TRANSLATION AND COMMENTARY ON A KEY SECTION OF PLATO’S EUTHYPHRO (5C-6E)
καὶ ἐγώ τοι, ὦ φίλε ἑταῖρε, ταῦτα γιγνώσκων μαθητὴς ἐπιθυμῶ γενέσθαι σός, εἰδὼς ὅτι καὶ ἄλλος πού τις καὶ ὁ Μέλητος οὗτος σὲ μὲν οὐδὲ δοκεῖ ὁρᾶν, ἐμὲ δὲ οὕτως ὀξέως ἀτεχνῶς καὶ ῥᾳδίως κατεῖδεν ὥστε ἀσεβείας ἐγράψατο. νῦν οὖν πρὸς Διὸς λέγε μοι ὃ νυνδὴ σαφῶς εἰδέναι διισχυρίζου, ποῖόν τι τὸ εὐσεβὲς φῂς εἶναι καὶ τὸ ἀσεβὲς [5δ] καὶ περὶ φόνου καὶ περὶ τῶν ἄλλων; ἢ οὐ ταὐτόν ἐστιν ἐν πάσῃ πράξει τὸ ὅσιον αὐτὸ αὑτῷ, καὶ τὸ ἀνόσιον αὖ τοῦ μὲν ὁσίου παντὸς ἐναντίον, αὐτὸ δὲ αὑτῷ ὅμοιον καὶ ἔχον μίαν τινὰ ἰδέαν κατὰ τὴν ἀνοσιότητα πᾶν ὅτιπερ ἂν μέλλῃ ἀνόσιον εἶναι;”
My Translation – SOCRATES: And I am telling you, my friend and companion, I have come to know that I desire to become your disciple. I know that some others elsewhere and this Meletos, on the one hand, do not imagine to see you, on the other hand, he knows me so well, keenly, simply and easily such that he accuses me of impiety (ungodliness). Now then, of Zeus, you now tell me clearly and confidently what you know, declare what it is to be pious and the impious (ungodly) [5d] and concerning murder and concerning these things; or are all these ways of acting not, of themselves, pious (pure, holy), and again, on the one hand, all the contrary of the holy (pious) the impious (unholy, impure), on the other hand, all that which is about to be impious (unholy), they resemble themselves and seize some ἰδέαν (knowledge, form, idea) of the ungodliness (impiousness).
G. M. A. Grube - “SOCRATES: It is because I realize this that I am eager to become your pupil, my dear friend. I know that other people as well as this Meletus do not even seem to notice you, whereas he sees me so sharply and clearly that he indicts me for ungodliness. So tell me now, by Zeus, what you just now maintained you clearly knew: what kind of thing do you say that godliness and ungodliness are, both as regards murder and other things; or is the pious not the same and alike in every action, and the impious the opposite of all that is pious and like itself, and everything that is to be impious presents us with one form or appearance insofar as it is impious?”
πάντως δήπου, ὦ Σώκρατες.”
My Translation – EUTHYPHRON: Most certainly, O Socrates.
Grube – “EUTHYPHRO: Most Certainly, Socrates”
λέγε δή, τί φῂς εἶναι τὸ ὅσιον καὶ τί τὸ ἀνόσιον;”
My Translation – SOCRATES: Say, then, that which you declare to be the pious (holy) and that which [is] the impious (unholy).
Grube – “SOCRATES: Tell me then, what is the pious, and what the impious, do you say?”
λέγω τοίνυν ὅτι τὸ μὲν ὅσιόν ἐστιν ὅπερ ἐγὼ νῦν ποιῶ, τῷ ἀδικοῦντι ἢ περὶ φόνους ἢ περὶ ἱερῶν κλοπὰς ἤ τι ἄλλο τῶν τοιούτων ἐξαμαρτάνοντι ἐπεξιέναι, ἐάντε πατὴρ [5ε] ὢν τυγχάνῃ ἐάντε μήτηρ ἐάντε ἄλλος ὁστισοῦν, τὸ δὲ μὴ ἐπεξιέναι ἀνόσιον: ἐπεί, ὦ Σώκρατες, θέασαι ὡς μέγα σοι ἐρῶ τεκμήριον τοῦ νόμου ὅτι οὕτως ἔχει—ὃ καὶ ἄλλοις ἤδη εἶπον, ὅτι ταῦτα ὀρθῶς ἂν εἴη οὕτω γιγνόμενα—μὴ ἐπιτρέπειν τῷ ἀσεβοῦντι μηδ᾽ ἂν ὁστισοῦν τυγχάνῃ ὤν. αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἱ ἄνθρωποι τυγχάνουσι νομίζοντες τὸν Δία τῶν θεῶν ἄριστον καὶ δικαιότατον, [6α] καὶ τοῦτον ὁμολογοῦσι τὸν αὑτοῦ πατέρα δῆσαι ὅτι τοὺς ὑεῖς κατέπινεν οὐκ ἐν δίκῃ, κἀκεῖνόν γε αὖ τὸν αὑτοῦ πατέρα ἐκτεμεῖν δι᾽ ἕτερα τοιαῦτα: ἐμοὶ δὲ χαλεπαίνουσιν ὅτι τῷ πατρὶ ἐπεξέρχομαι ἀδικοῦντι, καὶ οὕτως αὐτοὶ αὑτοῖς τὰ ἐναντία λέγουσι περί τε τῶν θεῶν καὶ περὶ ἐμοῦ."
