Does Socrates fear Euthyphro?


In Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates in dialogue with Euthyphro is asked to clarify his questions "is all which is just pious? or, is that which is pious all just" and attempts to clarify his wording by using reverence as an example.

Immediately after Euthyphro states his lack of understanding of the piety statements, Socrates remarks "as I was saying, revered friend, the abundance of your wisdom makes you lazy." Later, Socrates claims in agreement with Euthyphro, "But where reverence is, there is fear."

With these two comments in mind, could we infer that Socrates fears Euthyphro? If so, what characteristic might Euthyphro possess which Socrates could be afraid of? Is Socrate's choice of "revered friend" at all related to his later statement?

Here is the complete passage:

Soc. And yet I know that you are as much wiser than I am, as you are younger. But, as I was saying, revered friend, the abundance of your wisdom makes you lazy. Please to exert yourself, for there is no real difficulty in understanding me. What I mean I may explain by an illustration of what I do not mean. The poet (Stasinus) sings-

Of Zeus, the author and creator of all these things, You will not tell: for where there is fear there is also reverence. Now I disagree with this poet. Shall I tell you in what respect?

Euth. By all means.

Soc. I should not say that where there is fear there is also reverence; for I am sure that many persons fear poverty and disease, and the like evils, but I do not perceive that they reverence the objects of their fear.

Euth. Very true.

Soc. But where reverence is, there is fear; for he who has a feeling of reverence and shame about the commission of any action, fears and is afraid of an ill reputation.

Euth. No doubt.

Jowett's Translation

Alex L

Posted 2017-08-16T20:23:52.213

Reputation: 143

3My reading of Euthyphro is that Socrates is terribly sarcastic. He does not actually think of Euthyphro as his revered friend. But I'm not sure how to prove that, or this would be an answer instead of a comment. – Canyon – 2017-08-16T21:02:51.687

doesn't he just mean that the pious are afraid of the gods? i'd assume so, unless you can show that the socratic dialogue with Euthyphro didn't work out. – None – 2017-08-17T11:40:42.710

my mistake, but looks like the dilemma i meant is whether piety is so as beloved by the gods, or vice versa. anyway, i think you're over interpreting that passage, as it stands, as it could simply be an inference (away from laziness) – None – 2017-08-17T11:52:20.130

sorry for the awful comments. dyt that Socrates frightens Euthyphro? i'd guess so. – None – 2017-08-17T12:10:37.093

1In concordance with what Canyon said, almost all critical readings of the Euthyphro dialog point to Socrates being incredibly sarcastic and patronizing, which in turn becomes humorous because Euthyphro doesn't realize he's being condescended to. It is very hard to tell, especially in a 2000 year old story, if someone is being sarcastic or not, but it seems to be safe to assume so given Socrates' general disdain for traditional Hellenistic religion. Remember how sarcastic Plato writes him to be at the end of the Apologia and how that sarcasm drives home his pointing out of their unjustness. – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T19:14:39.657

1This dialog is also one of the flagship examples of Socratic irony which is, of course, Socrates pretending to be ignorant and asking a supposed learned person to explain something to him, only to eventually in turn point out how the learned person is actually ignorant of the subject matter and Socrates is actually the wiser. So no, given the orthodox and canonical interpretations of the dialog, Socrates is not afraid of Euthyphro. – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T19:20:00.743

@Not_Here may i ask politely your opinion on my comments what i felt was bang on – None – 2017-08-19T19:24:50.523

1@user3293056 Which comment? I'm not sure I agree that the OP is over interpreting the passage, I think that they were interpreting in the wrong direction and ignoring/forgetting the sharp sarcasm that Plato writes into Socrates. Maybe their focus on whether or not the double use of "reverence" is important is over interpreting, I can see that. But I still think the major issue is missing the patronizing that Socrates is doing. – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T19:42:40.307

@Not_Here hm well i am sympathetic, yet really the obvious thing they're missing is textual -- that lazy people are not afraid -- no? though i like the question, for reasons of nietzsche! – None – 2017-08-19T19:53:18.160

@user3293056 I mean, I don't know how you would substantiate that as a universal claim, I would be incredibly surprised if there is not and has never been a single person who is both lazy and afraid. It seems to me that the OP is asking the question "Socrates says he reveres Euthyphro and then right after says that where there is reverence there is fear. Does that mean he fears Euthyphro?" and I think the correct response to that is "no he doesn't because he is being sarcastic and patronizing to Euthyphro." I don't think it goes anywhere beyond that, Nietzsche included. – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T20:03:45.903

@Not_Here that's conservative, so what would i care? vigilance – None – 2017-08-19T20:35:27.267



You said "With these two comments in mind, could we infer that Socrates fears Euthyphro?"

By just taking two comments from such a large conversation, you are going to conclude somethings which may be true (based on just these 2 comments) but pointless/worthless.

By the way, I have the conversation in ancient Greeks language ( and your posted translated dialogue has a different meaning (compared to the actual conversation)!

Please note that the "revered friend" is just a common greek expression. It has no particular meaning in the sentence.

Giannos Antoniou

Posted 2017-08-16T20:23:52.213

Reputation: 194

interesting reply. i'm reminded of reading the cantos of ezra pound, which famously involves keeping hundreds of pages of fragments, in mind, if you are to understand any one – None – 2017-08-17T11:42:57.360

Thank you for the insight! I knew I was taking a risk by narrowing my scope to those two comments. I found the coincidence of using reverence as an example in this case difficult to turn away from. – Alex L – 2017-08-17T19:10:59.733


Notice what kind of fear is referred to, in the passage that you quoted.

Soc. But where reverence is, there is fear; for he who has a feeling of reverence and shame about the commission of any action, fears and is afraid of an ill reputation.

Socrates does not talk here about fear from personal harm, as when one fears that the gods will strike or punish her. Not at all. Socrates talks here about a fear from shame, and about a fear from ill reputation, in the eyes of the gods. That is, because the pious person admires the gods as unusually wise and virtous, she is afraid to disappoint them, to lose face in front of them, for not being virtuous enough.

The same could very well have applied to Socrates's regard for Euthyphro. Supposing Socrates was sincere in calling Euthyphro a "revered friend", it is implied that Socrates would not want to disappoint Euthyphro, to lose his appreciation. This could well be, then, the sense in which Socrates feared (about) Euthyphro: a fear from being devalued, from not being respected by Euthyphro, for not being virtuous enough.

Ram Tobolski

Posted 2017-08-16T20:23:52.213

Reputation: 6 968