The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Nov 14, 2013
7205 Dwinelle, 5–7 PM
Working Group in Ancient Philosophy
Katja Vogt (Columbia University)
Disagreement in Plato’s Euthyphro

Plato’s Euthyphro has long been recognized as a contribution to the metaphysics of value. Scholarship tends to focus on a short section, 10a-11b. As I argue, this section is not comprehensible if read in isolation. Rather, it must be read as one step in a larger argument. The dialogue begins with an analysis of value disagreement. One upshot of this analysis is that, when people (and gods) approve or disapprove of actions, they refer to the good, just, and noble, not, as scholars often assume, to the pious. If this premise is in place, 10a-11b appears in a different light. The Euthyphro, I propose, aims to understand the difference between attitude-independent values like good on the one hand, and attitude-dependent values like pious on the other hand. My reading of the dialogue calls into question a long-standing agreement among interpreters, namely that Plato takes the pious to be attitude-independent. As I show, this is altogether implausible, both with respect to any ordinary notion of piety––which involves relations and attitudes––and with respect to the text. On my reading, the dialogue is more Socratic than it is standardly taken to be. It identifies the good as attitude-independent, and as the crucial topic for ethicists to understand. And it emphasizes that the good is the kind of value people disagree about. The Euthyphro lays out a research project, one that is to be undertaken rather than already accomplished: how to account for the nature of the good, given pervasive and persistent disagreement and the lack of a ‘standard’ or ‘measure’ to resolve it.