SOCRATES: Tell me then, oh tell me — what is that fair work which the gods do by the help of our ministrations?
EUTHYPHRO: Many and fair, Socrates, are the works which they do.
SOCRATES: Why, my friend, and so are those of a general. But the chief of them is easily told. Would you not say that victory in war is the chief of them?
SOCRATES: Many and fair, too, are the works of the husbandman, if I am not mistaken; but his chief work is the production of food from the earth?
SOCRATES: And of the many and fair things done by the gods, which is the chief or principal one?
EUTHYPHRO: I have told you already, Socrates, that to learn all these things accurately will be very tiresome. Let me simply say that piety or holiness is learning how to please the gods in word and deed, by prayers and sacrifices. Such piety is the salvation of families and states, just as the impious, which is unpleasing to the gods, is their ruin and destruction.
SOCRATES: I think that you could have answered in much fewer words the chief question which I asked, Euthyphro, if you had chosen. But I see plainly that you are not disposed to instruct me — clearly not: else why, when we reached the point, did you turn aside? Had you only answered me I should have truly learned of you by this time the nature of piety. Now, as the asker of a question is necessarily dependent on the answerer, whither he leads I must follow; and can only ask again, what is the pious, and what is piety? Do you mean that they are a sort of science of praying and sacrificing?
EUTHYPHRO: Yes, I do.
SOCRATES: And sacrificing is giving to the gods, and prayer is asking of the gods?
EUTHYPHRO: Yes, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Upon this view, then, piety is a science of asking and giving?
EUTHYPHRO: You understand me capitally, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Yes, my friend; the reason is that I am a votary of your science, and give my mind to it, and therefore nothing which you say will be thrown away upon me. Please then to tell me, what is the nature of this service to the gods? Do you mean that we prefer requests and give gifts to them?
EUTHYPHRO: Yes, I do.
SOCRATES: Is not the right way of asking to ask of them what we want?
SOCRATES: And the right way of giving is to give to them in return what they want of us. There would be no meaning in an art which gives to any one that which he does not want.
EUTHYPHRO: Very true, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then piety, Euthyphro, is an art which gods and men have of doing business with one another?
EUTHYPHRO: That is an expression which you may use, if you like.
SOCRATES: But I have no particular liking for anything but the truth. I wish, however, that you would tell me what benefit accrues to the gods from our gifts. There is no doubt about what they give to us; for there is no good thing which they do not give; but how we can give any good thing to them in return is far from being equally clear. If they give everything and we give nothing, that must be an affair of business in which we have very greatly the advantage of them.
EUTHYPHRO: And do you imagine, Socrates, that any benefit accrues to the gods from our gifts?
SOCRATES: But if not, Euthyphro, what is the meaning of gifts which are conferred by us upon the gods?
EUTHYPHRO: What else, but tributes of honour; and, as I was just now saying, what pleases them?
SOCRATES: Piety, then, is pleasing to the gods, but not beneficial or dear to them?
EUTHYPHRO: I should say that nothing could be dearer.
SOCRATES: Then once more the assertion is repeated that piety is dear to the gods?
SOCRATES: And when you say this, can you wonder at your words not standing firm, but walking away? Will you accuse me of being the Daedalus who makes them walk away, not perceiving that there is another and far greater artist than Daedalus who makes them go round in a circle, and he is yourself; for the argument, as you will perceive, comes round to the same point. Were we not saying that the holy or pious was not the same with that which is loved of the gods? Have you forgotten?
EUTHYPHRO: I quite remember.
SOCRATES: And are you not saying that what is loved of the gods is holy; and is not this the same as what is dear to them — do you see?
SOCRATES: Then either we were wrong in our former assertion; or, if we were right then, we are wrong now.
EUTHYPHRO: One of the two must be true.
SOCRATES: Then we must begin again and ask, What is piety? That is an enquiry which I shall never be weary of pursuing as far as in me lies; and I entreat you not to scorn me, but to apply your mind to the utmost, and tell me the truth. For, if any man knows, you are he; and therefore I must detain you, like Proteus, until you tell. If you had not certainly known the nature of piety and impiety, I am confident that you would never, on behalf of a serf, have charged your aged father with murder. You would not have run such a risk of doing wrong in the sight of the gods, and you would have had too much respect for the opinions of men. I am sure, therefore, that you know the nature of piety and impiety. Speak out then, my dear Euthyphro, and do not hide your knowledge.
EUTHYPHRO: Another time, Socrates; for I am in a hurry, and must go now.
SOCRATES: Alas! my companion, and will you leave me in despair? I was hoping that you would instruct me in the nature of piety and impiety; and then I might have cleared myself of Meletus and his indictment. I would have told him that I had been enlightened by Euthyphro, and had given up rash innovations and speculations, in which I indulged only through ignorance, and that now I am about to lead a better life.