Euthyphro, we're pretty sure, was a real guy. He's mentioned in another dialog, The Cratylus, in which the Great Euthyphro is described as a self styled expert on etymologies. He finds meaning and insight in the names of divine beings. So lets take a page from Euthyphro's book. Euthu means straight. Who do you go to to straighten your wonky teeth? The orthodontist. Ortho straight, dentalist teeth. Who has straight beliefs? Someone who is orthodox. Doxa is belief. Phron relates to wisdom in the sense of good judgement. So Euthyphro's name means something like straight judge or right thinker. Very ironic, given what an unorthodox guy he is. It isn't just his family that thinks he's acting outrageously, I'm sure his neighbors think he's one weird dude. And yet, as he says, he's thinking straight. He's the only one who's thinking straight. Consider an analogy. Confucius offers us a very similar case in the Analects. A man known as straight body or upright kung, depending on your translation, gives evidence against his father, who stole a sheep. Now that's uprightness, you might say. That's being a straight arrow. Confucius says otherwise. Where he comes from, so he says, sons cover up for fathers and fathers cover up for sons. And that is straightness, too. Plato and Confucius have both arrived at the conclusion that this is an important kind of case. Confucius is pretty clear that the son is in the wrong. What about Plato? Plato seems to portray Euthyphro as an idiot, which isn't a good sign, but Plato portrays everyone as an idiot except Socrates. Speaking of the devil, Socrates acts extremely surprised at what Euthyphro is doing. Zeus, surely you would only prosecute your dear old dad if he'd killed another family member, not a stranger. But who knows about Socrates. He's a tricky one. He doesn't always mean what he says. Let me put off saying what I think Plato and Socrates really think about straight guy Euthyphro and his bad dad. Let's start with this. What is the common denominator of a stolen sheep and a dead guy in a ditch? Obviously we're going to have to abstract a way up apart from all the bloody woolly details to something more general, abstract. Here we go. Something general. Suppose you meet a crazy person. How do you know he's crazy, you ask, huh? Fair question. You know he's crazy because he's got a moral theory that boils down to this. One, in any dispute side with anyone who is within ten meters of you. Two, if no one is within ten meters of you, side with anyone within 20 meters of you. Three, take no sides in disputes involving parties, all of whom are at least 30 meters from you. That's it. That's the whole theory. There are at least three problems with this theory. You've probably spotted at least a couple of them already yourself. One, it is incomplete. I'll leave the proof of that to you, but if you tried to write an Agony Aunt advice column based entirely on this moral theory, there would be a lot of unanswered questions. Two, it is inconsistent. Suppose two people are fighting next to me. Am I supposed to take both sides? Three, it's complete crazy. It's that last straw, the complete craziness of everything about it, that breaks the camels back. This view is crazy because, what can you say? Everything about it is crazy. Okay, we can do better about explaining than that. This person, this hypothetical crazy person is fixated on things that can't possibly be morally significant. The other problems are just symptoms of the basic disease, ten meters, 20 meters. Who cares? So nothing makes sense and yet, and yet. You probably see where I'm going with this. This crazy person is you, at least analogous to you. The diagram you see there pretty much says it. There's you at the center, When life gets rough, or complicated you stick with your own. You side with your family against strangers. And when Mars attacks, all of humanity will stand together. Probably with a little help from Will Smith to fight aliens. The Greeks would have agreed. Maybe at the end of the film someone can kick the aliens off the planet while screaming, for Earth! You shouldn't believe everything Hollywood tells you about the ancient Greeks, by the way. But it's true. Greeks felt Persians were other, or alien. You know who else would've agreed with my little circle scheme? The Romans. There's a book I'm reading. It's called Romans and Aliens. Even if you haven't seen Cowboys and Aliens, you can probably guess, right? No seriously. It's about how the Romans think about the relationship between Romans and non Romans. And obviously the answer is, Romans think Romans should stick together against non Romans. And the reason is. No matter who you are, you have a duty to stick with the Romans? No, that's not it. Romans are good, non Romans are bad? That's sort of it. To hear the Romans tell it. But did the Romans really believe that? I haven't gotten to the end of the book yet, but from what I've read I am not going to get a satisfactory, rational justification of treating people very differently in the way the Romans tended to, just on the basis of whether they happen to be Roman or not. It's a bottom rather arbitrary why one persons a citizen, or a member of an ethnic group another isn't, that's pretty simple. How did they spin an entire book out of it? Here's a better question for you, how do humans always spin whole worlds out of these arbitrary lines that they draw in the sand of life? Life is full of circles. I shouldn't always be using violent war metaphors as if every circle were a circle of shields with spears pointing outward. That's vivid, but hardly typical. Family, friends, nation, partnership, race, economic class, religion, tribe, clan, club, party, neighborhood, team, association, school, I could go on. To a great extent we organize our lives around all sorts of circles if you see you see what I mean. That is, we think the way Euthyphro's family thinks we should think. We stick with our own. With family for a broad value of family, family values. It's not all about feeling negative toward others, please note. Maybe to an even greater extent, it's about excess of positive feeling towards your own. Up to a point, it feels like it makes sense. We can impose a certain concentric logic, who's nearer to me than, and who's farther away? But then, inevitably, things get confusing. Life Life is confusing. I'm not going to bother to explain how that goes, because I already gave you as a homework assignment, really. 