely what sacred justice is and that you can discern with such absolute clarity which things are pious and which are not?
And if things happened as you just told me they did, are you not afraid that, in prosecuting your father you have not, in fact committed such an impious act?

[5a] Euthyphron:
I would be good at nothing, Socrates nor would I be different to anyone else if I did not have an intimate knowledge of these things.

Socrates:
Well then, my wondrous Euthyprhon, the best thing for me would be to become your student and just before Meletos’ trial begins I shall challenge him and say that for a long time now I had a great interest in religious matters and now that he accuses me of doing such irrational and fanciful things concerning matters divine, I have become your student and then I would say, [5b] “Well then Meletos, if you would accept that Euthyphron is wise and knowledgeable in these matters you must also accept that I too am correct in my views of the same matters and therefore dismiss this suit.
If, however you do not accept this then the man you should take to court is not me but Euthyphron, my teacher, who is truly corrupting the old, who is his father and me by teaching me and by correcting and punishing his father.
And then, my friend, if Meletos is not convinced by my words and does not stop the trial nor turn it against you instead of me, could I not say in court these very same things I said to him?

Euthyphron:
By Zeus, of course, Socrates!  [5c] And if he does indict me I have no doubt that I would find the flaw in his argument and it would be more a matter concerning him rather than me in court.

Socrates:
Indeed, my dear friend. I know this and that’s why I want to become your student. No one, not even this Meletos seems to have noticed you at all yet he saw me and has noticed me immediately and sharply and brought me here with charges of impiety!
And now, Euthyphro, in the name of Zeus, explain to me that thing which you were just now assured me that you know intimately. Tell me, what is piety thing and what is not, that is, so far as they are concerned with [5d] murder and all the other common crimes?
Are they not identical to themselves in every act, the pious act being pious always and the impious, impious also always? Is not Impiety always the opposite of piety and does it not always have the same characteristics with those of the impious act?

Euthyphron:
But of course, Socrates.

Socrates:
Tell me then, Euthyphro, what do you say is pious and what impious?

Euthyphron:
What I call pious is what I am doing just now, taking to court the criminals, either because they committed murder or have stolen from holy shrines or done other such things, [5e] whether they happen to be your father or your mother or if he is your relative.
As for the impious, impiety is not to do this, not to bring this criminal to justice and not to seek his punishment
And now, Socrates let me show you a great proof of this view. It is a view that I have shown to others, a proof that this is the way things are and that it is the correct thing to do not to let the criminal, the man who acts impiously, no matter who that might be,  to get away unpunished.
We all believe that Zeus is the best and the most just of all the gods [6a] and we all agree also that he put his father, (Kronos)[13] in chains because he was devouring all of his children for no just reason at all. Also, (Kronos) had castrated his father, (Ouranos) for committing similar criminal acts. Yet people are outraged against me because I took my father to court unjustly, though  he committed a most egregious crime. They judge the gods in a different fashion to the way they judge me.

Socrates:
And this, Euthyphron is why I am being prosecuted. It is because whenever someone talks to me about the gods I find it hard to accept them.
This, it seems, is the crime of which someone can say I am guilty. [ 6b] Now then, if you who are so knowledgeable about these stories and accept them, I suppose I too must do the same. What else could I possibly do since I know nothing about these stories.
Still, Euthyphro, in the name of Zeus, the protector of friendship, tell me, do you really believe that all these things about the gods actually happened?

Euthyphron:
These and even more wondrous than these things, Socrates about which most people know nothing about.

Socrates:
So, Euthyphron, you believe that there really were wars between the gods and fearsome feuds and battles and many other things of the sort, just as the poets describe in their poems and the famous artists who in their paintings [6c] the show our shrines brilliantly adorned as well as the many other sacred places of our city.  More adorned still is the sacred robe of our goddess, Athena, a robe which is full of such drawings and is carried at the great festival Panathenea.  Shall we accept all these things, Euthyphron to be true?

Euthyphron:
Not only these things, Socrates but, as I told you a little while ago, I could, if you like, mention quite a few more things concerning our religion, things which I am sure will astound you when you hear them.