My Translation – EUTHYPHRON: I say, therefore, that, on the one hand, [the] pious (holy) is that very type (sort) of thing which I am now [doing], to prosecute the unrighteous (wrongdoer) concerning murder or concerning theft of the temple or what other of these wrong deeds (missing the mark, committing of a fault), even if he happens to be my father even if mother even if another one, on the other hand, to not prosecute [is] unholy: since, O Socrates, you see I can pronounce a sure proof that the law is to be held [as such] – and I have already said these things to them if they would become set straight – not to accept those who act impiously not even if it happens to be me. Because these men themselves happen to have the custom that Zeus is the best and most just of the gods, [6a] and they declare openly of him that he bound his own father because he gulped down (swallowed) his sons unjustly, indeed that very person again cut such parts as these out of his own father: I at least, on the other hand, am grievous because I march out my father for injustice, and the others, themselves say the opposite of the gods and concerning me.
Grube – “EUTHYPHRO: I say that the pious is to do what I am doing now, to prosecute the wrongdower, be it about murder or temple robbery or anything else, whether the wrongdoer is your father or your mother or anyone else; not to prosecute is impious. And observe, Socrates, that I can cite powerful evidence that the law is so. I have already said to others that such actions are right, not to favor the ungodly, whoever they are. These people believe that Zeus is the best and most just of the gods, yet they agree that he bound his father because he unjustly swallowed his sons, and that he in turn castrated his father for similar reasons. But they are angry with me because I am prosecuting my father for his wrongdoing. They contradict themselves in what they say about the gods and about me.”
οὐκ ἂν θαυμάζοιμι. ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μέν μοι εἰς αὖθις ἐπὶ σχολῆς διηγήσῃ: νυνὶ δὲ ὅπερ ἄρτι σε ἠρόμην πειρῶ [6δ] σαφέστερον εἰπεῖν. οὐ γάρ με, ὦ ἑταῖρε, τὸ πρότερον ἱκανῶς ἐδίδαξας ἐρωτήσαντα τὸ ὅσιον ὅτι ποτ᾽ εἴη, ἀλλά μοι εἶπες ὅτι τοῦτο τυγχάνει ὅσιον ὂν ὃ σὺ νῦν ποιεῖς, φόνου ἐπεξιὼν τῷ πατρί.”
My Translation – SOCRATES: Yet I am not astonished. However, relate these to me again at your leisure: but now the very thing which I attempt to inquire of you at this time [6d] declare plainly. Not sufficient for me, O Friend, I am asking that you teach that which would be the pious (holy), but you tell me that this happens to be pious (holy) being that which you do now, prosecuting the father of murder.
Grube – “SOCRATES: I should not be surprised, but you will tell me these at leisure some other time. For now, try to tell me more clearly what I was asking just now, for, my friend, you did not teach me adequately when I asked you what the pious was, but you told me that what you are doing now, in prosecuting your father for murder, is pious.”
καὶ ἀληθῆ γε ἔλεγον, ὦ Σώκρατες.”
My Translation – EUTHYPHRON: And I said the truth indeed, O Socrates
Grube – “EUTHYPHRO: And I told the truth, Socrates.”
ἴσως. ἀλλὰ γάρ, ὦ Εὐθύφρων, καὶ ἄλλα πολλὰ φῂς εἶναι ὅσια.”
My Translation – SOCRATES: Perhaps. But now, O Euthyphro, tell me, [there are] many other ways to be holy.
Grube – “SOCRATES: Perhaps. You agree, however, that there are many other pious actions.”
καὶ γὰρ ἔστιν.”
My Translation – EUTHYPHRON: it is so.
Grube – “EUTHYPHRO: There are.”
