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Persons of the Dialogue: Socrates and Euthyphro Scene: The Porch of the King Archon As the dialogue begins, Socrates is on his way to court to face the Euthyphro is on his way to the court to prosecute

his father for murder. Socrates is very surprised at Euthyphro’s charge

against his father and asks him if he is sure that what he is doing is pious

or holy. He asks Euthyphro to tell him about the nature of piety and

impiety. Euthyphro will not define piety or impiety, but instead says

“Piety is doing as I am doing," and compares it with the actions of the god

Zeus when he punished his own father. Socrates asks for a definition and

not an example, to which Euthyphro offers that “Piety is that which is dear

to the gods." Socrates accepts this definition, but forces Euthyphro to

admit that the gods differ, just like human beings, about what they love

and hate. By this definition, the same act may be called both pious and

impious, therefore this definition leads to contradiction. Euthyphro offers

a third definition and claims: “What all the gods love is pious." Socrates

then asks whether an act is loved by the gods because it is pious, or and

act is pious because it is loved by the gods. Euthyphro responds that the

gods love an act because it is pious. By this, Socrates concludes that

Euthyphro’s definition is only a characteristic of piety, not its definition.

At this point, Euthyphro says that he does not know how to express what

he means and accuses Socrates of setting arguments in motion. Socrates

is not satisfied and accuses Euthyphro of being lazy, and forces the

argument further by asking whether piety is a part of justice, or justice a

part of piety. Here, Euthyphro offers yet another definition: “ that

part of justice which attends to the gods." Now Socrates wants an

explanation of “attention," and asks if the gods benefit from this

“attention," to which Euthyphro responds that the attention is like

ministration to the gods. Socrates then points out that ministration usually

means assisting someone in his work, and asks what ministration to the

gods helps them to do. Euthyphro responds that the discussion has

become tiresome, and issues his fifth definition: “ learning how to

please the gods by prayers and sacrifices." Socrates asks if piety is an art

which gods and human beings have of doing business with one another,

and what benefits do the gods receive from the offerings of individuals.

Euthyphro answers that they get “tributes of honour”; they are pleased,

not benefited. Socrates tells him that by saying that the gods are pleased,

they have returned to an earlier definition. Frustrated and annoyed,

Euthyphro tells Socrates that he is in a hurry to depart and ends the



This dialogue explores the meaning of Piety. As the dialogue starts,

Socrates is on his way to court to defend himself against accusations of

impious behavior; Euthyphro is prosecuting his own father based on his

own understanding in the matter of piety. As the dialogue develops,

Euthyphro seems to take on the role of Meletus, Socrates’ accuser. He

claims to have perfect understanding in the matter of piety, so Socrates

requests his help to answer Meletus charges against him. He asks

Euthyphro to instruct him about the nature of piety. In his first definition,

Euthyphro states that he is justified on bringing charges against his father

because Zeus has done the same, and therefore there is divine

justification. Later, Euthyphro offers other definitions about the nature of

piety, and in all of them he implies that his knowledge in the subject is

indeed superior to the majority. If this is the case, then only Euthyphro is

the judge as to whether an action should or should not be performed. He

starts by justifying his actions through divine understanding, but Socrates

is not satisfied. He then tries to make his actions right, but, again,

Socrates leads him into contractions. Finally, he tries to turn his actions

into a duty. Through the dialogue, Euthyphro tries to use the gods to

justify his actions and interests, which is exactly the same charge that will

later send Socrates to his death. When asked about the relationship

between the gods and human beings, Euthyphro tells us that our duty is to

please the gods and, through our actions, to honor and glorify them. If

this is true, then we are nothing more than servants of the gods, crated

solely to take them higher and higher. I hope our mission is somewhat

more substantial than this. The dialogue does not offer an answer to the

question of whether something is pious because is loved by the gods, or

something is loved by the gods because is pious. Even if we were to

assume that the gods love that which is pious, then love is only a

consequence of a pious act. They both agree that piety implies justice,

but justice does not imply piety. Thus, we can understand justice without

bringing in the matter of the gods, which seems to be the biggest problem

in this dialogue. If we were to tie justice with the divine, this would imply

that reason alone would not be enough to define justice, but we would

need divine guidance to do so.