Socrates:
I wouldn’t be at all surprised, Euthyphron but do so on another occasion. Right now though, I’d like you to explain in clearer terms that which I’ve asked you to explain a little earlier. [6d] Because, my friend when I asked you earlier what, in fact, is pious you weren’t very clear about it. You simply told me that pious is that which you are doing now, which is that you are prosecuting your father for murder.

Euthyphron:
Which is the truth, Socrates.

Socrates:
Perhaps you did, Euthyhron but you must admit that there are many other pious things.

Euthyphron:
But of course there are.

Socrates:
So please remember, Euthyphron that I did not ask you to explain to me the pious nature of one or two of the many things that are pious but to teach me clearly what is the nature of that which is pious, a nature which all pious things have and which makes them pious.
[6e] I believe you have said that it is this nature alone that makes the impious, impious and the pious, pious.
Or do you not remember that?

Euthyphron:
But of course I do, Socrates.

Socrates:
Good. In that case then, please explain to me what this nature is so that I have it before my eyes always and to use it as an model to compare it with what you or anyone else calls pious and if it is similar to admit that it is pious but if not to reject it.

Euthyphron:
Very well then, if that is your wish, then that is what I shall tell you.

Socrates:
That’s exactly what I wish, Euthyphron.

Euthyphron:
[7a] It is this, Socrates: that which is pleasing[14] to the gods, is pious and that which is not, is impious.

Socrates:
Excellent, Euthyphron. Now you are truly responding in exactly the way I have asked you to respond though whether what you are saying is also the truth, I’ve yet to determine. But no doubt you will make clear exactly why you are saying is true.

Euthyphron:
But of course, Socrates.

Socrates:
Well then, come, let us revisit what we have said so far. We have said that, the thing or the man who is pleasing to the gods is pious and that thing and that man who is hateful[15] to the gods is impious.
These two, the pious and impious are not one and the same thing but, in fact, opposites to each other. Is this right?

Euthyphron:
Exactly.

Socrates:
Do you think that what we’ve said is right?

Euthyphron:
[7b] I believe so, Socrates.

Socrates:
And did we not also say that the gods often disagree with one another and argue and that there are quarrels among them?

Euthyphron:
We did, yes.

Socrates:
But, my dear friend, what of this animosity and the anger that cause these quarrels? Let us examine the issue this way: If you and I disagree about two numbers and we want to know which of them is the greater, this disagreement might make us enemies and hateful to each other. Or we could, by coming together to calculate these numbers we could be reconciled and freed from [7c] the disagreement.

Euthyphron:
Quite so.

Socrates:
And if we disagree about the size of two bodies, which is the larger of the two, we would end our disagreement by measuring those bodies.

Euthyphron:
But of course.

Socrates:
And if we also disagree about the weight of two things, which is the heavier and which the lighter, I take it that if we simply weighed them we would avoid disagreement.

Euthyphron:
How could it not be so?

Socrates:
Then what is it that we would not be able to agree upon and be brought to such a disagreement that we became enemies and hateful to one another?
[7d] Perhaps you don’t have a ready answer to this Euthyphron so while I am mentioning some of these, see if I am right. Are these things not differences between the just and the unjust, between the noble and the ignoble, the good and the evil?
Is it not these things that would make us enemies of one another whenever we, like all other men, argue about them and are unable to arrive at an agreement?

Euthyphron:
You’re quite right, Socrates. These are the differences that we might argue about.

Socrates:
But what of the gods, Euthyphron?  If it is true that the gods also argue, would these not be the things that they argued about?

Euthyphron:
Yes, it is necessarily so.

Socrates:
[7e] So dear Euthyphron, according to you, as for the gods, they too disagree on what is just and unjust, noble and ignoble and good and bad. Surely they would not be quarreling about things other than these.

Euthyphron:
You’re correct.

Socrates:
In that case, Euthyphron, that which a man considers noble and good and just he will love and that which is of the opposite, he would hate.

Euthyphron:
Yes.

Socrates:
[8a] And, also according to you, some gods will think some things are just while others will think of them as unjust and so with these disagreements they arrive at animosities and wars with each other. Is this right?

Euthyphron:
Of course.

Socrates:
So it seems, the same things are hated and loved by the gods and are both despised and loved by them?

Euthyphron:
Yes, so it seems.

