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Philosophical Methodology


Euthyphro is prosecuting his father based on confused ideas about piety and right/wrong ... Socrates and Euthyphro did not discover what piety is ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Philosophical Methodology

Philosophical Methodology
Plato, Euthyphro
The Simplified Scientific Method
  • Observations
  • Hypothesis at least one hoof of a horse is on
    the ground
  • Test Hypothesis (Experiments)

  • For a many things we cannot use observation alone
    to tell us something about it
  • E.g. piety, morally right, God, the mind

Historical Socrates
  • Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
  • Practiced philosophy in the Athenian Agora with
    local citizens and eminent travelers passing
    through Athens
  • Condemned to death by Athenian court
  • Charged with corrupting the youth and inventing
    new Gods
  • Plato was Socrates student

Socratic Method Dialectic
  • Goal philosophical knowledge
  • Two subjects
  • subject (A) the person who knows something
  • interlocutor (B) the person criticizing A
  • (A) proposes philosophical position (thesis or
  • (B) objects
  • (A) replies defends position back to step 2
    orabandon thesis back to step 1
  • Stop when both (B) and (A) are satisfied

Socratic Dialectic in Philosophy
  • Some articles will be objections and/or replies
    to philosophical positions
  • Some articles will have both objections/replies
    and new definitions
  • They are attempts to get closer to an acceptable

The Response to Socratic Questioning
  • Socrates examines (takes the position of
    interlocutors) and questions people who claim to
    have knowledge in one area or another
  • He finds interlocutors becoming increasingly
    frustrated with him
  • Arrogant or benevolent interlocutor?

Structure of Euthyphro
  • Is it pious to prosecute ones own father?
  • What is piety (religious duty/godliness)?
  • Euthyphro attempt 1
  • Euthyphro attempt 2
  • Euthyphro attempt 3
  • Piety is part of justice Socrates hint
  • Euthyphro attempt 4

What is a definition?
  • A definition is a way of giving the meaning of
    some word
  • Example bachelor means unmarried male
  • Definitions are necessarily true you cant have
    a bachelor that is not an unmarrried male

  • But, our definition has a counter-example
  • 2 year old boys are not bachelors yet they are
    unmarried males
  • Is The Pope a bachelor?

Attempt 1 List of Pious Actions
  • I say the pious is to do what I am doing now, to
    prosecute the wrongdoer, 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 (pg. 20)

Problem Not A Definition
  • Socrates rejects this account giving examples
    does not tell us about the idea or concept of
  • Requirement 1 Proposals must be general i.e.
    they must be definitions
  • Example What is the definition of bachelor?
  • Bachelor unmarried male Proper definition
  • Bachelor James Bond, Al Pacino, etc improper

Attempt 2
  • Definition of Piety
  • piety what is dear to the gods

Problem 2 Definition leads to a Contradiction
  • Earlier Euthyphro accepted that there are many
    gods and that the Gods love different things
    (common view in Ancient Greece)
  • Example Athena may love prosecuting ones
    father, Zeus may not love prosecuting ones
  • So, prosecuting ones father is both loved by the
    Gods, and it is not loved by the Gods
  • So, prosecuting ones father is both pious and
  • The definition leads to a contradiction an
    unacceptable result

Attempt 4
  • Piety the part of justice (moral right/wrong)
    that is concerned with the care of Gods

Clarification What does E. mean by care for
  • "care of" tending as in tending horses or
    sheep aims at benefit.
  • It is absurd to say that we are pious in order to
    benefit the gods. counter-example How could
    anything we do benefit the Gods?
  • "care of" service as in a slave's service
    toward a master.
  • Service enables the thing served to achieve a
    fine end (services aims at achievement) but this
    is absurd to say about our service to the gods.
    counter-example (can we really help God out,
    the way a servant can help a master out?)
  • Socrates conclusion we dont have a clear
    enough account of the concept care for Gods to
    have clearly understood piety so attempt 4 fails

End of Dialogue
  • Euthyphro escapes further discussion... Gives
    excuse and leaves
  • Euthyphro is prosecuting his father based on
    confused ideas about piety and right/wrong
  • He does not desire to know, yet still wants to go
    ahead with the prosecution
  • This kind of boldness and confidence about ones
    own supposed knowledge is something Socrates sets
    out to correct
  • In another dialogue he calls himself a Gadfly
    someone who pricks at people who claims to know
  • Dialogue filled with Socratic Irony Socrates
    sarcastic comments about the wealth of knowledge
    he sees his interlocutor thinks he has
  • Socrates throughout Platos dialogues finds that
    many people do not really know what they are
    talking about

Role of Philosophy
  • Socrates is a gadfly like a modern day social
    critic someone who questions people
  • gadfly to a large and well bred horse, a horse
    grown sluggish because of its size and in need of
    being roused I rouse you. I persuade you. I
    upbraid you. I never stop lighting on each one of
    you, everywhere, all day long. Such a one will
    not easily come to you again, gentlemen Perhaps
    you will swat me, persuaded by Anytus that you
    may lightly kill. Then you will continue to sleep
    out your lives, unless the god sends someone else
    to look after you. (Apology, 30e-31a)

Philosophical Method
  • Goal knowledge
  • The method provides a way to become clear about
    the concepts we use e.g. piety, moral rightness,
  • Has the dialectic concluded in anyone attaining
  • Socrates and Euthyphro did not discover what
    piety is
  • What they did find was what piety is not
    Euthypros 4 attempts are not piety
  • We will have knowledge, when we have a definition
    of piety that sustains criticism but this is
    very hard

  • Philosophical methodology dialectic proposing
    definitions and objections, replies
  • Three ways we can go wrong
  • Propose faulty definitions i.e. lists of
    specific things
  • Propose definitions that leads to contradictions
  • Propose definitions with unclear concepts
  • Propose definitions that have counter-examples
  • Important Notion Necessary and Sufficient
  • Goal if we reach definitions that dont fall
    into these traps then we will have knowledge