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Euthyphronic Refrains in Socrates' Cross-Examination of Meletus

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The International Journal of the Humanities

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Plato’s Euthyphro and Apology are tied together through the chronological proximity of the events in each and, through the attention they both give to the discussion of piety, in terms of subject matter. The Euthyphro also constitutes a preface to the Apology in a more substantive and philosophical sense, however. At Euthyphro 11e-14a Socrates momentarily abandons the role of pupil and assumes leadership in the discussion, nudging Euthyphro towards the conclusion that piety is the part of justice concerned with serving the gods. But as the oracle story in the Apology bears out (21a-23b), Socrates fulfills the demands of this "definition" and is thus, at least by his own lights, pious. Beyond this, relatively little study has been devoted to the impact or influence of the Euthyphro on the conduct of Socrates' defense. The presumption seems to be that since the Euthyphro ends in aporia without the full nature of the pious and the impious coming to light, Socrates learned nothing of forensic use from the discussion. I shall argue to the contrary that the connections between the Euthyphro and the Apology are tighter than has been previously realized and that themes developed in the Euthyphro resonate throughout Socrates' cross-examination of Meletus. I highlight three ways that this is true specifically. First, the texts suggest important and extensive parallels between the persons of Euthyphro and Meletus. Second, Socrates' strategy in confronting Meletus was clearly proposed by Euthyphro. And finally, in cross-examining Meletus Socrates implicitly traverses much of the ground covered in his discussion with Euthyphro, utilizing several of Euthyphro's definitions of piety and his own earlier responses to them in an effort to make the talk in court center on his chief accuser.



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