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Book Reviews Plato's Euthyphro and the Earlier Theory o/ Forms. By R. E. Allen. (New York: Humanities Press, 1970, pp. xi+ 171. $7.50) The Euthyphro has always been of special interest to scholars and students of the Platonic writings. Short and apparently simple in structure and argument, it nonetheless touches on important philosophical issues that are still relevant. Of equal importance is the fact that it gives us a vivid portrait of Socrates at work, practicing dialectic in his search for a definition of piety. And since the definition sought is supposedly a definition of a Form, the Euthyphro has been the battleground of interpretations for those who have tried and are trying to find the origin of the theory of Forms or to separate Plato's contributions to the theory from those of Socrates. As Allen says, It [the Euthyphro] gives as clear a picture as we have of Socratic dialectic in operation, and of the connection of that dialectic with Plato's earlier Forms. It also gives a clear picture of one (one) aspect of Greek religion. If these are primarily historical considerations, there is a reason for studying the dialogue which is merely human. The Euthyphro is the portrait of an extraordinary mind at work on issues which, though now differently phrased, have not become irrelevant. (p. ix) It is most appropriate therefore that Alien divides this volume in two parts: (I) A translation of the Euthyphro with dispersed commentary; and (II) A discussion of the Earlier Theory of Forms. My discussion of the book will follow the same order. I. Allen's translation is on the whole accurate and, although not literal, it remains close enough to the text that it conveys its conversational character. The translation is, most of the time, sensitive to philosophical terms and nuances and this makes it in many places superior to most of the existing translations. There are, however, a few passages, some more important than others for our interpretation of the dialogue, where Allen's translation is questionable. I will discuss here some of these passages. Allen translates vo~tf~etv at 3a, 5b, and 6a as "worship." The justification for this is given on p. 62 where he attemps to square the statement of the charge against Socrates given at Apology 24b with the statements made in the Euthyphro: The verb here translated 'acknowledge', vo~ti~etv, is connected with vo~t6g, a noun which meant both custom and law; as Burnet points out, the charge was one of non-conformity in religious practice, not of unorthodoxy in religious belief, t 1 Allen perhaps wants to say that vo~i~etv is connected with v6~tog and not vo~t6g. The former does mean both custom and law. The latter though, according to LS, means "place of pasturage, herbage, pasture, habitation, etc." But the etymology of vo~tf~tv, for whatever it is worth, is, according to LS, from the latter (vola6g). [354] BOOK REVIEWS 355 There seems to be a confusion here. We should leave the historical question--What was the charge against Socrates?--and Burnet's speculations aside, for our problem is really how to translate Plato's words. And as Allen himself hastens to add, His [Socrates'] religious attitudes and observance appear to have been both conventional and sincere; Xenophon, in his defense of Socrates, particularly stressed the point and Plato exhibits it often without describing it. (p. 62) Why then translate vokt[~etv as "worship" and present it as if Plato is saying that the charge was one of nonconformity in religious practice? At Apology 26c, where Socrates explains what the charge against him really means, he uses vo~ti~etv with the infinitive e~vat (to be)--vol.ti~etv eTvct~ xtvctg ~eo6g--and therefore it cannot be rendered as "worship." Even if we render vol.t[~etv as "acknowledge," what Socrates does not acknowledge here is the existence or being (~tvat) of (some) gods--that is, the question is about the beliefs of Socrates. Now vo~t[~etv in the Euthyphro is not used with the infinitive "to be." Plato however uses it often without the infinitive and means "to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 354-358
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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