Socrates:
So, according to what you have just said, the same things are pious and impious.

Euthyphron:
I’m afraid so.[16]

Socrates:
In that case then, my remarkable friend,  you haven’t answered my question! Because Euthyphron I haven’t asked you what is, at the same time, both pious and impious, nor did I ask which is at the same time, both loved and hated by the gods as we have accepted earlier. [8b] Consequently, Euthyphron, what you are doing today, that is, prosecuting your father, could well be loved by Zeus but hated by Kronos and Ouranos, loved by Hephaistos[17] but similarly despised by Hera. As well, if any of the other gods differs in the view on this matter with another god, they will of your actions in a similar way.

Euthyphron:
But Socrates, I believe that, in this matter, none of the gods will argue that someone who has committed an unjust murder should not be punished.

Socrates:
Is that what you believe, Euthypron? [8c] Have you heard of any man arguing that the man who has murdered another man unjustly or did any other unjust thing, should be let off without punishment?

Euthyphron:
Sure thing, Socrates. Men never stop arguing about these things even inside the law courts. Because after committing many crimes and injustices, they will say and do everything in their power to escape punishment.

Socrates:
But do they admit their guilt and then say they shouldn’t be punished, Euthyphron?

Euthyphron:
No, they never do that.

Socrates:
Well, in that case they don’t say or do everything in their power to escape punishment since they don’t first admit their guilt and then dare to say nor dispute this view that if they are guilty they should not be punished. [8d] I think rather, that they simply say that they are not guilty of the crime. Is this not the case?

Euthyphron:
Quite so.

Socrates:
In which case, Euthyphron, these men don’t argue about whether they should be punished or not but about who if fact had committed the crime and what sort of crime it is and when.

Euthyphron:
Yes, quite so.

Socrates:
Well then these same things happen among the gods if they argue in the same way about what is pious and what is impious, as you have said just a little while ago, since some assert that one god has committed a crime against another whilst some others dispute that. Because my dear friend it is certain that no one -god or man- [8e] would dare suggest that the man who has willingly committed a crime should not be punished.

Euthyphron:
Yes, Socrates that is true but only in general terms.

Socrates:
But Euthyphron, I believe that both, men and gods -if gods do, in fact argue- they argue over the specific details of what had taken place, some saying it was a just act and others disagreeing.
Is this not so?

Euthyphron:
Yes, it is.

Socrates:
[9a] Come then my friend, Euph, explain this to me and instruct me upon it so that I may become wiser than I am now. Where is your proof that all the gods believe that your servant was unjustly murdered. That servant who was working for you and who had committed a murder and who then was thrown in chains into a deep ditch by the master of the slave he had just killed, the master who is your father, and who had died before the messenger returned from Athens with the interpreter’s decision as to what to do with him. Give me the proof that the man who died in the ditch was murdered unjustly.
Prove to me, Euthyphron that it is right and just in this circumstance to throw the cause of his death at your father and that you, his son, should pursue his punishment as a murderer.
[9b] Come, Euthyphron, try to prove to me clearly that all the gods approve of this act of the son. Do this and I’ll never stop praising your wisdom.

Euthyphron:
This is truly quite a task, Socrates but still, I am quite able to explain this to you.

Socrates:
I understand that to you I seem more obtuse a student than are the judges because you’ll be able to easily prove to them that your slave was murdered unjustly and that all the gods hate such things.

Euthyphron:
But of course, Socrates. I shall certainly prove this to them, provided they listen to me.

Socrates:
[9c] But they will listen, if you speak well. But now, as I am listening to you, this idea came to me and I’m wondering, “Since Euthyphron has explained to me exceedingly well that all the gods consider the death of the slave unjust what more have I learnt from him on the matter of what is pious and what is impious?  Because this deed, that is the death of your slave, would be, as you have admitted, hateful to the gods, yet until now the definition of pious and impious has not been adequate because what has been shown is that, that which is hateful to the gods is also loved by them.
[9d] So I release you of the task of having to prove this to me and instead, if you agree, let us accept that all the gods think that this murder, the one committed by your father is unjust and that they all, indeed, hate it.
Shall we now correct our original definition of what is pious and impious, where we said that impious is what all the gods hate and pious is what all the gods love, and that those things that some love but others hate they are neither pious or impious or, they are both, pious and impious. Would you rather we accept this as the definition of pious and impious?

