Piety has been defined differently by Euthyphro. Firstly, piety is doing what one does. Secondly, piety is a part of justice. These definitions emerge in the dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro. I can define holiness or piety as the setting apart for Gods purpose. Holiness is a drawing boundary around what is connected with God. Holiness means uniqueness. In the Old Testament holiness implied that Israelites were associated with God. Today, it is regarded as the presence of Holy Spirit in a believer. Holy also means belonging to God. We all depend on God’s protection. Holiness also means living in obedience to God (Frank, 1992). This paper discusses the emergence of piety or holiness in the dialogue, the justification of the three definitions of piety by Euthyphro, and my own personal thoughts about piety.
The emergence of the piety in the dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro was a result of prosecution of Euthyphro’s father in the court. Euthyphro’s father had killed an innocent slave. This dialogue took place outside the court of Athens. Socrates was requested by Mellitus to answer the charges of impiety. Socrates was surprised by Euthyphro action, and Euthyphro defended himself saying that to prosecute his father was pious, while not prosecuting him would be impious. Socrates wondered whether Euthyphro knowledge of piety was sufficient to guarantee him to act impiously in prosecuting his father (Cohen, 1958).
Socrates asked Euthyphro if he could define the nature of holiness. Euthyphro said that holiness is doing what I am doing; that is, prosecuting those who had been found guilty of murder or any other serious crime. Not prosecuting them will be unholy. Socrates rejected Euthyphro’s first definition of holiness because it was only an example of what he was doing. Socrates was looking for a definition that was universal and that could include all cases of holiness and un-holiness. The second definition that Euthyphro gave to holiness was: “everything that God loves.” First, the argument’s structure was unclear. Second, there was a question whether the interpretation of the argument was valid and non-fallacious. Third, there was a number of points of contemporary philosophical awareness that unavoidably arise in adequate discussion of that argument. Fourth, it was important lesson concerning contemporary issues, not just early theology (Johnston, 1957).
Euthyphro came up with another definition of holiness. He said that un-holiness is everything what God hates and holiness is everything that God loves. Before Socrates, scrutinizing this definition he asked for clarification which led to a famous question. The question was: “is holy loved by God or it is holy because God loves it.” After this question, Socrates and Euthyphro agreed that holiness is loved by God since it is holy and not because the God loves it. Then, there emerged a problem that love is not an important characteristic of holiness. At that point, Euthyphro did not know how to proceed with the inquiry. He had already lost his initial confidence. It was crucial knowledge in the pursuit of self-awareness.
Socrates came up with the following question: is everything that is morally right considered as holy? Euthyphro did not understand his point; therefore, Socrates gave him an analogy to make that idea understandable. He used the analogy of fear and its relation to shame to help him clarify the idea of moral rightness to piety (Palmer, 1849).
Euthyphro and Socrates finally came to an agreement that holiness is part of moral rightness, although, Socrates wanted to go further. Euthyphro described holiness as an element of moral rightness close to God, while its other part depends on men.
Euthyphro gave Socrates a new definition of holiness: it is learning to please and obey God in words and deeds. Socrates investigated the new definition and found it inadequate. He asked Euthyphro if this service pleases God, and Euthyphro answered that it indeed pleases and it is dear to God.
Socrates asked him if this service of sacrifice and prayers that usually pays honor to the God usually pleases, and Euthyphro confirmed. Socrates reminded Euthyphro that they had agreed on the definition that holiness is dear to God, but they had not agreed that the definition was fault (Grube, 1975).
According to Socrates argument, it did not prove that moral cannot be defined as what God loves. It only proves that “moral” cannot be defined as loved by God, because Gods' reason for loving what is holy is that it is holy. Does this amount to proving that moral cannot be illustrated as “loved by God” if God has a reason for loving what is moral? The God might have other reasons for loving what is moral. However, the implication clearly states that if God has a reason for loving what is moral, we may try to define moral. The fact that God has a reasonable love for what is moral may be applicable to the dilemma of defining holiness. Though, the answer to this dilemma is reliability, not the love (Roberts, 1956).