Socrates on the Definition of Piety: Euthyphro 10A–11B

Part of the Modern Studies in Philosophy book series


Plato’s Euthyphro is a clear example of a Socratic definitional dialogue. The concept to be defined is that of holiness or piety (τò ὅσιoν), and the need for a definition is presented in a manner characteristic of the early dialogues. Euthyphro is about to prosecute his father on a charge of murder, Socrates expresses surprise at Eu-thyphro’s action, and Euthyphro defends himself by saying that to prosecute his father is pious, whereas not to prosecute him would be impious. Socrates then wonders whether Euthyphro’s knowledge of piety and impiety is sufficient to guarantee that he is not acting impiously in prosecuting his father. The trap has been set; Euthyphro’s vanity is stung, and the search for a definition begins. The outcome of the search is also familiar; all of Euthyphro’s efforts miscarry. The dialogue ends with no satisfactory definition of piety either produced or in the offing.


Altered Condition Definitional Equivalent Natural Reading Passive Voice Intensional Context 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. A. E. Taylor, Plato the Man and his Work (London: Methuen, 1949), p. 151, andGoogle Scholar
  2. Robert G. Hoerber, “Plato’s Euthyphro,” Phronesis, III (1958), pp. 95–107, esp. n. 1, p. 102, and p. 104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 25.
    Cf. Lynn E. Rose, “A Note on the Euthyphro, 10–11,” Phronesis, X (1965), pp. 149–50, for a brief discussion of the multiplicity of inconsistencies into which Euthyphro falls.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Gregory Vlastos 1971

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