Euthyphro Short Summary
The Euthyphro is one of the dialogues from Plato. The events take place weeks before the trial of Socrates. Socrates meets Euthyphro near the Athenian court. Socrates praises Euthyphro’s religious expertise for his willingness to prosecute his father on such a controversial charge. Euthyphro agrees that he indeed knows everything about holiness. Socrates then persuades Euthyphro to teach him everything about holiness, believing that the knowledge might help him in his case against Meletus.
Initially, Euthyphro proposes that the persecution of religious offenses is holiness. However, Socrates is unsatisfied with this definition because there are numerous holy acts apart from persecuting sinners. Instead, he asks Euthyphro to give a broader definition of that one thing that is common in all holy acts. Euthyphro argues that whatever is holy is acceptable to the gods. Socrates then points out that the gods frequently quarrel; therefore, whatever one god agrees with might not be agreeable to others.
Euthyphro’s strongest definition of holiness is the notion that whatever is holy is that which has attained the approval of the gods. Socrates comes up with a logical defense that the two can never be the same. Whatever is holy attains the approval of the gods because of its holiness. So, whatever is holy, influences what will be accepted by the gods. From this argument, it can be deduced that whatever is sacred can never be the same with that which is approved by the gods. Each determines the other.
Euthyphro proceeds to state that holiness is taking care of the gods’ interests. Socrates counter-argues that the gods do not require to be looked after since they are omnipotent. Finally, Euthyphro suggests that holiness is like trading with gods. However, Socrates opposes that holiness is an act of gratifying the gods, and this brings us back to the previous stalemate. Euthyphro hurriedly leaves in frustration.