The Nature of Piety in Euthyphro

Socrates is willing to know about piety because of his court case with Meletus. It appears that Euthyphro has some knowledge on the subject and is willing to talk to Socrates. But soon, it is seen that Euthyphro is not able to offer the answer Socrates is looking for.
Even if Socrates asks specifically, from the beginning of their conversation, about ‘the nature of piety and impiety’ Euthyphro can answer only in terms of actions (‘piety is prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or any similar crime; not to prosecute them is impiety.’ Socrates asks for ‘a more precise answer,’ for ‘the nature of this idea’ and Euthyphro says that ‘piety is what is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.’ This will not stand with Socrates because ‘what is loved by gods is also hated by them,’ and it is not clear if ‘the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because is beloved by the gods.’
At this point in the conversation Socrates introduces a new aspect: the relationship of piety with justice. ‘Justice is the most extended notion of which piety is only a part.’ Which part? ‘That part which attends to the gods.’ In this way ‘piety or holiness is learning how to please the gods in word and deed, by prayers and sacrifices.’ In the end this ‘is an art.’
This dialogue ends without a final word on the matter discussed. In a sense they are back at the beginning of their discussion (‘piety is dear to the gods’).



Bibliography
Plato, Euthyphro, tr. Benjamin Jowett. classics.mit.edu/Plato/euthyfro.html
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