on good

In the Euthyphro, Socrates asks Euthyphro

Soc. And what is piety, and what is impiety?

Euth. Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime-whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be-that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others:-of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?-and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons, and that he too had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner. And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

and conversation proceeds thus

Soc. Remember that I did not ask you to give me two or three examples of piety, but to explain the general idea which makes all pious things to be pious. Do you not recollect that there was one idea which made the impious impious, and the pious pious?

Euth. I remember.

Soc. Tell me what is the nature of this idea, and then I shall have a standard to which I may look, and by which I may measure actions, whether yours or those of any one else, and then I shall be able to say that such and such an action is pious, such another impious.

Euth. I will tell you, if you like.

Soc. I should very much like.

Euth. Piety, then, is that which is dear to the gods, and impiety is that which is not dear to them.

then Socrates asks the now famous question

Soc. We shall know better, my good friend, in a little while. The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.

If you are wondering why I chose to bore you with this discussion, bear with me a little longer. A friend of this blog, wrote

Please Mr. Atheist don’t tell me you don’t have a religion so you don’t know what is good from bad. You’ve got to be kidding me! Faulty moral judgments don’t affect anything but us.

and so, naturally, I asked what is good? And in his final response, he writes

I have, to the best of my knowledge, defined “good.” Suppose that truth and justice prevails at all times, then the murder of a person or entity who is a significant threat to humanity or life itself is good.

I believe in pacifism but I also believe in eliminating evil, if reformation or neutralization fails.

And I am wondering why accuse the atheist of not knowing what good is when, as in this scenario, it seems that good is doing anything that enhances the life of the community regardless of what this thing really is.

I will admit, as Socrates readily does, that I want to be enlightened. I want to be told what good is. Introducing justice and truth only increases my ignorance for these terms are also problematic.

I ask whoever is knowledgeable to clear my ignorance and explain these terms.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

29 thoughts on “on good

  1. john zande says:

    It’s a merry-go-round in the sea, my friend… an apparition we see but fleetingly, before it shifts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “…. but I also believe in eliminating evil, if reformation or neutralization fails.” Is your friend, bay any chance, George W. Bush?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ladysighs says:

    Let the scales fall from your eyes and all will be made clear.


  4. Veracious Poet says:

    In Socrates’s famous question: “Whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods,” I can only say that in that era, there were benevolent gods and malevolent gods – in fact a pantheon. Thus a pious act cannot be beloved by a malevolent god and vice versa. All this is a product of society I think.

    The objective definition of such terms as “truth”, “justice” and “good” is as difficult as the definition of “God” or “gods” because this are concepts that make complete meaning only with contribution from internal sources – giving a gestalt effect. A god is something internal and it’s definition and influence goes beyond the threshold of consciousness.

    You will however notice that I never mentioned anything Judeo-Christain or Biblical because I am aware that, Moses, the founder of the religion of the Jews was a murderer. But he was vindicated against the backdrop of the horrendous treatment of the Jews by the Egyptians at the time.

    The last point which I want to make and which is probably the most important is that, I admit, human societies have not always propagated justice and truth and therefore have not reaped much good in objective terms.


  5. fojap says:

    “I ask whoever is knowledgeable to clear my ignorance and explain these terms.”

    You’re not nearly that modest. 🙂

    It’s a good question, though. I think Christians usually like the story about that guy who was told to kill his son as a sacrifice. The Greeks have a similar story about Iphegenia. Of course, in the second one, the gods don’t exactly “command” it.

    The fact that in a polytheistic world different gods may want different things adds an interesting complication that might accurately reflect the conflict among competing goods that people experience in the real world. I think for most of us, the question of morality is rarely a question of resisting a tempation to great evil, but more likely to be a conflict when two seemingly good options are both presented.


    • makagutu says:

      Ah dear, I thought my modesty came out so well in that statement.
      Competing gods would explain a lot of things happening around us. The Christians like that fellow who killed himself to save us, lest he punishes us in future


  6. All morality is arbitrary. It is what the prevailing culture, or individual persons, says it is. Morality and ethics change over time. What is now considered immoral, might have been perfectly acceptable in the past and vice versa.
    >>> “… it seems that good is doing anything that enhances the life of the community regardless of what this thing really is.”
    Even this statement, as reasonable as it appears, is flawed. Here’s a thought experiment to illustrate my point:
    You are given a time-machine that has only one purpose which can only be used one time. You can go back to April 20, 1889 and kill the infant Adolf Hitler. Should you choose to do this and accomplish the stated goal, you will be safely returned to the present day and will have prevented much of the atrocities of World War II. Should you go and fail, you will live out your life in the past.
    Can the murder of an infant child ever be considered moral even if the act benefits the larger society?
    Morality is a difficult and complex concept. That is why we struggle with it. That is also why religions have grown into large institutions – because they give people simple answers to challenging questions.
    But, morality isn’t simple. It’s really hard. The needs of the many must be weighed against the rights of the few. It is a careful balancing act.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. well, considering that the Judeo-Christian bible doesn’t have this god concerned with truth, or justice, I wonder where our TrueChristians(tm) get those ideas?


  8. vonleonhardt2 says:

    I really wonder if you mean to discuss justice, etc. as you take to knock judeochristian thought.
    They are a bit less ambiqious than the Greeks, justice for them means simply “set right” but it isn’t the ideal Philo tries to make it to them.

    I question though why morality is so keystone to either religious or atheist arguments… and wonder if its more part if the wider cultural ideal.

    I just doubt that if everyone was “perfectly” moral that many problems would be resolved, and if morality is not itself an idol/god/etc.


    • makagutu says:

      I, for the life of me, don’t understand what you are trying to say. I have asked for an explanation on the nature of good. How do I know a thing is good? Justice and truth are for another day but you can always provide an answer if you have


  9. vonleonhardt2 says:

    *Tend too


  10. basenjibrian says:

    It’s stunning, isn’t it, that we have been asking, as human beings, the same questions for thousands of years. I’m not sure that when it comes to the fundamental questions modern man has done much better than the best of the Greeks!


  11. emmylgant says:

    It is getting increasingly difficult to remain tolerant towards folks who want to ram their religious thoughts down our throats. Echoes of historical butcheries dressed up as holy acts, while covering up, not a love of mankind, but greed and a love of a hateful and bloodthirsty imagined god continues to rip us apart….
    Congratulations goddites.


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