Euthyphron:
Why not, Socrates? What’s stopping us?

Socrates:
Nothing is stopping us, so far as I can see, Euthyphron but perhaps you should see if by accepting this definition it will make it easier for you to explain to me what you’ve promised me.

Euthyphron:
[9e] What I do say is that whatever all the gods love is pious and the opposite,  which is whatever all the gods hate, is impious

Socrates:
Well then Euthyphron, let examine again this definition, if it is good enough or whether we should leave it at that or accept some other man’s definition, thus agreeing that the definition is correct because someone else says it is, or should we examine his words?

Euthyphron:
We should of course examine his words but I believe that what we have just said is said well.

Socrates:
[10a] We will soon learn this more accurately my good friend. But consider this: Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious or is it pious because it is loved by them?

Euthyphron:
I don’t understand what you mean, Socrates!

Socrates:
I shall try and make myself clearer. Do we not say that something is being carried as well as carrying, of being led as well as of leading and of being seeing and of seeing and that all these things are different from each other and do you not also understand how exactly they are different?

Euthyphron:
Yes, I believe I do understand that.

Socrates:
And therefore, there is something which is loved by something, and, apart from this, there is also that thing which loves something?

Euthyphron:
But of course!

Socrates:
[10b] Then tell me, Euthyphron, is that thing that is being carried called “the carried thing[18]” because it is being carried or because of some other reason?

Euthyphron:
No, no other reason. It is because it is being carried.

Socrates:
And it is the same with that which is being led[19] and that which is being seen[20]?

Euthyphron:
Of course.

Socrates:
And so, Euthyphron, something is not seen[21] because it is visible  but, to the contrary, something is visible because it is seen.
Similarly, something is movable, not because it is being moved but because it is movable and something is led not because it is able to be led but it is able to be led because it is being led.
So, do you understand well what I am trying to say, Euthyphron? [10c]  I want to say this: that whether a thing comes to be or is made to be, this does not happen because it is possible for it to be made to happen but it is because it is possible to be made that it comes to be. Do you not agree?

Euthyphron:
Of course I do.

Socrates:
And so does that which is loved[22] come to be or is it made to be?

Euthyphron:
Of course

Socrates:
In that case, love too is the same as all the others. It is not loved by those who love it but because it is loveable.

Euthyphron:
Necessarily so, yes.

Socrates:
[10d] What then Euthyphro, do we say about the pious? Did you not say that it is loveable because it is loved by all the gods?

Euthyphron:
Yes.

Socrates:
Is it because of this fact that it is loved, that it is pious or because of some other thing?

Euthyphron:
No, It is because it is pious.

Socrates:
So, something is pious because it is pious and not because it is loved.

Euthyphron:
I think so.

Socrates:
And it is because the pious is loved by the gods that it is a loved thing and a thing that is loved by the gods.

Euthyphron:
But of course.

Socrates:
And therefore Euthyphron, that which is loved by the gods is not the same as that which is pious, Euthyphron, nor the pious is something that is loved by the gods, as you say. These are two different things.

Euthyphron:
[10e] How can this be possible, Socrates?

Socrates:
Because Euthyphron, we have admitted that the pious is loved because it is pious and that it isn’t pious because it is loved. Is this not so?

Euthyphron:
It is.

Socrates:
As for that which is loved however, it is loved not because the gods loved but the gods love it because it is a lovable thing.

Euthyphron:
Quite so.

Socrates:
However, Euthyphron, if that which is loved by the gods and that which is pious is the same things, if, in other words the pious is loved by the gods because it is pious, then that which is loved by the gods also, would be lovable. [11a] If however that which is loved by the gods is so because it is loved by the gods, then the pious too, would be pious because it is loved by the gods.
But now, you see, these two things are opposites because they are totally different. Because the one, because it is loved by the gods, it must be lovable whereas the other, is lovable because it must be loved.
And so, Euthyphron, it seems to me that to my question, what is, in fact that which is called “pious?” you answer without explaining to me its very nature, you refer only to one of the characteristics of the pious, which is, that it is loved by the gods. [11b] What, however is this thing in essence, you have yet to say but if you are a true friend, Euthyphron, don’t hide away from me the answer but begin from the beginning again, what, finally is that which we call pious? Be it that it is loved by the gods or that it possesses some other quality because on this we do not disagree. Tell me then freely, what is pious and what impious?

