The Examined Life is a rotating column. Contributors share ideas or observations about society, whether local or broad.
by Richard Miller
Iwas thirteen years old when I met Socrates. My parents had taken me with them to visit friends of theirs, a childless couple whose decor included a collection of green faux leather-covered “Great Books.” Unoccupied, I pulled volume one from the shelf.
I met Socrates chatting with a fellow named Euthyphro. They were in front of the courthouse: Socrates to defend himself against charges of corrupting the youth, Euthyphro as plaintiff in his own case. The Euthyphro, the first of the four-part dialogue on Socrates’ trial and death, is a conversation on right and wrong.
Euthyphro came from his father’s farm where two of the workers got into a drunken brawl. The aggressor, badly wounded in the process, killed his victim. Euthyphro’s father tied the man up until authorities in town could be notified.
The murderer, however, died before help arrived. Euthyphro, a self-proclaimed religious expert, tells Socrates that if his father had taken better care of the assailant, he might have survived. And that is why Euthyphro is at the courthouse: to charge his father with murder.
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Euthyphro’s family is appalled at his actions; surely a son ought to have more loyalty than this! They think the father did nothing wrong and that Euthyphro should not press charges.
But Euthyphro is adamant. He knows the difference between right and wrong. He knows it is his duty to prosecute the wrongdoer. He is right and everyone else is wrong. (more…)