If everyone took the time to discuss holiness / piety (reverence for God), there would always be many different interpretations or perceptions on what it really is and just how to determine that it is being done. The best philosophers in the world have engaged in many conversations about this subject for decades. Socrates has been one of many that discussed this subject. Socrates was a man that was accused of impiety and corrupting the youth. He wanted the best representation he could find to help him plead his case against the state. When he begin to speak with Euthyphro about his own accusations against his father, Euthyphro was bringing accusations of murder against his father. He felt that he was justified because the God Zeus did the same to his father. Euthyphro felt that this was an act of piety since he was doing the same as the Gods.
However, the circumstances of his father’s actions were brought into question by Socrates and was Euthyphro sure that it should be considered murder? Euthyphro did not seem to take into consideration that his father sought the advice he needed, forgot about the man and subsequently did not attend to the man, which caused his death. This is what prompted Socrates to ask Euthyphro what was piety? Euthyphro lets it be known that piety is what is dear to the Gods.
Socrates then states that pious is holy because it is loved by the Gods, because it is dear to them. But Euthyphro then states that piety is that part of justice which attends to the Gods and a part that attends to men. So is Euthyphro accusing his father based on the act or based on mimicking what the Gods did and thinking it is what they want. I ask, if man’s service to the Gods is done in word and deed, prayers and sacrifice why then does Socrates say that piety is a science of asking and giving, and the Gods are the givers of all good and all we give them is honor and that is pleasing to them?
Reverencing something that cannot be seen is not easy for some. Socrates was the one person that had this problem. His charge of denouncing piety and making others second guess what they believed was why Miletus wanted to prosecute him. His reaching out to a friend that he felt had the wisdom needed to help him understand was his first goal. During this conversation there is an ongoing debate as to what piety can or cannot be.
As an outsider I would like to pose this question to Socrates for further discussion; if we regard piety / holiness as the highest honor to the Gods what constitutes our act of holiness? Do we show reverence to the Gods because we are told to honor them simply because they sit high or do we honor them because we feel convicted to honor what we know is superior and good? My point, do we make a judgment regarding right or wrong based on the circumstances of what we know is evil or wrong or do we judge based on the evidence to determine if the act was evil or deliberate. To make the decision honor the holiness of what the Gods deem right or wrong good or evil?
In the case of Euthyphro the accusation of murder seems to be based on the final outcome of an act and not based on the entire circumstances and intentions of the original act that led up to the final outcome. The original act itself did not indicate a deliberate act that resulted in the final outcome of murder; would not the Gods in their holiness take the entire act into consideration and determine if the intent of the act was done to dishonor the holiness of the Gods and to perform an act of justification towards good or evil? As stated earlier, I Socrates have already stated that the Gods love something because it is pious; how then can we consider what the God’s may determine as pious regarding the act of another regardless to the original intent that brought a devastating end result that is not considered pious among the Gods? We must not forget that not all of the Gods will agree to all things collectively.
As an outsider still, we have no definitive answer to what piety is? Yet we know that what the Gods give is a good gift but do we give them what is good? If we are to determine what is pious we should stay with the original assumption that I know today and that is to give honor, do what is good and pray to the Gods. I have still not heard either one of you give an answer that would make me change my mind, satisfy me or even you Socrates.
Yes, you are correct, I Socrates have not received an answer that would change my previous perception of the Gods. I have heard that we are to minister to the Gods, understand that what the Gods love is holy and not holy because the Gods love it. What if anything is the benefit that we acquire from the gifts from the gods? Or as I ask earlier, “is it the right way of asking of them what we want”? (Euthyphro by Plato, 1642). If this is true then I should ask for the understanding directly to the Gods and this would be my defense to Miletus in showing the state what is piety and or holiness. It would only be fair to give them the answer to what the Gods have given to me and show that what I say to other men is not to confuse the youth of the state but to enlighten and enhance their knowledge and understanding of the Gods.
It is sad to say that my friend, whom I regard as a knowledgeable man could not give me a definite answer to the original question. I must utilize what I know and believe and take what we have agreed on as my defense. “Piety is pleasing to the gods, but not beneficial or dear to them” (Euthyphro by Plato, 1642). I will use what will be needed and what the state wants to hear in my defense so that I can move forward with my life. Using this argument does not mean that I will give up pursing the correct answer to my question, this will be used to help in my current defense. My friend cannot stand with me since he is in a hurry to complete his task. I will take what we discussed and continue my pursuit for the truth.
Plato, & Jowett, B. (n.d.). Euthyphro. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1642