Euthyphron:
But Socrates, in fact I don’t know how to let you know what I have in my mind since whatever we place as a basis to our discussion, it has the tendency to move away from wherever we’ve put it.

Socrates:
It seems then Euthyphron, your words  resemble the works of [11c] my ancestor, Daidalos[23] and if it was who was saying them you would be making fun of me, saying that it is because I am his relative that all of my works and my words disappear and don’t stay where people put them.  But these now are your own words, so you must try and find some other joke since they don’t want to stay where you put them, which is something you’ve admitted yourself.

Euthyphron:
But I believe, Socrates that the same joke applies equally to our words because it is not I who inspire in them this wondering off nor is it I who stop them from staying still but it is you, who still appear to me to be the real Daidalos [11d] since, so far as it depends on me, they would stay still wherever I put them.

Socrates:
So, my friend, it seems that I am even more skilled than Daidalos since he could only make his own works move about, I am even able to make not only my works move but also the works of others.
And it is precisely this skill of mine that makes me most intelligent, that I am unwittingly wise, since, in fact I’d rather my words stayed where I put them than to have both, Tantalos’[24] money and Daidalos’ skill.
But enough of these jokes and since I can see that you are being lazy, I am willing to help you educate me on the qualities of the pious, so don’t give up on your task.
Now see if it’s not true that what is pious must necessarily be also just.

Euthyphron:
It is.

Socrates:
[12a] So tell me Euthyphron, of those things that are just, are they all wholly pious, or that those things which are just are not wholly pious but some just things are pious whilst others are not?

Euthyphron:
I’m not following you Socrates.

Socrates:
And yet, Euthyphron, I can see that you are equally wiser than I am as you are younger. But, as I have told you have become lazy because of the wealth of your wisdom.
But come, you blessed man and sharpen your strengths because I can assure you that my words are not difficult to understand at all. What I will tell you will be the exact opposite of what the poet[25] has said:
[12b] “Of Zeus, who has created and provided all things, you will not name, for where there is fear there is also reverence.”
Now, I disagree with this poet. Shall I tell you why?

Euthyphron:
Yes, do!

Socrates:
It is not right to say that he who fears something also reveres it. People who fear sickness or poverty and many other such things, they simply feel fear, not reverence. They don’t revere those things they fear. Don’t you think so too?

Euthyphron:
I do, yes.

Socrates:
The exact opposite, however is true, that where there is reverence, there is also fear. [12c] Because, my friend, is there a man who while he is ashamed of an evil act he has committed does not fear and does he not feel dread at the ill reputation of a coward that will certainly follow?

Euthyphron:
Indeed.

Socrates:
So, Euthyphron, it’s not correct to say that where there is fear there is also reverence. Instead, we should be saying this: where there is reverence there is also fear but not where there is fear there always is reverence. Because I believe that fear covers a greater distance than reverence since reverence is only one part of fear just as  oddness is only a part of a number so that it is not necessarily true that where there is a number there is also an oddness as well but wherever there is an oddness there is also a number. Do you understand me here?

Euthyphron:
Yes, I do.

Socrates:
This is the very thing I was asking you earlier: [12d] is justice wherever there is piety or wherever there is piety there is always also Justice and wherever there is justice there is not necessarily piety because piety is only a part of justice.  Should we admit this as part of our definition or do you have some other opinion?

Euthyphron:
No, it’s as you say.

Socrates:
Now see if the following is true: If, of course the pious is only a part of justice we must therefore now examine what part of justice is precisely the pious. Now, if you had asked me earlier what part of a number is the even part and which is this number, I’d tell you that an even number is one that can be divided into two equal parts, whereas the odd number would be divided into two unequal parts.
Or are you not of the same view?

Euthyphron:
Yes, I am.

Socrates:
[12e] Now try to teach me, Euthyphron, which part of justice is pious so that I may tell Meletos not to do me an injustice and indict me for impiety since I am now well instructed by you as to what is holy and pious and what is not.

