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A conversation going in circles between socrates and euthypro in euthypro a book by plato

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They sum up the philosophical career of Socrates, protagonist of most of the Platonic dialogues. But this summing up does not imply the end of the examinations Socrates pursued.

On the contrary, during his last days, Socrates rigorously continued the kind of inquiries he had pursued all his life, even at the risk of execution, and he enjoined his companions to continue them when he was gone.

In Euthyphro, Crito, and Phaedo, we come to know a cast of characters through the opinions they express in conversation with Socrates and one another. Each of these dialogues is an inquiry into a central problem. The Euthyphro examines what holiness is and how it can be recognized, the Crito is concerned with duty under law, and the Phaedo explores the nature of the human soul.

The Apology shows Socrates speaking to the Athenian court, defending himself against charges of introducing new religious beliefs and misleading the younger generation. Every statement is subjected to ongoing inquiry; at its conclusion, a dialogue leaves the impression that more avenues for investigation have been opened than existed at the beginning.

The character of Socrates, the most likely spokesman for Plato, is typically the sharpest questioner and often seems to have the upper hand.

The Last Days of Socrates Reader’s Guide

However, even when he presents fully formed theories, they are put forward only as hypotheses to be examined, not as doctrine. In fact, Socrates repeatedly insists that his only wisdom is in knowing what he does not know and in his willingness to join with others in the pursuit of truth.

In addition, other characters with strong positions, such as the title character in the Euthyphro and Simmias in the Phaedo, present ideas that receive careful attention. And Crito, when he implores Socrates to accept the help of his friends and escape from prison, makes a strong argument that appeals to our emotions and common sense. Rather, they are dramatic representations of living philosophical investigations in which the collaborative activities of the characters help to clarify the problems under examination.

An essential aspect of these investigations is that opinions are put forth by distinct individuals who have willful intentions, emotions, and physical bodies, as well as thoughts. No thought is expressed except by a character. Living in a disrupted society that had relied for its values on received dogma and exemplary myths, such as the Homeric stories of heroic lives, Socrates and Plato introduced the critical examination of these values through philosophical inquiry.

  • However, even when he presents fully formed theories, they are put forward only as hypotheses to be examined, not as doctrine;
  • Nevertheless, Euthyphro believes it is his religious duty to report what his father has done, which is his main reason for doing it.

It was, and always is, a brave undertaking. By engaging in, and not maintaining a respectful distance from, the discussion of holiness in the Euthyphro, or the argument for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo, or the sensible but discarded argument for expedient personal safety in the Crito, we begin to participate in the activity Socrates most recommends.


His family had long been prominent in the civic life of Athens, and as a young man Plato anticipated a political career. But the violence and corruption he observed in Athenian politics following the destruction of the Athenian empire in the Peloponnesian War and the execution of his friend Socrates in 399 B.

His association with the followers of Socrates led Plato to found the Academy, a school dedicated to philosophical and scientific research that survived in Athens for more than nine hundred years. Returning to Athens, Plato officiated at the Academy and devoted himself to teaching and writing until his death in approximately 347 B.

Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo

His dialogues immortalize Socrates, who left no writings of his own, and combine masterful literary art with philosophy that has profoundly influenced the course of Western intellectual history. Does Socrates believe it is possible to define holiness?

Since his conversation with Euthyphro moves in a circle, ending where it began, does Socrates intend it to teach us something other than a definition of holiness?

Do you agree with Socrates that there is only one standard by which all things are holy and unholy? Why does Socrates mention as part of his defense his belief that he will be convicted?

Why does Socrates tell the judges, even before they have found him guilty, that he is not afraid of the death penalty? Why does he say things that are likely to enrage his jurors?

Why does Socrates think that no greater good has ever befallen Athens than his examination of its citizens? Why do the gentlemen of Athens find Socrates guilty and condemn him to death? Would you have condemned Socrates?