Subject Object Paradoxes in Plato’s Euthyphro

When Socrates asks Euthyphro: ”Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?” he means one thing. But there are two positions here, the subject, that which is doing the loving, and the object, that which is being loved. The question Socrates is asking is whether the subject makes the object what it is; for instance “whether the thing carried [the object] is a carried thing because it is being carried [by the subject]”(10). In this case the thing is only carried because it is being carried.

Coinciding with this, an object is only “something changed because it is being changed [by the subject]” (10c). Alternatively, an object is “not being changed because it is something changed”(10c). What Socrates means here is that an object does not act on its subject, by way of meaning, the object does not have the inherent quality of being changed and so induces its subject to change it. The subjective does not follow from the objective in this sense. The pious is “being loved because it is pious” and for no other reason. This is the crucial point that Socrates is trying to make to Euthyphro.

Immediately following this exchange, Socrates poses the question: “And yet it [it being pious] is something loved and god-loved because it is being loved by the gods?”(10d). Socrates expands on his question by saying how the god-loved is not the same as the pious, nor is the pious the same as the god-loved. Here we can define god-loved as that which is loved by the gods. We have already established that the pious is being loved because it is pious, and is not pious because it is being loved. We can also say that the god-loved is “so because it is being loved by the gods […] it is not being loved because it is god-loved” (10e).

To conclude the argument, to be god-loved and to be pious are inherently different because “one [the god-loved] is such as to be loved because it is being loved, the other [piety] is being loved because it is such as to be loved” (11a).

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