Euthyphron:
Well, to my mind at least, Socrates, the holy and the pious parts of justice have to do with tending to the gods whereas the rest have to do with tending to humans.

Socrates:
All this sounds good to me, Euthyphron but I still think there is a little bit missing from our definition.  [13a] I still don’t know exactly what you mean by the word “tending.” Surely you don’t mean that the way we tend to the gods is the same as the way we tend to other things. For example, we say that nobody but a horse trainer knows how to tend a horse. Is this right?

Euthyphron:
Yes, it is.

Socrates:
So the art of horse training is the tending of horses, right?

Euthyphron:
Yes, it is.

Socrates:
Just as only a dog trainer can tend to dogs.

Euthyphron:
[13b] Yes.

Socrates:
And cow herding has to do with cows.

Euthyphron:
Yes, it does.

Socrates:
So do you mean to say then Euthyphro that we tend the gods with piety and holiness?

Euthyphro:
I do.

Socrates:
And so then, all attending has the same aim?  That is it looks towards the good and the benefit of whatever it is attended to, like the good and the benefit of horses when tended to by horse trainers after which the horses become better.
Is this the case?

Euthyphro:
Yes it is.

Socrates:
And the dogs, I would think, when they are tended to by dog trainers, as do the cows when tended to by the cow herds and the same with all other things, they similarly benefit and are made better by this tending. Or do you think the opposite happens, that all this tending aims towards harming them?

Euthyphron:
By Zeus, Socrates, of course not!

Socrates:
So it is done for their benefit?

Euthyphron:
Of course!

Socrates
And so piety, which is the tending to the gods is aimed to their benefit and it makes them better? And have you ever thought that whenever you committed an act of reverence you have actually made some god a better?

Euthyphro:
Never, By Zeus! That I have never thought

Socrates:
Nor did I ever think you did so, Euthyphron, and that’s why I asked you what you actually meant by the word “tending to the gods.”  [13d] Because I was convinced that this is not what you meant.

Euthyphron:
Quite so, Socrates, for I have never said this.

Socrates:
Fine. Now tell me, what sort of tending to the gods is piety, exactly?

Euthyphron:
The sort Socrates, which the slaves show to their masters.

Socrates:
I understand. A sort of service[26] tended to the gods, it seems.

Euthyphron:
Exactly.

Socrates:
So can you now tell me, to what ends is the service of doctors aimed at? Surely you’ll agree that it is aimed at the betterment of the health?

Euthyphron:
I do, indeed.

Socrates:
[13e]  What of the service of the shipbuilders, Euthyphron? To what end is their service aimed at?

Euthyphron:
That is obvious, Socrates. That service is aimed at helping them build ships.

Socrates:
And that of builders of houses?  I would think their service helps them build houses.

Euthyphron:
Yes

Socrates:
So, my excellent friend, Euthyphron, now tell me, this service to the gods, to what end is it aimed?
You obviously know the answer to this since you have just told me that you know about religious matters better than any other man.

Euthyphron:
It’s the truth, Socrates.

Socrates:
So, Euthyphron, tell me, by Zeus, what is that magnificent deed do the gods achieve[27] by using us as their servants?

Euthyphron:
They achieve many magnificent deeds, Socrates.

Socrates:
[14a] So do the generals, my dear friend but what is their most important achievement? Surely you can easily tell me that. It is a victory in war, is it not?

Euthyphron:
It is, indeed. Socrates.

Socrates:
The farmers, too, I would say,  achieve many wonderful things with their service but the most important of these is to provide us with food from the soil.

Euthyphron:
Quite so, Socrates.

Socrates:
And so now, Euthyphron, of all the wonderful things that the gods accomplish with our service, which is the most important?

Euthyphron:
It was not long ago that I told you, Socrates that all these things are very hard for one to explain with any precision [14b] but let me explain them to you in general terms. If a man knows how to speak well and behave well towards the gods when he prays and when he conducts sacrifices, all these things are, as I say, pious and they will benefit both, their own house as well as the common affairs of their city.
All things that are opposite to these pleasing things however are impious and overturn and destroy everything.