μέμνησαι οὖν ὅτι οὐ τοῦτό σοι διεκελευόμην, ἕν τι ἢ δύο με διδάξαι τῶν πολλῶν ὁσίων, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνο αὐτὸ τὸ εἶδος ᾧ πάντα τὰ ὅσια ὅσιά ἐστιν; ἔφησθα γάρ που μιᾷ ἰδέᾳ [6ε] τά τε ἀνόσια ἀνόσια εἶναι καὶ τὰ ὅσια ὅσια: ἢ οὐ μνημονεύεις;"
My Translation – SOCRATES: Remember, then, that I did not direct this you to teach me one or two of these many pious things, but the εἶδος such that all pious is itself pious; you said that there is one ἰδέᾳ [6e] for both the unholy to be unholy and the holy holy: or [do] you not remember.”
Grube – “SOCRATES: Bear in mind then that I did not bid you tell me one or two of the many pious actions but that form itself that makes all pious actions pious, for you agreed that all impious actions are impious and all pious actions pious through one form, or don’t you remember?”
My Translation – EUTHYPHRON: I do.
Grube – “EUTHYPHRO: I do.”
ταύτην τοίνυν με αὐτὴν δίδαξον τὴν ἰδέαν τίς ποτέ ἐστιν, ἵνα εἰς ἐκείνην ἀποβλέπων καὶ χρώμενος αὐτῇ παραδείγματι, ὃ μὲν ἂν τοιοῦτον ᾖ ὧν ἂν ἢ σὺ ἢ ἄλλος τις πράττῃ φῶ ὅσιον εἶναι, ὃ δ᾽ ἂν μὴ τοιοῦτον, μὴ φῶ.”
My Translation – SOCRATES: So then, teach me what this ἰδέαν itself is, so that I may look at it alone (consider or contemplate) and use it as an example, and make known any action either such as this, or of this, or of you or of another, to be holy, but if not such as this, to say it is not.
Grube – “SOCRATES: Tell me then what this form itself is, so that I may look upon it and, using it as a model, say that any action of yours or another’s that is of that kind is pious, and if it is not that it is not.”
Plato. “Euthyphro”, in Platonis Opera, ed. John Burnet. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903). All Greek texts come from this edition of Plato’s works.
Socrates asks the young Euthyphron to explain to him what it means to be pious (holy, godly). He asks what it is that makes murder, and other such things, impious. Is there something that is common to all impious actions that makes them impious, and to all pious actions that make them pious? We have the highly debated term ἰδέαν introduced in this text as that which all ungodly actions have in common (such that they resemble each other) and such that they have the ἰδέαν of ungodliness. The ἰδέαν is, therefore, that which is common to all actions such that they can be said to be godly or ungodly. Socrates wants to know what the ἰδέαν, the common trait, of such actions is.
Plato, Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, 2nd ed., trans. G. M. A. Grube, ed. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002). All citations that are attributed to Grube come from this translation.
Socrates reiterates his original question. He is essentially saying that Euthyphron’s story was nice, and he would like to hear it some time, but what he really wants to know is what it is to be Pious. Euthyphron has given examples of piety and impiety, but he has not answered Socrates’ original question: “What IS piety?” The point is that, giving examples of X does not count as an answer to the question: “What is X?”
Socrates points out that there are many other ways of BEING pious, and Euthyphron agrees.
Word for word this sentence makes no sense in English: “and for (now, then) it is.” I translated it so as to make more sense in the context.
The question is made explicit: What is it that makes all unholy acts to be unholy, and all holy acts to be holy? Socrates wants to know what it is about such acts that one is able to say that they are such as they are. He claims that there is one ἰδέᾳ that is common to all holy acts such that they are holy, and common to all unholy acts such that they are unholy. When we ask the question: “What IS X?” We want to know what that common factor is.
In this final paragraph of this important section Socrates asks Euthyphron to tell him “what the ἰδέαν, of piety, itself is.” This is a different question from the earlier inquiry. Without trying to push Socrates’ thought any further than it actually goes, one is forced to a different level. The first question was, “What IS piety?”, that is, “What is common to all pious acts such that they are called Pious?” This question asks for a common factor that is seen in all X’s. In this latter question Socrates seems to be pushing Euthyphron to a different ontological level. He now seems to be asking the similar question “What IS the ἰδέαν itself, of piety?” That is, he seems to be less worried about the commonality of the individual acts, and more about the Be-ing of the ἰδέαν (that which is common to all) of piety. Regardless of whether or not the question has changed, the point of this section is that in order to adequately answer the question “What is X?” one must answer by giving that which is common to all individual Xs, and not by giving a list of different types of X.