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This Euthyphro and Socrates are represented as meeting in the porch of the King Archon. (Compare Theaet.) Both have legal business in hand.
Socrates is defendant in a suit for impiety which Translated by Benjamin Jowett Meletus has brought against him (it is remarked by the way that he is not a likely man himself to INTRODUCTION.
have brought a suit against another); and Euthyphro too is plaintiff in an action for murder, which he has IN THE MENO, Anytus had parted from Socrates with brought against his own father. The latter has origi-the significant words: ‘That in any city, and par-nated in the following manner:—A poor dependant ticularly in the city of Athens, it is easier to do men of the family had slain one of their domestic slaves harm than to do them good;’ and Socrates was in Naxos. The guilty person was bound and thrown anticipating another opportunity of talking with into a ditch by the command of Euthyphro’s fa-him. In the Euthyphro, Socrates is awaiting his trial ther, who sent to the interpreters of religion at Ath-for impiety. But before the trial begins, Plato would ens to ask what should be done with him. Before like to put the world on their trial, and convince the messenger came back the criminal had died them of ignorance in that very matter touching from hunger and exposure.
which Socrates is accused. An incident which may This is the origin of the charge of murder which perhaps really have occurred in the family of Euthyphro brings against his father. Socrates is con-Euthyphro, a learned Athenian diviner and sooth-fident that before he could have undertaken the sayer, furnishes the occasion of the discussion.
responsibility of such a prosecution, he must have 3
been perfectly informed of the nature of piety ther with murder,’ may be a single instance of and impiety; and as he is going to be tried for piety, but can hardly be regarded as a general impiety himself, he thinks that he cannot do definition.
better than learn of Euthyphro (who will be ad-Euthyphro replies, that ‘Piety is what is dear mitted by everybody, including the judges, to be to the gods, and impiety is what is not dear to an unimpeachable authority) what piety is, and them.’ But may there not be differences of opin-what is impiety. What then is piety?
ion, as among men, so also among the gods? Es-Euthyphro, who, in the abundance of his knowl-pecially, about good and evil, which have no fixed edge, is very willing to undertake all the respon-rule; and these are precisely the sort of differ-sibility, replies: That piety is doing as I do, pros-ences which give rise to quarrels. And therefore ecuting your father (if he is guilty) on a charge what may be dear to one god may not be dear to of murder; doing as the gods do—as Zeus did to another, and the same action may be both pious Cronos, and Cronos to Uranus.
and impious; e.g. your chastisement of your fa-Socrates has a dislike to these tales of mythol-ther, Euthyphro, may be dear or pleasing to Zeus ogy, and he fancies that this dislike of his may (who inflicted a similar chastisement on his own be the reason why he is charged with impiety.
father), but not equally pleasing to Cronos or
‘Are they really true?’ ‘Yes, they are;’ and Uranus (who suffered at the hands of their sons).
Euthyphro will gladly tell Socrates some more Euthyphro answers that there is no difference of them. But Socrates would like first of all to of opinion, either among gods or men, as to the have a more satisfactory answer to the question, propriety of punishing a murderer. Yes, rejoins
‘What is piety?’ ‘Doing as I do, charging a fa-Socrates, when they know him to be a murderer; 4
but you are assuming the point at issue. If all because it is dear to them. Here then appears to the circumstances of the case are considered, are be a contradiction,—Euthyphro has been giving you able to show that your father was guilty of an attribute or accident of piety only, and not murder, or that all the gods are agreed in ap-the essence. Euthyphro acknowledges himself proving of our prosecution of him? And must you that his explanations seem to walk away or go not allow that what is hated by one god may be round in a circle, like the moving figures of liked by another? Waiving this last, however, Daedalus, the ancestor of Socrates, who has com-Socrates proposes to amend the definition, and municated his art to his descendants.
say that ‘what all the gods love is pious, and Socrates, who is desirous of stimulating the in-what they all hate is impious.’ To this Euthyphro dolent intelligence of Euthyphro, raises the ques-agrees.
tion in another manner: ‘Is all the pious just?’
Socrates proceeds to analyze the new form of
‘ Yes.’ ‘Is all the just pious?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then what the definition. He shows that in other cases the part of justice is piety?’ Euthyphro replies that act precedes the state; e.g. the act of being car-piety is that part of justice which ‘attends’ to ried, loved, etc. precedes the state of being car-the gods, as there is another part of justice which ried, loved, etc., and therefore that which is dear
‘attends’ to men. But what is the meaning of to the gods is dear to the gods because it is first
‘attending’ to the gods? The word ‘attending,’
loved of them, not loved of them because it is when applied to dogs, horses, and men, implies dear to them. But the pious or holy is loved by that in some way they are made better. But how the gods because it is pious or holy, which is do pious or holy acts make the gods any better?
