The the future, making such a miscalculation depreciates the
The Euthyphro, written by Plato, demonstrates several accounts of Socrates’ irony. Despite the deceiving initial layer of irony we perceive to be ignorance, we find that Socrates’ utilizes his presumed ignorance to reveal the truth of each situation. In the end, both Euthyphro and the reader are forced to question the term “holiness,” looking to see if a legitimate definition even exists. The first encounter with Socrates’ irony is the very reason he is put on trial–corrupting the youth of Athens. In explaining the motive behind his conviction, Socrates begins to praise Meletus: “Of all our political men, he is the only one who seems to me to begin in the right way, with the cultivation of virtue in youth” (Marino, 7). The irony in what Socrates is saying is that he believes the Meletus to be the true offender of corrupting the Athen’s youth. Because knowledge is of utmost importance to Socrates, he believes that bestowing knowledge upon others is a form of cultivating virtue (Hughes, 2015). In contrast, those who prevent this process from taking place–like Meletus–are the ones who are the true root of corruption. Furthermore, the irony in this is that Meletus’ genuine motive is to prevent Socrates’ influence–not to protect the youth. After Socrates shares his reason for prosecution, Euthyphro makes a prediction about the trial, “But I rather fear, Socrates, that the reverse will turn out to be the truth” (Marino, 7). Knowing the outcome of Socrates’ trial, this prediction reveals a small bit of irony in Euthyphro’s overall character; as someone who claims to be “divine” and foresee the future, making such a miscalculation depreciates the validity of the claim that he is a holy individual. This incident, alone, sets the tone for the rest of the dialogue. Throughout the Euthyphro, the primary irony that sets up Euthyphro’s dilemma is Socrates’ request to be a “disciple” of his, eventually forcing Euthyphro to question his expertise on what it means to be pious. While Socrates’ may not anticipate Euthyphro claims to be true, he instead wishes to prove to Euthyphro that he does not truly understand what it means to be holy. Socrates believed that ignorance was evil (Hughes, 2015) and, therefore, did not claim to be an expert of anything. Because of this philosophy, Socrates placed these expectation on all others as well, challenging what they had previously believed to be true. Socrates’ method is simple but infuriating, asking Euthyphro to give a general definition of piety and impiety. Euthyphro shuffles through several different attempts, only to be debunked by Socrates. Before Euthyphro takes off in frustration, Socrates professes, “For if you had not certainly known the nature of piety and impiety, I am confident that you would never… have charged your aged father with murder” (Marino, 23). This last remark on the subject reveals Socrates’ initial qualm with Euthyphro, as he subtly mocks Euthyphro’s claims of expertise. How could one declare expertise in piety yet put their own father on trial? To Socrates, this alone shows lack of knowledge in the field. As the dialogue ends, it is apparent that Euthyphro and Socrates had purposely not come to a legitimate definition of “holiness”–nor the distinction between piety and impiety. Not only is the dialogue left with no real conclusion, but so is the reader. One can only assume that this be intentional in an effort for each reader to question their own definition of holiness and whether or not this quality truly exists. Through Socrates’ repeated irony in the Euthyphro, we are able to question our own definition of holiness and whether or not one even exists. As Euthyphro experiences Socrates’ philosophical method, the reader does as well. Experiencing this forces us to revisit what we think to be true and become wary of what it means to be truly knowledgeable. Just as Socrates approaches all subject matter as a student, we should as well, reminding ourselves that the only impiety we can commit is ignorance.