Through this dialogue, Euthyphro gets angry and frustrated; while

Socrates’ tone is ironic and condescending. Euthyphro accuses Socrates

of creating “moving” arguments, but Socrates shows Euthyphro that his

argument not only moves around, but comes full circle to the starting

point. The dialogue shows us that if we are committed to the pursuit of

knowledge and truth, we must understand that this may be a never ending

process while we are in this life. Although our actions are based on our

limited knowledge, justice should always be an integral part of everything

we do.



The Apology is Socrates’ defense at his trial. As the dialogue begins,

Socrates notes that his accusers have cautioned the jury against Socrates’

eloquence, but, according to Socrates, the difference between him and his

accusers is that Socrates speaks the truth. Socrates distinguished two

groups of accusers: the earlier and the later accusers. The earlier group is

the hardest to defend against, since they do not appear in court. He is

also accused of being a Sophist: that he is a teacher and takes money for

his teaching. He attempts to explain why he has attracted such a

reputation. The oracle was asked if anyone was wiser than Socrates. The

answer was no, there was no man wiser. Socrates cannot believe this

oracle, so he sets out to disprove it by finding someone who is wiser. He

goes to a politician, who is thought wise by himself and others. Socrates

does not think this man to be wise and tells him so. As a consequence,

the politician hated Socrates, as did others who heard the questioning. "I

am better off, because while he knows nothing but thinks that he knows, I

neither know nor think that I know" (Socrates). He questioned politicians,

poets, and artisans. He finds that the poets do not write from wisdom, but

by genius and inspiration.

Meletus charges Socrates with being "a doer of evil, and corruptor of the

youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the State, and has other new

divinities of his own." In his examination of Meletus, Socrates makes three

main points: 1) Meletus has accused Socrates of being the only corruptor,

while everyone else improves the youth. Socrates then uses an analogy: a

horse trainer is to horses as an improver is to the youth. The point is that

there is only one improver, not many. 2) If Socrates corrupts the youth,

either it is intentional or unintentional. No one would corrupt his neighbor

intentionally, because he would harm himself in the process. If the

corruption was unintentional, then the court is not the place to resolve the

problem. The other possibility is that he does not corrupt them at all. 3) In

frustration, Meletus accuses Socrates of being "a complete atheist," at the

same time he claims Socrates teaches new gods. Thus, Meletus

contradicts himself.

Socrates argues that fear of death is foolish, because it is not known if

death is a good or an evil, thus there is no reason to fear death.. Socrates

claims that his mission is in service to God. This is to condemn people’s

pursuit of money, honor, and reputation, while ignoring wisdom, truth, and

the improvement of the soul. When talking about politicians, he states that

he was a Senator once, and opposed the majority when several generals

were brought to trial. He points out that several of the "corrupted youth"

and their fathers were present, but none of them were accusing him;

rather, they were there in his defense.

Socrates refuses to ask for pity. He does not throw himself on the mercy

of the court. Many would bring in their children to win pity. However, he

does mention that he has three young children. He tells the jury about their

responsibility to ignore the appeals to pity and judge the truth.

Despite Socrates’ speech, the jury finds him guilty as charged. Meletus

proposes death as punishment. Instead, Socrates proposes retirement in

a home for benefactors of the state. He examines possible penalties:

death, imprisonment, a fine, or exile. Then, he realizes that exile is not an

option since he believes that "The unexamined life is not worth living." He

finally proposes a fine of 30 minae, guaranteed by Crito, Plato, and

others. The jury sentences him to death.

Socrates remarks that his internal, guiding voice, which at times would

warn him to refrain from certain actions, had not once interrupted his

actions in his defense. He argues that death might be a good: either it is a

dreamless sleep, or he will travel to the place of the dead where he can

question anyone and not be executed for it. He states: "No evil can

happen to a good man."

He asks the jury to punish his sons, and provide guidance. If so, then he

will have received justice. "We go our ways: me to die, you to live; only

God knows which is better."


Throughout the Apology, Socrates believes himself to be a “teacher,"

though he does not say that of himself. He finds reputed wise men and

questions them. If Socrates finds that they believe themselves to be wiser

than they really are, he points out their mistake, thus educates them and

himself. This allows Socrates to learn when he finds other people who

know more about a subject than he. Socrates tells the judges that he will

not be found guilty because of “evidence” and testimony; if he is found

guilty, it will be because of the reputation that he has obtained. As

Socrates deals with the charges, he is constantly talking about himself. If

Socrates wanted to appease the judges so that he would not be found

guilty, he could have made up or omit the parts about himself that caused

so much trouble. The fact that Socrates knows that he is being persecuted

for who he is and that he honestly describes himself, shows that he is

staying true to himself and his beliefs through his trial. Through reason,

Socrates is constantly searching for the truth of what others think. When

Meletus accuses Socrates of not believing in any gods, Socrates then uses

reason to refute him. Socrates tells a story about an oracle, which he

states that he believes in, and says that since an oracle is a divine thing he

must believe in divinities. Socrates used reason to question Meletus and

led him to state inconsistent statements: (1) Socrates corrupts the youth

intentionally. (2) Nobody intentionally harms himself. (3) People who

corrupt society ultimately harm themselves. If (1) Socrates corrupts the

youth intentionally and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm

themselves, then (2) must be false. However, if (2) nobody intentionally

harms themselves and (3) people who corrupt society ultimately harm

themselves is true, then (1) must be false (since Socrates cannot be

corrupting the youth intentionally). If that is the case, then the court is not

the proper place to discuss it.

The second section of the Apology is the speech that Socrates gives after

he is found guilty. In this speech, he is to propose a penalty for his

“crimes." Socrates gives, at first, what he believes that he should receive

for his the actions, and he proposes that he should receive free room and

board. This remark shows Socrates still believes in his mission. Had he

proposed anything else, it would have been to indirectly admit that his

beliefs were wrong. For punishment, Socrates explores the idea of exile.

However, Socrates admits that, if exiled, he would continue to question

men about themselves. Socrates could have escaped death here by

submitting to exile and promising to change his ways, yet again, that

would undermine his beliefs. He then proposes a fine. In all the

punishments that he proposes, he never admits to being wrong or

promises to reconsider his ideas. Had he agreed to exile and silence, he

would not have stayed true to himself and his beliefs.

Socrates’ philosophy of using reason to find the truth prevents him from

telling the jury what they would like to hear. Each time Socrates proposes

a punishment, he reasons himself out of it and into a worse punishment.

The last section of the Apology deals with Socrates’ speech after he has

been sentenced to death. Though Socrates becomes indignant, he does

not become angry. Socrates does not do any of the “weeping and

wailing...[or the] many other things which [he] maintains are unworthy of

[himself].” Socrates believes that if he did, it would bring shame on

himself and his beliefs and that it would be much worse than death.

Socrates claims that he, unlike many others who appear before the jury,

will not appeal to their pity by having his family brought before them.

However, he does describe his family in some detail -- including his

sons. Here, he seems to be appealing to pity in a very subtle way.

Speaking about his children, he asks the jury “punish them...if they seem

to care about riches or anything, more than about virtue; or if they...are

something when they are really nothing.” Once again, he seems to be

instructing or teaching the jury about his beliefs. Socrates uses reason,

once again, to convince himself that death is not an evil. “...the state of

death is one of two things: either a dead man wholly ceases to be and

loses all consciousness or, as we are told, it is a change and a migration of

the soul to another place.” Socrates goes on to say that, since neither of

those two states of being can be bad, death shouldn’t be feared. His

philosophy of reason allows him to look at death in a way that he does

not have to be afraid of it.

