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Philosophy Exemplified: Western & Jewish Perspectives on Plato’s Euthyphro

In Plato’s Euthyphro, we encounter Socrates and his spirit in all its richness. Even though Socrates is off to court to defend himself against serious charges—charges which eventually result in his death—he still takes time to engage in philosophy with Euthyphro. Euthyphro is a young man who is certain that he knows the ways of the gods and that he knows what makes for pious and impious actions. Socrates, the great philosopher, does not claim to know—but wants to know—the truth. In their exchange, Plato provides his reader an introduction to the examined life and a moral challenge about truth-seeking.

In this dialogue, Plato provides us with a fascinating and difficult question: does the divine love the pious because it is good in itself, or does the divinity’s love constitute what is pious? Put another way, does the divine make or obey moral law?

This seminar will examine the ethical and philosophical issues the text raises, and we will consider a variety of Jewish responses to Plato’s great challenge.