Socrates:
You could have told me Euthyphron, if you had chosen to do so, the most important part of my questions but [14c]  I can see very clearly that you are not very willing to teach me these things because just this very moment when you were about to get to the essence of the thing, you suddenly steered away from it. Had you given me one more word, I’d be able to understand what is the substance of the pious. However, I must do as the lover does to his beloved and follow him wherever he may go.
So what is it that you think is the substance of the pious and of piety?
Are you not saying that it is some kind of skill in sacrificing and praying to the gods?

Euthyphron:
Yes, that is what I am saying.

Socrates:
So, sacrificing is the act of giving something to the gods while praying is the act of asking something from them?

Euthyphron:
Indeed, Socrates.

Socrates:
[14d] So by this you mean to say that piety is the skill of knowing how to give to gods and how to ask from them.

Euthyphron:
Yes, you’ve understood what I have said well enough, Socrates.

Socrates:
But of course, my friend Euthyphron because I am your wisdom’s lover and whatever you may say it will not go unheeded.[28]
Tell me now what is this service that the humans offer to the gods. Are you saying that this is a skill of giving to someone and receiving from them?

Euthyphron:
Indeed.

Socrates:
And the right way of praying to the gods is to ask of them that which we need?

Euthyphron:
But of course, what else might it mean?

Socrates:
[14e] In the same way, the correct way to give to the gods is to give them those things that they, themselves are in need of because surely it wouldn’t show great skill to give someone what they do not need.

Euthyphron:
Yes, you are correct.

Socrates:
So piety, Euthyphron is some sort of business skill, a trade exchange between men and gods.

Euthyphron:
Yes, if you think the term “business” is sweeter for you then yes, do call it that.

Socrates:
Oh, no Euthyphron. So far as I am concerned nothing is sweet if it isn’t true so tell me, my friend, what do the gods gain from our gifts? [15a] It is quite clear to us all what the gods give us: every good thing we have comes from them but what benefit do they receive from what we give them?
Or is it the case that what we receive from them in this business deal is far better for us than for them? Do they get nothing in this trade?

Euthyphron:
But do you believe, Socrates, that the gifts we give to the gods is of benefit to them?

Socrates:
Of course they are. What else might they be?

Euthyphron:
What else do you think, other than what I just said,  honour and reverence and gratitude?

Socrates:
[15b]  And therefore Euthyphron, to the gods, it is gratitude that is pious even though it is neither of benefit to them nor is it loved by them?

Euthyphron:
I believe that showing gratitude to them is the dearest thing of all.

Socrates:
And so, once again you assert that piety is really what is loved by the gods.

Euthyphron:
That’s right.

Socrates:
You wouldn’t then be surprised saying these things, to see your words shifting, walking away and then blaming me for being a Daidalos with your words whereas you are even more skilled at this than Daidalos himself, making them also do circles.
Or will you say that our talk has done a full circle, returning back to where it started?
[15c] You do of course remember that earlier we said that what is pious and what is loved by the gods did not seem to be the one and same thing but that they are different from each other, don’t you?

Euthyphron:
I do, yes.

Socrates:
Do you not understand that you are now saying that what is loved by the gods is pious? And that, that which is loved by them is pious?

Euthyphron:
I do indeed.

Socrates:
Well then, either we didn’t get it right at the beginning or are getting it wrong now.

Euthyphron:
Yes, so it seems.

Socrates:
So we must examine the whole thing again from the beginning and discover what is really that which is pious. As for me, I will not stop trying until I discover what it is.
[15d] Don’t turn away from me, Euthyphron but try as hard as you possibly can to focus your mind on this and tell me the truth. You, more than anyone else, know very well that I will hold you, Proteus[29]-like and won’t let you go until you explain this to me. Because if you did not know with certainty what is and what is not pious, you would certainly not be pursuing your old father to the courts on a charge of murder, defending in the process, a hired labourer. Moreover, you would be terribly afraid of the gods to risk committing so boldly, some dreadful impiety and to also be shamed by the people.
[15e] But I now know that you have a clear understanding of what is and what is not pious. So tell me now my dear Euthyphron and don’t hide from what do you think is pious.

Euthyphron:
With pleasure, Socrates but some other time. Right now though I must hurry to go somewhere. I must leave now.

