Hypothetical Case Study: Walking in Euthyphro’s New Shoes
Imagine this. Euthyphro is not any longer a young religious trainee focused on piety, but he is a promising law student in Austin, Texas. In this case-study the moral dilemma has shifted from the religious to the secular morality.
Walking in Euthyphro’s New Shoes….
You are a son/daughter of a hard-working father who owns a big ranch in Texas, close to the Mexican border. The father is doing everything possible to help you to succeed and finish the prestige and expensive law school in Austin, Texas. There is only one semester left before you graduate and you have arrangements with the down-town law firm to begin as an apprentice so you can work towards passing the BAR exam. After your mother died two years ago, your father is doing everything possible not just to financially help you, but also to support you emotionally. He is your best friend, the person your deeply love and respect.
At Thanksgiving Day Holiday, you find your father distant and solemn. It seems as though something is deeply bothering him. You are puzzled what’s wrong. The next day your father calls you to speak with him and tells what has happened in month ago. He tells you that the fight broke-out between two workers who happen to be illegal immigrants. One who attached an immigrant worker without any warning was defeated fast and stubbed with the butterfly knife carried by the attacked worker secretively. The father explains that he usually avoids taking any workers like this, but that the crops would go to waste if it would not be picked on time, so he hired four illegal immigrants for a week, and he offered equal pay. Badly wounded illegal worker turned to be the attacker, and while the father tried to help him, the illegal worker who protected himself found a way to run and disappear. In a few minutes the attacker passed away and died. The father explained how terrible he feels about the case, but he couldn’t bring himself to call the police, so he decided to bury the man and give him the best respect. Only Sam, one of the two his close ranch managers witnessed the case and the burial was conducted by a long lasting family friend, the local preacher. The father suspected that Sam told Jeff, the other manager what happened at the ranch, the day when Jeff traveled to the three day visit to Huston with his family.
You are unsettled and shaken, struggling with affectionate sympathy for your father and principles relevant to the professional ethics of the law practice.
You ask “Do you trust your managers, father?” Your father is hesitant and says that manager Jeff has already asked him twice for a pay rise since the event, but he fears he might ask soon for more again.
You asked your father did he know who the person was who had died. The father is desperate, he says that he collected several belongings of the deceased, but he didn’t find any identification documents and he couldn’t find any further information.
At the end the father asks you for advice, “I know this situation may compromise your future if anybody ever reports or discovers the body, tell me son what to do, if you want me to, I am ready to report to the police, although I am getting old and would not like to spend any time in prison, this will kill me soon. I will follow your council.”
First time in your life you feel lost.
Discussion/Consciousness check: What would be your advice to the father?
1. Would you advise your father to report the death to the police? What charges would you father possibly face?
2. If the father decides not to report the case would you report him to the police?
3. What is your priority: to protect your father or follow the principles of professional ethics, the law? Which would you stand by: blood or law?
4. Does the law ever change?
5. What moral dilemmas does the son/daughter face?
6. One more step; You don’t say your father what to do and your father thinks the best is just to keep it quiet. What if manager Jeff decides to take the advantage of the situation, and he reports to the police what happened once when your father doesn’t give him more money; what would you tell to the authorities when they ask you did you know anything about what happened on the ranch?
7. If you studied Euthyphro, does the secular moral dilemma have less of the challenge than the dilemma presented in Plato’s original dialogue focusing on sacredness and piety?
Answer these questions sincerely and see where you stand. Can you live with your decisions? Do you feel you would have any regrets or you feel comfortable with your decisions? Would you change any of your decisions having another look at the circumstances you were caught in? Either way, the most important purpose of this heavy discourse is to “Know Thyself” and to follow the principles you can defend with rational argumentation and little bit of passion, which makes you who you are….
For the last question, see the summary of major arguments relevant to dialogue “Euthyphro”
Euthyphro, the original text, charges against the father:
“I am charging my father with murder, Socrates. One of my slaves in drunken fit killed a fellow slave. My father chained him to the culprit and left him in a ditch unattended for several days to wait the judgment of a priest (judge). But the cold, the hunger, and the chains killed him. So now I am charging my father with murder, against the ignorant wishes of my family who do not know what true holiness requires of a priest like me.”
Euthyphro: “Holiness is doing what I am doing: prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime—whether he is your father or mother, or whoever, it makes no difference—and not to prosecute them in unholiness.”
Socrates: “I was not asking you to give examples of holiness, Euthyphro, but to identify the characteristic which makes all holy thinks holy.” (Socrates wants definition of what is holiness)
Euthyphro: “Holiness is what is loved by the gods”
Socrates: “… there are many gods, and gods have disagreements.” (relativism of polytheistic culture)
Socrates: ‘…unjust should be punished, both men and gods generally agree, but disagree when comes to specific cases.” Is it just to press charges against your father who chained the slave who murdered another worker and sent for a priest and authorities to act and execute the punishment?
Socrates: “Do the gods love what is holy because it is holy or is it holy because they love it? Do all gods love holy, because is the absolute value of justice and goodness?
Euthyphro’s answer to Socrates: “…that holiness is serving the gods with acts they love.”
Socrates says that holiness is holy by achieving a good and pious deeds, not executing laws that might change from to the other place, or from one to the other point of view of gods.
Inspired by Plato’s dialogue
The traditional “Euthyphro” dilemma explained: