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Guide to Reading Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito
by John Porter, University of Saskatchewan

Notice: This material is the copyrighted property of the author and should not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Suggested Background Reading

You already have a good general knowledge of the problem of Plato's Socrates from the background material on Clouds. In reading Plato we will be interested in his Socrates' methods of argumentation, his goals in practicing philosophy, and Plato's answer to the question of why Socrates was condemned to death by an Athenian jury in 399.

Begin by reading the Euthyphro, with Tarrant's introduction. Focus on Socrates' methods of argumentation and his purpose in grilling Euthyphro as he does. Consider the following questions:

How might Socrates' approach have annoyed people?

What features of his approach might have led the general populace to consider him a sophist? Is he a sophist, as Plato presents him?

There is some doubt as to whether Euthyphro is a historical individual (see fn. 13 in your translation): why would Plato cast such a person as Socrates' interlocutor in a dialogue on the subject of holiness, set just as his famous trial on the charge of impiety is about to open?

What requirements must a definition of holiness meet, according to Socrates?

Why is Socrates so concerned with definitions? (Review the discussion of the Socratic paradoxes in the unit on Euripides.)

What is the end result of the dialogue — where does it lead?

Next read the Apology, with Tarrant's introduction.

It can be argued that Plato here provides another convincing indication of the way in which the uninformed might have mistaken Socrates for a sophist. How is this so? What in Socrates' speech sets him apart from the sophists?

Be prepared to discuss the nature of Socrates' "mission" (as he describes it) and its implications, in light of what you have seen in the Euthyphro.

Now read the Crito, with Tarrant's introduction.

How does Socrates view the relation between the individual and the state?

What are Socrates' views regarding the nature of law? How does this relate to the views of the sophists?

Can you see any contradiction between Socrates' view of law here and the position he adopted in the Apology? How might this contradiction be resolved (or, at least, justified)?

In what ways does the Crito serve to vindicate Socrates of the charges on which he was condemned?

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