Self-predication in Plato's Euthyphro?
In Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates asks his interlocutor, 'What is the pious?' (1) This question is raised initially in order to lead them to a solution to a practical problem: whether Euthyphro's prosecuting his father for murder is pious. How can Euthyphro and Socrates solve this problem? When Euthyphro furnishes an answer that acts as a standard by which to judge the pious from the impious: 'Then teach me what this form itself is, so that I may look upon it and using it as a model [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] I may say that if anything either you or some other does is such as this, it is pious, and if it isn't such as this, say that it isn't pious' (2) (6e3-6).
This passage is thought to express the paradigm commitment for Socratic definitions, so named for Socrates' use of the word, '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]'. (3) More generally, the paradigm commitment is presumed for any of the definienda of Plato's so-called early dialogues, e.g., 'virtue', 'courage', or 'temperance'. Euthyphro's attempt to meet this expectation fails. Since he fails to answer 'What is the pious?', it follows that he fails to provide a standard or paradigm by which to judge the pious from the impious. So, Socrates' response at the end of this elenchos is not surprising: 'Then you did not answer what I asked, surprising man. For I did not ask you what happens to be the same in being pious and impious, what is god-loved and god-hated, so it seems' (8a10-13).
That Euthyphro fails is obvious; how he fails isn't. Recent work on this passage motivates the need to arbitrate competing interpretations of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8.
One interpretation, proposed by Alexander Nehamas, and recently advanced by Russell M. Dancy, denies that Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 follows the structure of a reductio ad absurdum. (4) On their view, the argument at this passage does not generate a contradiction from its internal premises. Rather, the argument's conclusion that the same things are both pious and impious contradicts an implied premise that the pious is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious. According to Nehamas and Dancy, this premise is presupposed in the text prior to the argument at 6e10-8a8.
Another interpretation of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8, suggested by Hugh H. Benson, maintains that this argument has in fact the structure of a reductio ad absurdum, which is just to say that an implication of Euthyphro's initial definition, i.e., that what the gods love is pious and what they hate is impious, is inconsistent with his other premises. (5) According to Benson, this is how Euthyphro fails to demonstrate his knowledge of what the pious is. To demonstrate knowledge of the pious, Euthyphro's beliefs about the pious must at least be consistent. (6) This reductio ad absurdum interpretation (henceforth abbreviated, 'RAI') relies on the principle of non-contradiction. (7)
What's at stake with these competing interpretations? Simply this: the RAI is more charitable because it relies on the principle of noncontradiction, which doesn't require additional textual support to presume it is implied in the argument. The self-predication interpretation (henceforth abbreviated, 'SPI') relies on the more controversial self-predicative premise for the pious. Since there is only tenuous textual evidence for this premise, and this premise is not required in order to make the argument work, we ought to prefer the RAI of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8. My main aim in this paper is to remove Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 as a candidate passage for all further discussions of arguments that rely on self-predicative premises in Plato's dialogues. Though focusing on Plato's Euthyphro, one of Plato's shorter dialogues, and one of many, is modest interpretive work, removing it from further discussions of self-predication is a decisive accomplishment, and a sign of philosophical progress.
II The Basic Argument of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8
In general, the main argument at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 is as follows:
(1) What is loved by the gods is pious and what is not loved by the gods is impious.
(2) The god-loved action [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and man dear to the gods [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] are pious [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and the god hated action [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and man [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] are impious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]); the pious and the impious are not the same; they are completely opposite [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] one another.
(3) The gods quarrel over the just and the unjust, the beautiful and ugly, the good and bad. (8)
(4) So, some things are thought by some gods to be good, others to be bad [from (3)].
(5) Each loves what he thinks is good, and hates what he thinks is bad.
(6) So, the same things hated by the gods and god-hated will be loved by the gods and god-loved [from (4) and (5)].
(7) So, the same things will be pious and impious [From (1) and (6)].