50% of Agont Aunt, Dear So and So, what should I do questions, are questions about what to do when the circles don't line up in a neat, concentric way. And please note, the inner circle is me. We talk about owing things to those in our circles, friends, family, country. We also talk about owing ourselves things. I owe it to myself to not let my friends take advantage of my generous nature. The philosophy of me first is known as egoism. We'll get a bellyful of that from Thrasymachus when we get to Republic, so I won't try to fill your brains with that now. Too much. But obviously, one of the main types of ethical dilemmas that people regularly face is, how selfish can I be without being a jerk to those around me to whom I feel I owe something, because they're part of some circle I belong to? So how do you solve this kind of problem? Well, you think about how the circle thing makes sense generally, and then you make sense of specific circle questions. The problem is the more you look, the more it looks rather arbitrary. What do I mean by that? Arbitrary? I'm loyal to my friend, what's arbitrary about that? Being friendly to friends makes sense. It's right there in the word. In a sense, this is probably right. But in another sense, it's arbitrary. If you hadn't made friends with that person, it would have been someone else. And then, you would have been loyal to them instead. If you hadn't been born in one country, you would have been born somewhere else. If you'd had a different dad, you would have been giving a totally different person that world's greatest dad drinking cup for his birthday. Every good kid thinks their dad is the greatest dad, and that's great. Maybe. But looking at that cup is more confusing than helpful if you start to suspect that your dad is kind of a bad dad. Alright, so what's the alternative to thinking in circles? I suppose it must be thinking straight. Euthyphronesis, now whose name suggests that they would be good at that? Hey Euthyphro. You are needed. Socrates says he's sure Euthyphro would only be prosecuting dad for killing a relative, and is surprised to hear he's prosecuting on behalf of a stranger. Euthyphro replies. It is ridiculous, Socrates, that you think it makes a difference whether the victim is a stranger or a relative. End of quote. I mentioned earlier that some people react negatively to Euthyphro, the guy. And some react positively. Those who react positively almost certainly do so because of this one line I just read, which is like a knife cutting through a lot of nonsense about circles. Euthyphro is advocating impartiality in questions like murder. And that totally makes sense. The great Greek orator Demosthenes writes, what should we all pray for? What is the most serious goal of the law? His answer, that people may not kill one another. Not that people I happen to know may not be killed, not that no-one should kill me. The goal of the law is impersonal. Because the goal of the law, is justice. Why is justice blind? You are aware that I take it, that she is represented traditionally, as a blind woman with a sword and a scale. That doesn't look very safe Does it? So she better have a good reason for being equipped in such a crazy way. And she does. Justice has to be blind. Not to the relevant facts of the case, but to the irrelevant ones. And there are so many irrelevant facts in any given case. She doesn't see my father, my mother, my friend, my countryman, that guy I owe something She sees only one who has killed another, for example. And then the only question she wants to answer is, justly or unjustly? So what's justice? Well that's republic. We aren't there yet. But see if this sounds good. Justice is not a family portrait of my family. It's a picture of everyone but in which everyone appears to be kind of no-one in particular. You get how the metaphor of the grid works? That little picture you see there. Everyone is there in those little boxes, be they family or stranger. The lines can be projected infinitely far out. So that even people who live far away are equally boxed in, and thereby protected. Because the lines of projection are lines of protection, symbolizing sensible thoughts like, hey, nobody kill anybody. Any problems with this? Here's a rebuttal. Just because some circle views are crazy doesn't mean all of them are. Maybe viewing everyone as no-one in particular is justice, but it ain't ethics. Ethics is a matter of your real ties to other people, even if, from a certain point of view, those ties are accidental. Treating your parents, or children, or friends as if they're all equal, no different from a stranger, would be morally monstrous. You aren't no-one in particular, you're you. So we have a dilemma. We want children to be partial to parents. That's why it seema so very weird that Euthyphro is prosecuting dad. We want judges to be impartial to those who stand before them. If Euthyphro were a city official judging his father's case, and he didn't know his father none of this weird stuff he says would be weird in the least. How do you combine circle thinking with straight thinking? So the system doesn't just crash illogically as it seems to be doing in this case. This question, this puzzle is the common denominator of a stolen sheep and a dead guy in a ditch. That's what Plato and Confucius are both interested in here. Earlier I said 50% of Agony Aunt what should I do questions are about cases in which are circles are all messed up. Probably about 40% more of them are cases is in which the circles are tidy enough but the whole thing is overlaid by a kind of rid of impersonal duty, don't kill, don't steal, in general don't harm the innocent, that's a really important rule. How do we think about cases in which following basic rules like that means we have to turn a blind eye to our circles? One last note before closing out this video. I've taught Euthyphro a lot, giving lectures very like this one. I go on about circles and straight lines. I show them my little cartoons. I've recycled them over and over. And then I assign paper topics and students write me papers, in which they use phrases like because of the circle thing. Or, the grid makes more sense. But here's the thing, I have no idea what any of that means. My visual cartooning is not a theory, much less an algorithm that you might program into a computer to solve agony aunt type problems. It's more like a placeholder for an unknown theory, a sign that we need a theory to the unknown theory. So obviously, we need to look up holiness in the dictionary, right? Am I right or am I right? That's gotta be the answer, right? The dictionary. Our theory No, no, no, you crazy philosopher. What makes you think asking about the meaning of holiness would help with this kind of stuff? I guess I’d better make another video to explain.