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Euthyphro's Thesis Revisited

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image of Phronesis

It has been an interpretative dogma to condemn Euthyphro's attempt to account for piety in terms of the gods' wishes as one totally repudiated by Socrates, and in itself untenable. Still at 15c8-9 Socrates expresses some scepticism about whether his refutation of Euthyphro's original account of piety in terms of what the gods love has established that it must be abandoned altogether. He then goes on to say that he and Euthyphro ought to investigate again (παλιν σκεπτεoν), from the beginning (εξ αρχηζ), what piety is (15c11-12), which may be taken to imply that Euthyphro's original account should be revisited. Interpreting Socrates' refutation of that account as having shown that it is one he rejects completely implies that no weight should be attached to Socrates' later reservations, even though he exhibits considerable care in expressing them. Unfortunately, as I argue, this interpretative stand has not brought us any closer to understanding the conception of piety Plato may be attributing to Socrates. If only for the purpose of interpretative completeness, we owe it to Plato actually to do as Socrates suggests at the end of the dialogue that one ought to, and revisit Euthyphro's thesis. In this paper, I propose to break ranks with the dogma. Instead, I follow Socrates' recommendation at 15c11 that we should look into what piety is from the beginning, simply to examine whether there are any insights that might be uncovered by doing so.


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