The main interpretive controversy is not whether a contradiction occurs in the argument, but where--that is, between what premises--the contradiction arises. According to the Nehamas/Dancy view, the conclusion (7) contradicts the more firmly held self-predicative premise that the pious is always pious and under no circumstances impious. But since the explicit evidence for this commitment in Plato's Euthyphro is uncertain, SPI must rely heavily on the presumption that the self-predicative premise for the pious is in the background. (9) Nehamas briefly explains this argument by supposing that when Euthyphro offers (1) above, it is an implied substitution into the self-predicative premise for the pious. Dancy develops this account by showing us how the role of the paradigm requirement, which occurs in the passage that introduces this elenchos, can be accomplished by the self-predication requirement.(10) It is clear, then, that there is a tradition for supposing that the premise, 'The pious is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious' is at work at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8. But in order for this interpretation to make sense, we have to suppose a strong logical relationship between the paradigm requirement and the self-predication requirement. Otherwise, we would have a difficult time explaining why Socrates asks Euthyphro for a standard or paradigm for pious things in the first place, and how, exactly, Euthyphro fails to provide one.
According to the RAI, which Benson endorses, and which I develop hereafter, the contradiction in the argument arises between an implication of the conclusion (7), that there is something such that it is both pious and impious, and an implication of premise (2), that there is nothing such that it is both pious and impious. This interpretation only presumes the principle of non-contradiction, which we can charitably assume all Socrates' interlocutors recognize. Dancy suggests that there are two problems with this interpretation: it requires that we read the conclusion (7) as a contradictory statement, and that Socrates' response to Euthyphro at the end of this elenchos is more compatible with the SPI. I respond to both of these objections later, effectively removing any obstacle to reading Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 as I suggest.
III The Self-Predication Interpretation (SPI)
A textual exegesis of Euthyphro 5d1-5 cannot yield an uncontroversial reading of Socrates and Euthyphro's agreement to the self-predicative premise for the pious. Given this, the principle of charity encourages us to suppose that since it is unclear whether Euthyphro 5d1-5 contains a self-predication for the pious, it most assuredly is unclear to Euthyphro. So, I suggest we leave the textual discussion behind and concentrate instead on the logical details of SPI, since these are supposed to be its strengths anyway.
Recall that our target passage comes after Socrates' introduction of the paradigm requirement. The paradigm requirement (henceforth abbreviated 'PR') is as follows: if F-ness is defined as G-ness, then G-ness is a paradigm for F's. The Self-Predication Requirement (henceforth abbreviated 'SPR') is as follows: if F-ness is defined as G-ness, then Gness is under all circumstances F and under no circumstances not F. According to Dancy, the work of PR is taken over by SPR at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8. (11) We can summarize Dancy's explanation by substituting 'F-ness' with 'the pious' and 'F' with pious.' Let's imagine the elenchos, stripped of its literary details:
Socrates: 'What is the pious?'
Euthyphro: 'The pious is ABC.'
If ABC is an adequate answer, then 'The pious is ABC' entails 'ABC is a paradigm for pious things'. This is expressed at Euthyphro 6e3-6, and is the passage with which this paper began. (12)
So, according to the Nehamas/Dancy view, we suppose that in general Socrates holds (1), which entails (2):
(1) SPR: If F-ness is defined as G-ness, then G-ness is through and through F and under no circumstances not F.
(2) [SPR.sub.p] (for the pious): If the pious is defined as ABC, then ABC is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious.
Taking Euthyphro's definition of the pious, we have:
(3) The pious is defined as what the gods love (Euthyphro 6e10-7a1).
If [SPRP.sub.p] is implied in the course of this discussion, then we have:
(2) If the pious is defined as ABC, then ABC is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious Substituting in Euthyphro's answer for 'ABC', we have:
(4) What the gods love is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious.
The problem is that what the gods love is highly variable, depending on the god. So, the same things are loved and hated by the gods. Since they are loved and hated by the gods, they are also pious and impious. This implied premise (4) contradicts the implication of the differences in the gods' preferences:
(5) What the gods love is pious and impious.
According to this interpretation, then, Euthyphro fails to provide an adequate answer to 'what is the pious?' because he has failed to satisfy SPR, which we should suppose is in the background, and is taking over the work of PR. (13)
The problem is that this interpretation shows only how SPR is sufficient for PR and therefore failing SPR down t entail failing PR. Now, if SPR were also necessary for PR, then we could see how Euthyphro's failure to meet SPR entails failing to meet PR. But that would require much further argumentation than what Nehamas or Dancy supply. I think that given the context of the dialogue, SPR is at most sufficient for PR. To say that Euthyphro has failed to meet SPR and therefore fails to meet PR is committing the fallacy of denying the antecedent. And to offer such a reading would be extremely uncharitable.
Nevertheless, according to Dancy, the Self-Predication Interpretation is also supported by the way Socrates ends the elenchos, by saying that Euthyphro has not answered the question he asked: 'Then you did not answer what I asked, surprising man. For I did not ask you what happens to be the same in being pious and impious, what is god-loved and god-hated, so it seems' (8a10-13).
If the argument were a reductio ad absurdum, then, according to Dancy, Socrates would have responded much differently than he does. I question this. A contradiction among Euthyphro's internal premises entail that he fails to supply Socrates with the answer he wants. In other words, if Euthyphro contradicts himself, then he hasn't answered the question insofar as a contradiction can't be an answer to any question. So, the RAI is compatible with how Socrates ends the elenchos. Thus, the passage cannot be textual evidence against RAI.
One final note: In Hippias Major, and in Protagoras, where the arguments actually require self-predicative premises, these premises are introduced explicitly.l4 In the case of Euthyphro, these other explicit references to self-predicative premises cannot be read back as support for SPI. Why not? The explicit references in Hippias Major and Protagoras can be used as support only if the argument--in order to be charitable--at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 requires them. In other words, we can read those passages as support for our interpretation of Euthyphro only if there's no other logically sound way to read the argument. But this is not the case. Unfortunately for SPI, I provide a cogent interpretation that doesn't appeal to the self-predicative premise for the pious. To that interpretation, I now turn.
IV The Reductio Ad Absurdum Interpretation (RAI)
Most recently advanced by Hugh H. Benson, the RAI of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 needs to be further clarified and developed because of both the historical opposition in Nehamas' work, and the recently developed opposition in Dancy's work.
If Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 is indeed a reductio ad absurdum, then there must be a contradiction among its internal premises. My strategy in this section is to point out how a contradiction is implied by Euthyphro's premises, and to assume that Euthyphro at least must recognize that. Much of my interpretation develops around premise (2) of the reconstruction of the argument in this paper. So, let's have that premise, divided into two parts:
(2) (a) The god-loved action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man dear to the gods ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are pious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and the god hated action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are impious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]); (b) the pious and the impious are not the same; they are completely opposite ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) one another ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
On Dancy's view, this second premise is just a restatement of Euthyphro's definition of the pious, so let's have that as well:
(1) What is loved by the gods ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is pious and what is not loved by the gods ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is impious.
Premise (2) swaps 'beloved by the gods' with 'god-loved' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and the 'not beloved by the gods' with the 'god-hated' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Dancy acknowledges that this is a change in the original claim, but he doesn't see anything important about it. Let's quote him on that for good measure: 'This is all ... supposed to be "what we are saying'; Socrates is not yet asking for any new concessions from Euthyphro ... Socrates' restatement of the definition is not a mere repetition, but I cannot see that the revisions are of any importance.' (15)
Dancy's interpretation overlooks the importance of the move from premise (1) to (2). The changes Socrates makes are explicitly accepted by Euthyphro, are intended to clarify the logic of Euthyphro's position, and are what allows Socrates to reveal the contradiction in the argument.
A passage from R.E. Allen's now-classic, Plato's Earlier Theory of Forms stands as initial support. Allen views the purpose of Socrates' restatement as making Euthyphro's answer more precise (32). But another detail of Allen's view is helpful here. He says that though the requirement of universality has been met by Euthyphro's answer, he also says, 'The definition proceeds in a sense by example still: it specifies a group of individuals--things, actions, persons (7a)--marked off from the rest by being loved by the gods. And it is individuals, not their distinguishing mark, which are identified with the holy.' (16)
Allen sees the importance of Socrates' reformulation: he and Euthyphro discuss the relationship between the pious things and the things loved by the gods. Euthyphro's initial claim is a concrete assertion about individuals, and Socrates' reformulation is meant to bring out that feature of the claim.
To understand this more clearly, let's address the second part of premise (2). Once we see how to interpret the second part we can also see more clearly the connection between it and the first part of premise (2), and why they are put together in the first place.
Socrates says the pious and the impious are not the same; they are completely opposite ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) one another ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Now what could he mean by this? In order to answer this question, we must first realize that the generically abstract noun phrases, '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]', which are translated as 'the pious' and 'the impious' respectively, are syntactically ambiguous.
Unlike English, where we have the words 'piety' and 'the pious' to distinguish the attribute from the concrete collection of individuals to which the word applies, Attic Greek has no such linguistic distinction. (17) Generically abstract noun phrases are quite common in Plato. (l8) Since they are so common, we assume at least that Plato could distinguish between the attribute and the concrete individual. How do we know this? A closer look at the first part of premise (2) reveals the answer.
The first part of premise (2) is this: (a) the god-loved man and action are pious while the god-hated action and man are impious. The emphasis is on the man and action; it points out that here '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' concerns pious individuals, not the attribute of piety. This is why Socrates bothers to re-state Euthyphro's initial answer: to clarify his position. Since the expressions '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' are ambiguous, Socrates must ask Euthyphro if this is what he means to say: that the pious and the impious are completely opposite ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) to one another. And this is just to say that the set of pious things and the set of impious things have no overlap with one another: There is nothing that is both pious and impious.
One objection might be that since the expressions, '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' are ambiguous, there is nothing to force us to choose one over the other. So, my recommendation that we read, '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' as 'the set of pious things,' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' as 'the set of impious things,' at this passage does not have the urgency it needs, especially because there are other passages where the expression, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] clearly indicates the attribute of piety, and not the set of pious individuals, as a passage in near proximity to our target passage shows. (l9)
Prior to the argument at 6e10-8a8, Socrates reminds Euthyphro of what he expects in an answer to 'what is the pious?' In the description of what he expects, Socrates asks for the attribute by which all pious things are pious. We are meant to read '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' as 'piety' rather than as 'the set of pious things'. At 6d9-e1, Socrates says, 'Do you remember that I did not ask for you to teach me one or two of the many pious things, but that form itself by which all pious things are pious? You were saying that the impious are impious and the pious are pious by one form, or do you not remember?' (20)
So, the challenge is that given Socrates' request for the attribute of piety, why should we interpret his later expressions of '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' as 'the set of pious things' and 'the set of impious things', respectively? I think that the answer has already been given in the first part of premise (2). Socrates revises Euthyphro's claim because he wants to make it clear that according to Euthyphro's definition, he means to identify the set of pious things and the set of impious things, but not the attribute of piety. So, we return to the first part of the premise:
(2) (a) The god-loved action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man dear to the gods ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are pious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and the god hated action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are impious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]);
This revision picks out the people and the actions that are pious, and the people and the actions that are impious, specifically. So, it would make sense, in the very next phrase, that when he says, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' and '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]', he means 'the pious people and actions' and 'the impious people and actions', given the context of the passage. In other words, supposing that Socrates is talking about people and actions, and not attributes, allows us to make sense of his clarification in premise (2). In this light, the claim that the pious and the impious are completely opposite each other must mean that there is no overlap between the set of pious things and the set of impious things:
(2) (b) the pious and the impious are not the same; they are completely opposite ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) to one another ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
So, if there is no overlap between the set of pious things and the set of impious things, then it must follow that nothing is both pious and impious. So, premise (2) implies:
(2*) There is no x such that x is both pious and impious.
Once this is established, the rest of the argument develops to produce the contradictory of (2*).
The next premise is that the gods quarrel with one another (7b2-4). This is crucial because it will generate the conflict needed for the conclusion.
The upshot of the discussion about the quarrelling of the gods is that some things are considered good by some but bad by others. Since the gods disagree, some things are considered good and other things are considered bad, depending on the god. With this summary, Socrates introduces another premise: (5) Each loves what he thinks is good, and hates what he thinks is bad (7e6-7).
With respect to the matters on which the gods disagree (because it is not assumed in the argument that they disagree on everything, so that everything is a source of contention among them), they are at odds with one another. Some things will be loved by some gods and hated by others because some think them good while others think them bad. So, the same things that are in dispute are both loved by the gods and hated by them. So, we have:
(6) The same things hated by the gods and god-hated will be loved by the gods and god-loved (8a4-5).
Now we are in a position to see how the argument finishes. Euthyphro's initial answer is that what is loved by the gods is pious and what is hated by the gods is impious. Socrates wouldn't be surprised if Euthyphro's prosecuting his father for murder were something Zeus would love, but Cronus would hate (8b2-3). And since what is god-loved is pious and what is god-hated is impious, the same thing could be both pious and impious. So, we have the conclusion to the argument:
(7) The same things will be pious and impious (8a7-8).
Finally, we arrive at where we can see the contradiction. The conclusion (7) implies that there is at least one thing that is both pious and impious. We then formulate it in the following way:
(7*) There is some x such that x is pious and impious.
So, when we put (7*) together with the implication of premise (2), (2*), we get our contradiction. Thus:
(2*) & (7*): There is no x such that x is both pious and impious AND there is an x such that x is pious and impious.
This is why the argument at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 is a reductio ad absurdum. Even if the contradiction is not straightforwardly explicit, it is clearly an implication of the premises. So, I've accomplished what I've set out to do: to tease out explicitly where the contradiction in the argument occurs, and to show that the contradiction is generated from premises within the argument. The next section discusses an objection on behalf of the SPI proponent.
Evaluating interpretations on grounds of charity requires a discussion of the principle of charity. Proponents of the Nehamas/Dancy view might say that the SPI is the more charitable interpretation from an inter-dialogue perspective. If the more charitable interpretation is the one that gets the maximum value out of the texts, then we have a way of explaining an argument that relies on a premise to which Socrates is committed in other passages. Since the other arguments in Hippias Major and Protagoras rely on self-predicative premises, it is not much of a leap to suppose that a self-predicative premise for the pious is at work at Euthyphro 6e10-8a8. Even if there is only tenuous textual evidence for supplying, 'The pious is through and through pious and under no circumstances impious' at the passage, we are well-justified in believing the argument develops in this way. It gives us a way to see the dialogues as a group. This view can even be supplemented by noting the similarity in the conclusion at Euthyphro 8a8 to other passages in Charmilles and Hippias Major where an apparently contradictory premise is tested against the self-predicative premise for the definiendum. We ought to view Euthyphro in that light.
As Dancy emphasizes, the conclusion (7) at Euthyphro 8a7-8 is not a contradictory statement. If it were, the argument would be 'irredeemably awful (21). No one sympathetic to the RAI of this argument needs to take (7) as a contradictory statement, however. Dancy seems to be pressing against a straw man, if he supposes that the RAI requires taking (7) as contradictory. Euthyphro's prosecuting his father for murder may be pleasing to Zeus, but displeasing to Cronus and Uranus, pleasing to Hephaestus, but displeasing to Hera. Thus, the gods are likely to quarrel with one another on this matter. There is nothing contradictory in this: each god expressing what he or she loves, rendering the same things pious and impious, relative to a particular god's preference. Since they differ at all, it is likely that they will differ about what each loves. No contradiction here.
Moreover, if we look to other dialogues, we'll find statements similar to the conclusion (7) that may appear like contradictions but clearly are not. One passage comes at the argument against temperance as modesty in Charmilles 160e4-161b2. Another comes at the argument against gold as the fine in Hippias Major 290d7-10. Dancy cites these passages as support for his interpretation of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 because he identifies statements that, though apparently contradictory, really are not, and in fact, these passages imply a self-predicative premise necessary for the argument to be successful.
At Charmides 160e4-161b2, Charmides offers a definition of temperance [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as modesty. Once this answer is under scrutiny Socrates says that Charmides must not agree with Homer, who maintains that modesty is not a good match for a needy man ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). This claim is the basis for the next interference; Modesty is good and not good(161a6). The way to read this passage, however, is not to attribute to Socrates a contradictory statement: modesty is good and not good in the same respect at the same time. Rather, he is better interpreted as saying that modesty is good in some circumstances but not good in others. The presumption is that temperance is going to be good in all circumstances. Since modesty is not good in all circumstances, Charmides fails here. (22)
Likewise, at Hippias Major 290d7-10, Hippias offers a definition of the fine ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) as gold. Once again, the next inference is that things can be fine and not fine, if gold is the answer to 'what is the fine?' Once again, this is not a contradiction. The point of citing these passages is that they are supposed to show us, according to Dancy, how to interpret the conclusion of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8. Like the passage in Charmides, Socrates can claim that something can be good and not good without contradicting himself. And as in Hippias Major, he can claim something to be fine and not fine. We are not forced, on account of these passages, to interpret Socrates as making a contradictory statement at Euthyphro 8a7-8.
All this work of emphasizing that the conclusion of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 isn't contradictory is supposed to favor Dancy's interpretation of the passage over my reading of it. But the RAI doesn't require that the conclusion be read as a contradictory statement, as I emphasized before. That's a misreading. The contradiction in the argument occurs because of the implications between premises (2) and (7). But each of the statements (2) and (7) are not contradictory in themselves as Socrates acknowledges himself.
Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to re-think the principle of charity. Employing the principle of charity also means avoiding forced interpretations, e.g. taking a view about a set of dialogues as a group rather than concentrating on a particular target passage. Such an approach leads us to read an argument in Euthyphro a certain way because of a similarity it shares with other dialogues thought to work together as a group. We would do this only if we already have a view about these other dialogues. Taking Euthyphro on its own without having to rely on inter-textual references to support our view would be the most charitable. Only if there were no other interpretations available but SPI, would we adopt SPI. But this, I maintain is not the case.
To summarize, the RAI of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 is more charitable than the SPI, which is why it is the better interpretation. On SPI, premise (2) of the argument is a mere reformulation of premise (1), with no important clarification:
(1) What is loved by the gods is pious and what is not loved by the gods is impious (6e10-7a1).
(2) The god-loved action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man dear to the gods ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are pious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and the god hated action ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and man ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) are impious ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]); the pious and the impious are not the same; they are completely opposite ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) one another (7a6-9).
First, a consequence of this is that Dancy cannot explain why Socrates reformulates Euthyphro's initial answer. It is just a reformulation, yes, but why? My interpretation can explain this reformulation: Socrates wants to clarify Euthyphro's position that he means to distinguish the collection of pious and impious individuals from the attribute of piety. Why would he want to do that? This is because the generically abstract noun phrases in Greek are ambiguous between reading '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' as 'the set of pious things', or as 'the attribute of piety'. So, extra clarification is sometimes required. Second, Dancy argues that the conflict in the argument arises between its conclusion and a self-predicative premise for the pious, presumed in the context of the argument. Since the textual evidence at Euthyphro 5d1-5 for this commitment is uncertain, we should not assume, out of charity, that Euthyphro understands what we as readers are unsure of. Moreover, the Nehamas/Dancy view argues that the work of the paradigm requirement is accomplished by the self-predication requirement, of which the self-predicative premise for the pious is an instance. Yet even if we suppose that the self-predication requirement is presumed in this passage, and that the conclusion of Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 is in conflict with the self-predicative premise, then in order to show that Euthyphro fails to provide a standard or paradigm wouldn't the self-predication requirement have to be also necessary for the paradigm requirement? As SPI shows, the self-predication requirement is at most sufficient for the paradigm requirement. Given this consideration, SPI is seriously flawed. If meeting self-predication is sufficient for meeting the paradigm requirement, then failing to meet self-predication cannot make sense of failing the paradigm requirement. So, not only would this interpretation fail to make sense of the context of the passage, i.e. Socrates' request for a standard or paradigm by which to judge pious actions, it risks committing the fallacy of denying the antecedent! I suggest we abandon the self-predication approach to interpreting this passage.
On my reading, we needn't look outside the argument to any other passages because premise (2) furnishes us with the implication that there is nothing that is both pious and impious. This is in conflict with an implication of the conclusion (7): something is both pious and impious. The objection to this reading, according to Dancy, is that Socrates says that Euthyphro has not answered the question he asked, instead of saying that Euthyphro's premises are in conflict with one another. My response to this is that what Socrates says here equally compatible with reading Euthyphro 6e10-8a8 as I suggest. Thus, it cannot be used to count against my interpretation. Socrates asks Euthyphro, 'what is the pious?' and a satisfactory answer would at least provide a standard or paradigm by which to judge pious things, since this is the context in which the dialogue develops. Since Euthyphro's response generates contradictory premises, then Euthyphro has not answered his question insofar as a contradiction in Euthyphro's statements can't together say anything at all about the pious. So, Euthyphro fails to answer Socrates' question, which entails that he fails to identify a standard or paradigm by which to judge pious things. This is exactly what we should expect, given that a contradiction is no answer to any question. (23)
Bibliography of Works Cited
Allen, R.E. 1970. Plato's Euthyphro and the Earlier Theory of Forms. New York: Humanities Press.
Benson, Hugh. H. 2000. Socratic Wisdom: The Model of Knowledge in Plato's Early Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
--. 1990. ZVIisunderstanding the "What is F-ness?" Question . Archiv fur Geschichter der Philosophie 72, 125-142.
Burkert, Walter. 1985. Greek Religion. Translated by John Raffan. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell Publisher and Harvard University Press.
Dancy, Russell M. 2004. Plato's Introduction of Forms. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Malcom, John. 1991. Plato on the Self-Predication of Forms. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Nehamas, Alexander. 1979. 'Self-Predication and Plato's Theory of Forms', American Philosophical Quarterly 16, 93-103.
Sacks, Joe, trans. 1999. Aristotle's Metaphysics. Santa Fe: Green Lion Press.
Sharvy, Richard. 1972. 'Euthyphro 9d-11b: Analysis and Definition in Plato and Others', Nous 6, 119-137.
Smyth, Herbert Weir. 1920. Greek Grammar. 1st publication. Revised by Gordon Messing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1956.
Woodruff, Paul. 1982. Plato: Hippias Major. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
(1) See Euthyphro 5d7. In general, the definiendum expression throughout this dialogue is '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' which can be translated ambiguously as 'the pious'. I believe this ambiguity is important for the argument I discuss, and so I preserve this ambiguity in English throughout this discussion. Socrates also uses the feminine abstract noun, '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' interchangeably with'[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]'. See Euthyphro 5c9.
(2) Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine.
(3) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] means 'example at Apology 23b1 and Euthydemus 278e-82d.
(4) Nehamas' treatment (95) of this passage in 'Self-Predication and Plato's Theory of Forms', is brief. Dancy develops the self-predicative interpretation of this passage in Plato's Introduction of Forms, Chapter 5.
(5) See Benson 2000, 47-52.
(6) The rough idea of the Socratic elenchos is that an interlocutor fails to know what he claims when the premises offered by him or offered by Socrates and then agreed to by him are inconsistent with one another. In many cases, this leads the interlocutor to reject or modify his initial definition, aiming to eliminate the defects of his initial answer.
(7) At Metaphysics IV 4, 1006a3-6, Aristotle says that we have just taken it as understood that it is impossible to be and not be at the same time, and by means of this we have shown that this is the most certain of all principles.
