Euth. I will tell you, if you like.
Soc. I should very much like.
Euth. Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.
Soc. Very good, Euthyphro ; you have now given me the sort of answer which I wanted. But whether what you say is true or not I cannot as yet tell, although I make no doubt that you will prove the truth of your words.
Euth. Of course.
Soc. Come, then, and let us examine what we are saying. That thing or person which is dear to the gods is pious, and that thing or person which is hateful to the gods is impious, these two being the extreme opposites of one another. Was not that said ?
Euth. It was.
Soc. And well said ?
Euth. Yes, Socrates, I thought so ; it was certainly said.
Soc. And further, Euthyphro, the gods were admitted to have enmities and hatreds and differences ?
Euth. Yes, that was also said.
Soc. And what sort of difference creates enmity and anger ? Suppose for example that you and I, my good friend, differ about a number ; do differences of this sort make us enemies and set us at variance with one another ? Do we not go at once to arithmetic, and put an end to them by a sum ?
Soc. Or suppose that we differ about magnitudes, do we not quickly end the differences by measuring ?
Euth. Very true.
Soc. And we end a controversy about heavy and light by resorting to a weighing machine ?
Euth. To be sure.
Soc. But what differences are there which cannot be thus decided, and which therefore make us angry and set us at enmity with one another ? I dare say the answer does not occur to you at the moment, and therefore I will suggest that these enmities arise when the matters of difference are the just and unjust, good and evil, honourable and dishonourable. Are not these the points about which men differ, and about which when we are unable satisfactorily to decide our differences, you and I and all of us quarrel, when we do quarrel ?
Euth. Yes, Socrates, the nature of the differences about which we quarrel is such as you describe.
Soc. And the quarrels of the gods, noble Euthyphro, when they occur, are of a like nature ?
Euth. Certainly they are.
Soc. They have differences of opinion, as you say, about good and evil, just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable : there would have been no quarrels among them, if there had been no such differences — would there now ?
Euth. You are quite right.
Soc. Does not every man love that which he deems noble and just and good, and hate the opposite of them ?
Euth. Very true.
Soc. But, as you say, people regard the same things, some as just and others as unjust, — about these they dispute ; and so there arise wars and fightings among them.
Euth. Very true.
Soc. Then the same things are hated by the gods and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear to them ?
Soc. And upon this view the same things, Euthyphro, will be pious and also impious ?
Euth. So I should suppose.
Soc. Then, my friend, I remark with surprise that you have not answered the question which I asked. For I certainly did not ask you to tell me what action is both pious and impious : but now it would seem that what is loved by the gods is also hated by them. And therefore, Euthyphro, in thus chastising your father you may very likely be doing what is agreeable to Zeus but disagreeable to Cronos or Uranus, and what is acceptable to Hephaestus but unacceptable to Here, and there may be other gods who have similar differences of opinion.
Euth. 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.
Soc. Well, but speaking of men, Euthyphro, did you ever 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 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 ?
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 ?
Soc. And the gods are in the same case, if as you assert they quarrel about just and unjust, and some of them say while others deny that injustice is done among them. For surely 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.
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. 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.
Soc. But they will be sure to listen if they find that you are a good speaker. There was a notion that came into my mind while you were speaking ; I said to myself : “Well, and what if Euthyphro does prove to me that all the gods regarded the death of the serf as unjust, how do I know anything more of the nature of piety and impiety ? for granting that this action may be hateful to the gods, still piety and impiety are not adequately defined by these distinctions, for that which is hateful to the gods has been shown to be also pleasing and dear to them.” And therefore, Euthyphro, I do not ask you to prove this ; I will suppose, if you like, that all the gods condemn and abominate such an action. But I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy ; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither. Shall this be our definition of piety and impiety ?
Euth. Why not, Socrates ?
Soc. Why not ! certainly, as far as I am concerned, Euthyphro, there is no reason why not. But whether this admission will greatly assist you in the task of instructing me as you promised, is a matter for you to consider.
Euth. Yes, I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious.