Colloquium 3 Why the Gods Love what is Holy: Euthyphro 10–11

Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 31 (1):95-112 (2016)
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Abstract

In Plato’s Euthyphro, an early response to Socrates’ question, What is holiness? defines holiness as what is loved by all the gods. Socrates responds to this proposed definition with an argument that is often misunderstood. English translations, in particular, finding it difficult to represent the argument’s distinction between finite passive constructions—‘x is loved’—and passive participial constructions—‘x is beloved’—represent the argument instead as concerned with a distinction between active and passive constructions. In this essay, I give a correct analysis of the argument, using the relation of ‘x is employed’ and ‘x is an employee’ to illustrate the relation between finite passives and passive participles. Abrams is an employee because she’s employed; it’s not the case that she’s employed because she’s an employee. In the same way, someone is beloved because he’s loved; it’s not that he’s loved because he’s beloved. It’s easy then to see how Plato’s argument follows, and easy to see what Plato intends its limits to reveal.

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Aryeh Kosman
Last affiliation: Haverford College

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