(8) This premise is justified by a discussion of the origin of disagreement: when we lack agreed-upon ways of distinguishing the just from the unjust, the beautiful from the ugly and the good from the bad. Since the gods argue, they must be at odds about the same things. Socrates doesn't justify this comparison. In the traditional Greek pantheon, the gods are wiser and stronger than people, even if they are not perfect. See Burkert's Greek Religion 1985, 182-9. So, it wouldn't make sense that the gods, who are wiser than humans, argue about the things for which humans already have standards. The point is that the cause of enmity, both among humans, and among gods (if they do in fact quarrel) has to be the lack of a standard.
(9) Nehamas maintains that Socrates and Euthyphro accept the self-predication premise at Euthyphro 5d1-5, though he notes that the sense of the text is not clear, citing that R.E. Allen s interpretation of it does not contain a self-predication: 'Or is not the holy, itself by itself, the same in every action? And the unholy, in turn, the opposite of holy-is it not like itself, and does not everything which is to be unholy have a certain single character with respect to unholiness?' (1979, 93). I cite this passage only in passing because Nehamas recognizes it as merely tenuous textual support for the self-predication interpretation, and Dancy down t mention it at all. This suggests that the virtue of the Nehamas/Dancy interpretation--even according to them--is its logical necessity, on which I concentrate later in the paper.
(10) 'It's natural to connect these points: self-predication is involved in unpacking the notion of a paradigm ... This gives us the opportunity to examine the paradigm requirement with its associated self-predications' (Dancy 2004, 115).
(11) '... where we look for a paradigm for Fs, we look for something, possibly repeatable, that possesses in a paradigmatic way, indefeasibly, the features that make something an A So, the work of PR [the paradigm requirement] can be taken over by the "Self-Predication Requirement": (SPR) The [F=.sub.df] the G [right arrow] the G is under all circumstances F and under no circumstances conF' (Dancy, 120).
(12) Then teach me what this form itself is, so that I may look upon it and using it as a model ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) I may say that if anything either you or some other does is such as this, it is pious, and if it isn't such as this, say that it isn't pious.
(13) See Nehamas, 'The search [for Socratic definitions] should begin with an agreement (explicit or tacit) that the F itself is F; a plausible candidate should then be selected, and its name substituted for the subject-term in the self-predication. One should then try to determine whether the resulting sentence is true. This pattern can actually be found-for example, in the second elenchus [sic] of Euthyphro ... Socrates there expresses the view that Piety is pious by means of his paradigmatic vocabulary at 6e3-6. Euthyphro agrees, and goes on to offer what is just a substitution instance of the self-predication (94-5).
(14) According to Malcom, there are only two explicit occurrences of self-predication in the early dialogues: at Hp Ma 292e where Beauty is beautiful, and at Prt 330c-e, where Justice is just and Holiness (or Piety) is holy (or pious). In these cases, the self-predication is identified and clarified for the interlocutor. One might even suppose that where a self-predicative statement occurs, it must be identified and clarified because Socrates would like to make certain that the interlocutor recognizes the claim, which is a principle of dialectical charity. See Malcom 1991, 21-46.
(15) See Dancy 2004, 125.
(16) See Allen 1970, 29-30.
(17) See Sharvy 1972, 121-2.
(18) See Dancy 2004, 120-3.
(19) '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' is in the dative case, a requirement for the object of '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]' even if in English we would say, 'the pious is completely opposite the impious'. This dative of manner is used to show the degree by which one thing differs from another. See Smyth [section] 1513.
(20) '[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII];'
(21) See also, 'I take it that the best thing to say is that Socrates is not supposing (6) [our (7) above] is contradictory' (Dancy 2004, 129).
(22) Since there is no mention of the Greek equivalent of 'Temperance is temperate , self-predication doesn't arise here. Since 'temperance is good', must be interpreted as 'temperance is always good', for the argument to work, this is an instance of strict predication, not self-predication. See Woodruff's Plato: Hippias Major (1982, 153-6).
(23) I wish to thank Nicholas D. Smith for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
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|Author:||Welch, Elliot C.|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2008|
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