equivalent to saying, that it is loved by them Euthyphro explains that he means by pious acts, 5
acts of service or ministration. Yes; but the min-of piety, or he would never have prosecuted his istrations of the husbandman, the physician, and old father. He is still hoping that he will conde-the builder have an end. To what end do we serve scend to instruct him. But Euthyphro is in a hurry the gods, and what do we help them to accom-and cannot stay. And Socrates’ last hope of know-plish? Euthyphro replies, that all these difficult ing the nature of piety before he is prosecuted questions cannot be resolved in a short time; and for impiety has disappeared. As in the he would rather say simply that piety is know-Euthydemus the irony is carried on to the end.
ing how to please the gods in word and deed, by The Euthyphro is manifestly designed to con-prayers and sacrifices. In other words, says trast the real nature of piety and impiety with Socrates, piety is ‘a science of asking and giv-the popular conceptions of them. But when the ing’—asking what we want and giving what they popular conceptions of them have been over-want; in short, a mode of doing business between thrown, Socrates does not offer any definition of gods and men. But although they are the givers his own: as in the Laches and Lysis, he prepares of all good, how can we give them any good in the way for an answer to the question which he return? ‘Nay, but we give them honour.’ Then has raised; but true to his own character, refuses we give them not what is beneficial, but what is to answer himself.
pleasing or dear to them; and this is the point Euthyphro is a religionist, and is elsewhere spo-which has been already disproved.
ken of, if he be the same person, as the author of Socrates, although weary of the subterfuges a philosophy of names, by whose ‘prancing and evasions of Euthyphro, remains unshaken steeds’ Socrates in the Cratylus is carried away.
in his conviction that he must know the nature He has the conceit and self-confidence of a Soph-6
ist; no doubt that he is right in prosecuting his his father, who has accidentally been guilty of father has ever entered into his mind. Like a homicide, and is not wholly free from blame. To Sophist too, he is incapable either of framing a purge away the crime appears to him in the light general definition or of following the course of of a duty, whoever may be the criminal.
an argument. His wrong-headedness, one-Thus begins the contrast between the religion sidedness, narrowness, positiveness, are charac-of the letter, or of the narrow and unenlightened teristic of his priestly office. His failure to appre-conscience, and the higher notion of religion hend an argument may be compared to a simi-which Socrates vainly endeavours to elicit from lar defect which is observable in the rhapsode him. ‘Piety is doing as I do’ is the idea of reli-Ion. But he is not a bad man, and he is friendly gion which first occurs to him, and to many oth-to Socrates, whose familiar sign he recognizes ers who do not say what they think with equal with interest. Though unable to follow him he is frankness. For men are not easily persuaded that very willing to be led by him, and eagerly catches any other religion is better than their own; or at any suggestion which saves him from the that other nations, e.g. the Greeks in the time of trouble of thinking. Moreover he is the enemy of Socrates, were equally serious in their religious Meletus, who, as he says, is availing himself of beliefs and difficulties. The chief difference be-the popular dislike to innovations in religion in tween us and them is, that they were slowly order to injure Socrates; at the same time he is learning what we are in process of forgetting.
amusingly confident that he has weapons in his Greek mythology hardly admitted of the distinc-own armoury which would be more than a match tion between accidental homicide and murder: for him. He is quite sincere in his prosecution of that the pollution of blood was the same in both 7
cases is also the feeling of the Athenian diviner.
gion arises out of the difficulty of verifying them.
He had not as yet learned the lesson, which phi-There is no measure or standard to which they losophy was teaching, that Homer and Hesiod, can be referred.
if not banished from the state, or whipped out The next definition, ‘Piety is that which is of the assembly, as Heracleitus more rudely pro-loved of the gods,’ is shipwrecked on a refined posed, at any rate were not to be appealed to as distinction between the state and the act, corre-authorities in religion; and he is ready to defend sponding respectively to the adjective (philon) his conduct by the examples of the gods. These and the participle (philoumenon), or rather per-are the very tales which Socrates cannot abide; haps to the participle and the verb (philoumenon and his dislike of them, as he suspects, has and phileitai). The act is prior to the state (as in branded him with the reputation of impiety. Here Aristotle the energeia precedes the dunamis); is one answer to the question, ‘Why Socrates and the state of being loved is preceded by the was put to death,’ suggested by the way. An-act of being loved. But piety or holiness is pre-other is conveyed in the words, ‘The Athenians ceded by the act of being pious, not by the act of do not care about any man being thought wise being loved; and therefore piety and the state of until he begins to make other men wise; and then being loved are different. Through such subtle-for some reason or other they are angry:’ which ties of dialectic Socrates is working his way into may be said to be the rule of popular toleration a deeper region of thought and feeling. He means in most other countries, and not at Athens only.
to say that the words ‘loved of the gods’ ex-In the course of the argument Socrates remarks press an attribute only, and not the essence of that the controversial nature of morals and reli-piety.