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(5) Euthyphro's Third Definition


Euthyphro. But I believe, Socrates, that all the gods would be
agreed as to the propriety of punishing a murderer: there
would be no difference of opinion about that.

Statue of Haphaestus holding a hammer

Socrates. Well, but speaking of men, Euthyphro, did you ever
8c hear any one arguing that a murderer or any sort of evil-doer
ought to be let off?

Euth. I should rather say that these are the questions which
they are always arguing, especially in courts of law: they
commit all sorts of crimes, and there is nothing which they will
not do or say in their own defence.

Soc. But do they admit their guilt, Euthyphro, and yet say that
they ought not to be punished?

Euth. No; they do not.

Soc. Then there are some things which they do not venture
8d to say and do: for they do not venture to argue that the guilty
are to be unpunished, but they deny their guilt, do they not?

Euth. Yes.

Soc. Then they do not argue that the evil-doer should not be
punished, but they argue about the fact of who the evil-doer
is, and what he did and when?

Euth. True.

Soc. And the gods are in the same case, if as you assert they Neither God nor man will say that the doer of evil is not to be punished, but they are doubtful about particular acts.  What proof is there that all the gods approve of the prosecution of your father?
quarrel about just and unjust, and some of them say while
others deny that injustice is done among them. For surely
8e neither God nor man will ever venture to say that the doer of
injustice is not to be punished?

Euth. That is true, Socrates, in the main.

Soc. But they join issue about the particulars -- gods and men
alike; and, if they dispute at all, they dispute about some act
which is called in question, and which by some is affirmed to
be just, by others to be unjust. Is not that true?

Euth. Quite true.

9a Soc. Well then, my dear friend Euthyphro, do tell me, for my
better instruction and information, what proof have you that in
the opinion of all the gods a servant who is guilty of murder,
and is put in chains by the master of the dead man, and dies
because he is put in chains before he who bound him can learn
from the interpreters of the gods what he ought to do with
him, dies unjustly; and that on behalf of such an one a son
ought to proceed against his father and accuse him of murder.
9b How would you show that all the gods absolutely agree in
approving of his act? Prove to me that they do, and I will
applaud your wisdom as long as I live.

Euth. It will be a difficult task; but I could make the matter
very dear indeed to you.

Soc. I understand; you mean to say that I am not so quick of
apprehension as the judges: for to them you will be sure to
prove that the act is unjust, and hateful to the gods.

Euth. Yes indeed, Socrates; at least if they will listen to me.