Socrates:
How oddly you behave my friend.
You leave and by doing so, you have taken away from me all the hope I had of ever learning from you what is and what is not pious and by that knowledge, escaping from Meletos’ charge because I’d be able to prove to him that I have now become wise on religious matters, having been taught by Euthyphron. Nor therefore, would I be careless with my words or inventive about such matter through ignorance and live from now on a better life.

THE END OF PLATO’S EUTHYPHRON

TRANSLATED BY GEORGE THEODORIDIS

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017

[1] Lyceum. A temple of Apollo (the wolf god) at the eastern side of the city, near Lykabitos, behind the Royal Garden, abundant in shaded walks. Socrates and later Aristotle and his followers frequented the area.

[2] King Archon’s porch. This was near the kerameikos market where the King Archon (one of nine archons) and where religious charges were heard.

[3] δίκη A private charge. Individuals taking people to court for committing a wrong against another individual. Eythyphro is taking his father to court on a charge of murder.

[4] γραφήν A public charge. An indictment against someone who has committed a crime against the state. Three men are taking Socrates to court charging him with committing a crime against the State.

[5] Meletos was a mediocre poet and an insignificant orator who on an earlier occasion had taken Pericles to court. The Athenians later gave him the name “sycophant.” Socrates’ three accusers are Meletos, Anytos and Lycon but here Socrates only names Meletos who was chief accuser.

[6] ἀφ᾽ ἑστίας. It is an ancient idiom, referring to those who want to destroy something from its roots, ie, from its most sacred place, the inner sanctum of a house where the altar or other religious item was situated.

[7] δαιμόνιον Not the same as δαίμων.

[8] Euthyphron was a seer known throughout Athens for his extreme religious views,  a man who considered himself to be a pious man, one inspired by the gods. The tradition regarding this “gift” was that it was gained by heritage.

[9] ἴσον γὰρ τὸ μίασμα γίγνεται. The miasma (pollution) is equal to the murderer and to those around him and it cannot be atoned without the charge brought to court and then either the death of the murderer or his banishment from the city.

[10] τοῦ ἐξηγητοῦ. These men interpreted the rules and laws of the city and of the gods, as they were understood by age old traditions. They were always consulted by the judges during charges of a religious nature.

[11] ἀνόσιον

[12] ὁσίου

[13] Kronos (Chronos) Zeus’ father, Ouranos, Kronos’ father. Both ate their children the moment they were born. Kronos deposed his father and took over the throne but then was deposed himself by Zeus who divided the kingdom to his two brothers, Poseidon and Plouto. He himself took the throne of the air, Poseidon that of the sea and Plouto that of the underworld. Euthyphron uses these examples of the gods behaving in the same manner as he is.

[14] θεοφιλές

[15] θεομισὴς

[16] κινδυνεύει.

[17] Hephaistos hated his mother Hera because she threw him from Mount Olympus to the earth because he was born deformed at the foot.

[18] φερόμενον

[19] ἀγόμενον

[20] ὁρώμενον

[21] The difficulty in translation here emerges out of the fact that the Greek uses the passive participles ὁρώμενoν, ἀγόμενoν and φερόμενον (that which is being seen, that which is being led and that which is being carried) something which English does not facilitate by a single word and so one is forced to use periphrasis.

[22] αγαπώμενον

[23] In that the sculptor Daidalos was the first to make statues with moving parts. Socrates calls him his ancestor not because he believed to be so (since Daidalos was a mythological being) but because Socrates’ father, Sophroniskos, was also a sculptor.

[24] Tantalos. King of Phrygia, so rich that he became the cause of the aphorism, “as rich as Tantalos” to mean, “of incalculable wealth”.

[25] Stasinos. Stasinus Cypria Fragment 20.

[26] ὑπηρετική

[27] ἀπεργάζονται

[28] οὐ χαμαὶ πεσεῖται was a common aphorism

[29] Proteus-like. A reference to Odyssey 4.398-463 Where Menelaos had to hold Proteus tightly to get him to prophesy. Proteus was a sea god, servant of Poseidon, who was a powerful prophet but who kept changing his shape. The only way one could get him to prophesy was by holding him so as that he couldn’t change his shape.

NOTE:

The Ancient Greek text may be read here

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