The Apology of Socrates by Plato

Part I – Euthyphro

 

“Why, hello there Socrates.”

“Hello, Euthyphro”

“What are you doing here in front of the courthouse
on this fine sunny day?”

“Well, I’ll tell you. I am being prosecuted
by a young man.
A young man named Meletus.”

Ch. 1

“Prosecuted? You? What for?
Tell me Socrates, what could this young man
be charging you with?”

“Actually, this is no laughing matter
for this brash young man is accusing me
of corrupting the youth.”

“Corrupting the youth?”

“Corrupting the youth, yes, Euthyphro
I know it’s strange but I assure you
it’s true.”

“Why, Socrates, if anything,
you would be the farthest person
from someone who is corrupting the youth.
You are the moral backbone of this great
city of Athens.
The youth come to you for advise and guidance
and you give it free of charge.
You encourage freedom of thought
and dialogue, discussion and questioning.
If that is corruption of the youth,
then consider me guilty as well!”

“I’m afraid, Euthyphro, there is more to his
charge then just that. He says that I show
impiety, disrespected the Gods
and creating new ones of my own invention.”

“Impiety? Why, there is no one more pious
in Athens then yourself!
You commune with the divine,
it speaks to you and through you,
as it does me, and you have the deepest
respect for all the Gods all of Creation
all human beings and your inner most self.
I cannot fathom this charge against you,
this man, this young Meletus
must be grasping for straws
trying to pin some spurious semantical
political agenda on you
without any consideration for the truth.”

“I am afraid you’re right, Euthyphro,
my dear friend, but unfortunately this
prosecution I now face, and so I must
take it with the utmost severity,
for my life could very well be at stake.”

Ch. 2

“So tell me, Euthyphro, what are you
doing here at the courthouse
on this fine sunny day here in the great
city of Athens we call home.”

“Well, I am here actually
to file a prosecution against someone else.”

“And who might that be, Euthyphro?”

“It is none other than my father.”

“Your father?”

“Indeed.”

“Certainly, to bring a charge against your father
is no light matter. The crime must have been
most unjust which he has committed.”

“Oh, that it was Socrates.
Yes, most unjust.”

“And what, pray tell, did your father do
that was so unjust that his own son
now files charges against him in our courts of law?”

“I will tell you, Socrates.
My father had become angry at one of his servants
for something he had done,
and so he confined him to a ditch for several
days as punishment
without food or water, exposed to the elements,
the sun, and starvation, and dehydration
while he went off to seek advice as to what to do
with him
and as the days went by
the servant died there in that ditch.
And so, my father is guilty of homicide
and as a just and pious man
I must bring this charge against him.”

Ch. 3

“Euthyphro, you are a holy and pious
man, everyone in Athens knows this,
none better than myself
but do you really believe
you know the will of the Gods
what is Holy what is Just
so perfectly
that you are 100% sure that it is the
right thing to do to bring this
charge against
your father
at this time for what has happened?”

“I do, Socrates.”

“Well, dear friend, as I myself
am now being accused of corrupting the youth
and impiety towards the Gods
it would be my great privilege
if you would explain to me what holiness
is and what justice is
so that I will have knowledge to use
in defending myself
against the young man Meletus
who wishes to see me ruined.”

“With pleasure, my dear friend
I will be happy to explain to you what is holiness
what is just what the Gods love
what they desire and what we as men
therefore must do in this mortal realm.”

“Thank you, Euthyphro, I am all ears.
You are a good friend.”

Ch. 4

“Holiness, Socrates, is precisely what
I am doing now.
To bring a charge against a criminal
whether it is for murder
or a crime against religion
or anything that is unholy or unjust
that is clearly against
the divine law
no matter whether the criminal
the transgressor
is your mother your father
your brother or your son.”

“Euthyphro, I am sure that you
understand this divine law
because you are a holy man
you know the ways of the Gods
so tell me, is it true what they
say
that they Gods are at war
with each other
constantly
struggling and in strife?
That the one battles with the
other
Zeus and Hera
Poseidon and Ares?”

“Yes, Socrates this is true.”

“And you know other things
of the Gods behavior as well,
of their nature, in its intimate
forms?”

“I do, Socrates, I do indeed.”

“And you can tell me, Euthyphro,
what holiness is, not just
an example, but its essence?”

“I can, Socrates, and I will.”

Ch. 5

“What the gods like, what they find good,
what appeases them, this is what is Holy
Socrates, I tell you this
for this is the divine truth.”

“Thank you for this answer, Euthyphro
for you have truly offered a genuine
answer to my question, namely
what is the essence of something which
is holy, that which the Gods consider to be Good.”

“However, I have another question.”

“Certainly, Socrates what is it?”

“Well, if we’ve agreed that the Gods quarrel
with each other, that they are in disagreements
constantly, that they are at war with each other
in strife and struggle, then does this mean
that they are in disagreement as to
what is Good?

That Hera disagrees with Zeus
and Kronos with Uranus
and Hephaestus with Aphrodite?”

“Yes, Socrates, you are correct,
the Gods do disagree
about many things.”

“So, tell me Euthyphro
if the Gods disagree as to
what is Good
if Hermes and Hades
Persephone and Thanatos
are at odds with each other
about what is Good wouldn’t
that mean that some thing
could be considered Good by
one God and not by another
and so, by your definition,
would be both holy
and unholy at the same time?”

“Well, yes Socrates, this is true
however, certainly
all the Gods would agree
that the unjust killing of one
man by another is unholy
and the farthest thing
from what is Good and Just.”

“Can you tell me, then, Euthyphro
how it is that you know
that all the Gods believe
the killing of a man,
in the way your father’s
actions led to the death of his
servant, is unholy?

Could you explain to me
how it is you know
that all the Gods are in agreement
on this point?”

“Why, certainly Socrates, I could
though it would take some time
to do so.”

“Indeed, Euthyphro, I’m sure it would
but another question has just come
to me and troubles me.”

“Even if you were to show me
how you know all the Gods
believe this particular action
is in fact unholy, this would still
only account for the unholiness
of this one action.

But I find myself in this moment
in time here in Athens
accused of my own impiety
by this young brash
man, this Meletus,
and so I need to get to the essence
of holiness as it pertains
to all actions which are holy,
not just one particular instance,
as is your own.”

“I see what you mean, Socrates
indeed.”

Ch. 6

“Well, I would say that what is Holy
is what all the Gods find to be Good
and what is Unholy is what all
the Gods find to be not Good.”

“That is a fine definition, Euthyphro,
fine indeed.

But let me ask you this.
Is something Good because the Gods
believe it to be Good
or is something Good because it
is Good, and for that reason,
the Gods believe it to be Good?”

“Well, certainly what the Gods believe
is Good must be Good.”

“Indeed, Euthyphro, I couldn’t have
put it better myself.

And so, what is Good is Good
not because the Gods believe
it is Good, but because it is Good
and that is why the God’s
believe it to be Good.

And if we as human beings
had the same power of divine
insight as the Gods, we too
would see clearly what is Good.”

“Yes, Socrates, I believe you are
right.”

“I’m afraid, Euthyphro, that this
makes matters all the more difficult
for me
since what is Good what is Holy
is Holy not because the Gods
believe it to be Good but because
it is Good in itself independent
of the God’s judgement,
and so, we have yet to come
to the essence of Goodness,
of why what is Holy is truly
Holy.”

Ch. 7

“I wish you the best of luck
in the charges that have been
brought against you, dear Socrates
for while we both know what is
just and Good,
clearly it is difficult at times
to capture its essence in words.”

“Thank you, Euthyphro,
you are a good friend.”