Socrates believes in holding on to his principle regardless of the

consequences, even if they involve death. Concern for himself is not

nearly as important as the pursuit of the good, the true, and the just. As a

result, it is far better to suffer injustice than, through ignorance, to cause it.

Justice seems to be the prevalent theme, since this dialogue deals with the

injustice against Socrates.

One inconsistency is that in Crito he seemed universally opposed to

violating the law, while in the Apology there seem to be exceptions to this

belief. For example, he opposed the government actions (the law of the

State) on two occasions.

The speech that Socrates gives reflects the indignation he feels over

injustice that he has received. However, a theme of courage in the face of

death seems to be emphasized. Also, the point about staying true to

oneself and beliefs, and the search for truth by way of reason is a policy

we should all adopt.


Persons of the Dialogue: Socrates and Crito

Scene: The Prison of Socrates


This dialogue takes place in the jail where Socrates awaits execution.

The dialogue is a debate between Socrates and Crito about whether

Socrates should escape. As the dialogue opens, Crito has arrived at the

prison before dawn and sits by the bedside of Socrates, still asleep.

When Socrates awakens, he tells Crito of a dream he has had. A woman

in his dream implies that Socrates will soon find his home; death is

forthcoming. Crito tells Socrates that he can use his influence and money

to help Socrates escape. Crito is afraid that other people will think he

should have done more to save Socrates’ life. Socrates admonishes

Crito no to value the opinion of the many, but of the few good men worth

considering. Crito suggests Socrates is acting out of regard for him and

other friends, and argues that Socrates is, en effect, committing suicide

and betraying his children. Crito accuses Socrates of taking the easy way

out and tells him that others will think him cowardly if he does not escape.

Socrates counters that he cannot disobey the laws of Athens after Athens

has granted him certain rights and has protected him. He cannot defy the

laws for his own convenience. He argues that he cannot put away the

reasons he has honored for 70 years, unless there is good reason to do

so. Socrates claims that one should only regard the opinions of the good,

not the evil; he uses the analogy of the student of gymnastics that is

supposed to listen to one man, and ignore the many; otherwise he will

harm his body. The just man must only listen to the understanding;

otherwise, he will harm his soul. Socrates says that first they must

determine if escape is the right thing to do. If Crito can convince him, he

will escape; otherwise, he will not. First, Socrates argues that one should

never do wrong intentionally, and return evil for evil, or wrong for wrong;

therefore, just because the sentence is unjust, if escaping is wrong, he

must remain in jail. Socrates imagines the government appearing before

him to interrogate him. They charge him with overturning them, that a

State cannot exist if the decisions of law have no power but are set aside

by an individual. They talk about an agreement between him and the

State to obey the laws, regardless of whether he receives justice or not.

Socrates then compares the laws to one’s parents. Just because a parent

strikes a child, the child does not have the right to strike the parent.

Further, he argues that the State is to be held higher and holier than

mother or father. One must do what the State commands or change the

State’s view of what is just. By remaining in the State, and existing under

its laws, one enters into an implied contract to follow these laws for three

reasons: (1) in disobeying the laws, one is disobeying one’s parents; (2)

the State is the author of one’s education; (3) one has made an

arrangement with the State to obey its commands.

Socrates could have had an agreement with the jury to fix the sentence at

banishment but he said he preferred death to exile. Socrates tells Crito

not to think of life and children first and of justice afterwards. Socrates

then asks Crito if he has any other argument to make. Crito responds

that he does not. Socrates asks Crito to let him fulfill the will of God, and

to follow wherever he leads.


This dialogue reflects Socrates’ teaching on moral obligation and duty.

Early in the dialogue, Crito expresses admiration about the fact that

Socrates is at peace about his coming execution. He accepts his fate.

When discussing the opinions of others, Socrates uses “argument by

analogy," where he compares two things that are different on the surface

but, similar in some important areas. Socrates compares athletes who

care about improving their athletic performance with those who care

about the improvement of the soul. Socrates argues that he and Crito

must only listen to those who are knowledgeable about the issues at hand,

namely justice, fairness, and the ultimate good. Having established that

the good life is equal to a just and honorable life, the justice or injustice of

escaping the law’s judgment is the only issue to be considered, and all of

Crito’s personal arguments for escape are set aside. Socrates states that

making a conscious choice to remain under the influence of a society, is

an unconscious agreement with that society to live one’s life by its

standards and virtues. We see throughout the dialogue that Socrates

emphasizes that the law should be either followed or challenged, but

never ignored; on the other hand, his contempt for public opinion and

injustice is evident. At the end of the dialogue Socrates states that, if he

refuses to die, he will be disobeying the law; but it is not the law that is

unjust, it is the men. Socrates reinforces the importance of respecting the

laws as the foundation of society, otherwise our system of values and

justice is subject to collapse.


Persons of the Dialogue: Socrates, Phaedo, Simmias, Cebes, Crito and


Scene: The Prison of Socrates


The dialogue is narrated by Phaedo to Echecrates, some time after

Socrates’ death. The setting is early on the last morning of Socrates’ life.

Phaedo lists those present, and notes that Plato was not there. Phaedo

makes a point of describing Socrates’ attitude on this day: he appeared

calm and fearless. When they have taken off Socrates’ chains, he remarks

that pain and pleasure are two opposites that follow one another.

Cebes notes that Evenus the poet had remarked at Socrates’ composing

poetry: translating Aesop into verse, and composing a hymn to Apollo.

Socrates explains that he has had a dream all his life to “make music”

(poetry). Before, he had assumed that this meant his practice of

philosophy, but he wanted to be safe that it did not mean actual poetry.

Cebes asks why suicide is considered wrong. The implication is that

Socrates is too willing to die. Socrates argues that we are the possession

of the gods, so to kill ourselves would be to rob them. Socrates

expresses his belief that after death he will travel to the gods who are

good and wise, and will be in the company of others who are better than

those he will leave behind. Simmias asks Socrates to convince them, and

they will no longer charge him with suicide. Socrates claims that the

philosopher pursues death--the separation of soul and body, when the

soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body. Socrates argues that

the philosopher is unconcerned with pleasures of the body, that he would

rather turn completely to the soul. The philosopher, Socrates says, seeks

to sever the soul from the body. Socrates argues that when the soul

seeks truth, the body deceives it. Truth is revealed in thought, and thought

is best when the mind is gathered into herself. Socrates then introduces a

discussion of forms: absolutes of justice, beauty, and good. These, he

says, are not perceived with the bodily senses. Rather, these are

perceived with an intellectual vision, with the mind alone. The body, he

says, is a source of trouble that creates desires in us that keeps us from

seeking the truth. To attain pure knowledge, we must part from the body.

So after death, when the soul is alone and without the body, we may be

able to attain truth. So the philosopher seeks to separate the soul from the

body and enjoy a purification, and will leave this life with joy, and with no

fear of death. Cebes agrees with what Socrates has said, but asks how

we can know that the soul does not die with the body. Socrates begins

his response by mentioning the doctrine of reincarnation, that souls depart

at death to another world, and return, and are born from the dead. The

living comes from the dead, so the soul must be in another world.

Socrates supports this by discussing opposites, such as good and evil, hot

and cold, pain and pleasure, where one is generated out of its opposite.

In this way, life and death are opposite, and the process of life becoming

death is visible, but the process of death becoming life is not. Simmias

reminds the group of one of Socrates’ favorite doctrines, the Doctrine of

Recollection: to learn something is actually remembering what has been

forgotten. This would require the pre-existence of the soul in order to

have the knowledge that is recollected in this life. Socrates supports this

with the example of equality: to judge two things as unequal, we must first

know what equality is; but we have no experience in this life of absolute

equality; therefore, this knowledge must come from some previous

existence in which the soul must have existed. This applies also to all the

other absolutes, or forms. For all individual things we call by one name,

there must be a single, essential nature which allows us to call them by the

same name. This essence is the form. This form is not visible, and is never

seen on earth. Nevertheless, we must use it as a standard by which we

judge things to be what they are. Therefore, it comes from a

pre-existence state when we were directly aware of them, and now we

recollect them when we encounter things on earth that are copies of these


Cebes repeats his objection that, even if the soul existed before birth, it

might be destroyed at death. Socrates returns to the theory of forms, and

explains that there are two sorts of existences, one seen, the other unseen.

The seen is the changing, and the unseen is the unchanging. The body

belongs to the visible and changing; the soul belongs to the invisible and

unchanging. The philosopher seeks these unchanging forms and becomes

like them. He is practicing death, or the separation of soul and body, and

is purifying the soul of bodily elements that hold it down. Socrates

discusses the souls or ghosts that linger around tombs, because they are

too attached to the body. Then, Socrates states that if a person loves the

body, he becomes more like body, and this holds on to the soul after

death; then, he will be reborn as a lower form of life. If a person loves the

soul, he becomes more like soul, and, the purified soul can escape after

death and rise to the heavens.

Simmias suggests that the soul and body are analogous to harmony and

the lyre. Harmony is invisible, without body, and divine, while the lyre is

visible, material, and earthly. But when the lyre is broken, or the strings

cut, the harmony dies. Thus, when the body is broken and dies, the soul

dies too. Cebes offers another objection: he compares the soul to a coat

made by a weaver. The weaver wears the coat until he dies, and then

someone else wears it. The coat may outlast many men who wear it, but

finally is worn out and dies. The same could apply to the soul; it may be

reborn several times and outlast several bodies, but it will finally perish.

Socrates argues that harmony is not like the soul. First, he reminds

Simmias that he has already agreed that knowledge is recollection, and

that the soul exists prior to this life. Therefore, the soul exists before the

body. However, the harmony of a lyre exists only after the existence of

the lyre. Another difference between harmony and the soul is that the lyre

causes and controls the harmony. However, the soul is not led by the

body, but the other way around. Also, Socrates argues that harmony has

degrees and can be more or less harmonious. This is not the case with the

soul. Socrates says that in order to refute Cebes’ objection, he will have

to discuss the process of generation and corruption, which involves the

natural sciences. He proceeds to scientifically explain the reason for his

sitting in jail as the contraction of muscles and positioning of bones, but

the real reason is that society has sentenced him to death, and he has

chosen not to escape. Socrates again refers to the theory of forms as the

cause of all things. Ideas exist and other things participate in them. For

example, beautiful things come from absolute beauty. This hold for all

forms: no opposites ever become mixed with each other (hot and cold,

life and death). Socrates states that the soul is the creator of life and it can

never be mixed with death, which would be its opposite. Socrates then

stresses the importance of taking good care of our soul at all times

because of its immortality.

His friends worry about the burial logistics as if the corpse they will bury

is Socrates’. Socrates’ family returns. Once Socrates dismisses them, the

jailer brings the poison. Cebes tells Socrates that there is still time to

enjoy. However, Socrates thinks that there is nothing to be gained by

delay. He drinks the poison and, following his jailer’s instructions, lies

down when he feels his legs heavy. Socrates’ last words are to repay a

debt, a sacrifice he owes to a god.


In the Phaedo, we meet Socrates on the morning of his own execution.

Socrates suggests philosophy and contemplation as a method to cast

away the fear of death. He believes that the philosophical life is a

preparation for death and that the true philosopher looks forward to

dying. It seems that if philosophers look upon death with “good cheer,"

then they would not love life enough to learn and examine life and,

therefore, death. Socrates makes a distinction between two types of

death, figurative and literal, and defines death as the release of the soul

from the body. The responsibility of the philosopher is to seek the truth

and to prepare for the afterlife. Socrates notes that the body leads us

away from the truth. The discussion about the separation of body and

soul leads to the discussion of the immortality of the soul. Socrates

presents three arguments: one from the necessary generation of opposites

from opposi

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