Plato’s Revenge

Plato’s early dialogues take on the trial and execution of his mentor Socrates. Plato wrote five dialogues questioning so-called virtues of Athenian society (such as modesty). Plato shows how hard they are to define, thereby exposing the charges against Socrates as a sham. In this study guide on Plato’s Euthyphro for LitCharts, Plato targets the concept of piety.

Study Guide for LitCharts

The real Socrates was an influential philosopher in Classical Athens. Socrates was tried and executed for charges of “impiety”—specifically, hubris against the gods and corrupting the youth of Athens with his unconventional ideas.

Plato depicts Socrates as a witty and piercingly rational thinker who subtly teaches a local “expert” just how little they actually know.

In characteristic form, the Euthyphro proceeds with Socrates posing as the student, who seeks to be educated by Euthyphro, a presumed expert on such matters. Of course, what really transpires through their exchange is that Euthyphro is schooled by Socrates. Socrates is teaching by asking questions that subtly lead Euthyphro through a path of reasoning that will eventually educate Euthyphro about the nature of piety, and not the other way around. The dialogue thus illustrates the “Socratic method” for the reader. Since Euthyphro abruptly ends the conversation and Socrates is left without a satisfactory answer, Plato implicitly encourages the reader to pick up where Euthyphro leaves off and pursue the question in similar fashion. Plato’s implication is that learning comes from a place of curiosity and questioning (or, philosophical wonder). Similarly, teaching is not about telling students the answers, but directing curiosity toward reasoned inquiry… read more

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