Topic of the dialogue Stated objective: to define piety Real topic: general nature of moral responsibility
Proposed definitions Prosecuting a wrongdoer, whoever it might be Doing what is dear to (pleases) the gods Doing what is loved by all the gods. Excellence in care of the gods
1st def: prosecuting a wrongdoer An example, not a definition Need examples to arrive at definitions But this example not helpful
2nd def: what is dear to the gods What is dear to some gods is not dear to others Piety is not well defined in these cases Hence no basis for resolving disagreement
Requirement of objectivity In stating what would justify a moral claim, we must provide criteria that would lead everyone to the same answer.
3rd def: what is loved by all the gods Call an action god-beloved if it is loved by all the gods. Then the third definition says that piety and god-belovedness are the same.
Argument against 3rd def: 1. An action is god-beloved only because the gods love it; they do not love it because it is god-beloved. 2. But an action is not pious because the gods love it; rather, they love it because it is pious. 3. Hence, piety and god-belovedness cannot be the same.
Divine command theory of morality States that basic moral standards derive their validity from the will of God. “x is wrong” means “God forbids x,” and “x is good” means “God approves of x.” Implies there is no morality if God does not exist Not the same as the claim that we ought to do what God commands
Strengths of divine command theory Explains felt contrast between morality and science Explains why morality seems similar to law Has a chance of making morality objective
Critique of divine command theory Counterintuitive implications Rules out many reasons for obeying God’s commands – God’s knowledge of what we ought to do – God’s authority over us. – Gratitude for God’s beneficence Seems to leave only fear of God’s power as such a reason
4th def: care of the gods What is involved? sacrifice and prayer giving to and begging from the gods trading with the gods doing what pleases the gods. Thus we are in a circle A shift in direction occurs here
Socrates’s challenge Reflectively examine your way of life Don’t just rely on custom or authority Seek a justification that you and others can reasonably accept In the Apology Socrates accepts this challenge for himself