In the Cratylus Hermogenes addresses Socrates: ‘Our friend Cratylus has been arguing about names; he says that they are natural and not conventional; not a portion of the human voice which men agree to use (Kratulos phȇsin hode, ȏ Sȏkrates, onomatos orthotȇta einai hekastȏi tȏn ontȏn physei pephukuian, kai ou touto einai onoma ho an tines suntithemenoi kalein kalȏsi, tȇs autȏn phȏnȇs morion epiphthengomenoi, 383a4-7; all translations in this entry are Jowett’s).’ When after some discussion Socrates says that ‘Cratylus is right in saying (Kratulus alȇthȇ legei legȏn) that things have names by nature (phusei ta onomata einai tois pragmasi, 390d9-e1)’, Hermogenes says: ‘I cannot see how to answer your arguments, Socrates (Ouk echȏ, ȏ Sȏkrates, hopȏs chrȇ pros ha legeis enantiousthai) but I find a difficulty in changing my opinion all in a moment (isȏs mentoi ou raidion estin houtȏs exaiphnȇs peisthȇnai), and I think that I should be more readily persuaded (alla dokȏ moi hȏde an mallon pithesthai soi), if you would show me (ei moi deixeias) what this is which you term the natural fitness of names (hȇntina phȇis einai tȇn phusei orthotȇta onomatos).’ – Socrates: ‘My good Hermogenes, I have none to show (Egȏ men, ȏ makarie Hermogenes, oudemian legȏ). Was I not telling you just now (but you have forgotten), that I knew nothing, and proposing to share the inquiry with you (all’ epelathou ge hȏn oligon proteron elegon, hoti ouk eideiȇn alla skepsoimȇn meta sou, 390e5-392a6)?’
Socrates investigates: ‘Everyone would agree that the name of Tantalus is rightly given and in accordance with nature (Tȏi de Tantalȏi kai pas an hȇgȇsaito t’ounoma orthȏs kai kata phusin tethȇnai), if the traditions about him are true (ei alȇthȇ ta peri auton legomena).’ – Her. ‘And what are the traditions (Ta poia tauta)?’ – Soc. ‘Many terrible misfortunes are said to have happened to him in his life (Ha te pou eti zȏnti dustuchȇmata egeneto polla kai deina) – last of all (hȏn kai telos), came the utter ruin of his country (hȇ patris autou holȇ anetrapeto); and after his death (kai teleutȇsanti) he had the stone suspended over his head in the world below – all this agrees wonderfully well with his name (en Haidou hȇ huper tȇs kephalȇs tou lithou talanteia thaumastȇ hȏs sumphȏnos tȏi onomati). You might imagine (kai atechnȏs eoike) that some person who wanted to call him talantatos, the most weighed down by misfortune (hȏsper an ei tis boulomenos talantaton onomasai), disguised the name altering it into Tantalus (apokruptomenos onomaseie kai eipoi ant’ ekeinou “Tantalon”); and into this form by some accident of tradition, it has actually been transmuted (toiouton ti kai toutȏi to onoma eoiken ekporisai hȇ tuchȇ tȇs phȇmȇs). The name of Zeus, who is his alleged father, has also an excellent meaning (phainetai de kai tȏi patri autou legomenȏi tȏi Dii pankalȏs to onoma keisthai), although hard to be understood (esti de ou raidion katanoȇsai), because really like a sentence (atechnȏs gar estin hoion logos to tou Dios onoma), which is divided into two parts (dielontes de auto dichȇi), for some call him Zena, and use the one half, and others who use the other half call him Dia (hoi men tȏi heterȏi merei, hoi de tȏi heterȏi chrȏmetha, hoi men gar “Zȇna,” hoi de Dia kalousin); the two together signify the nature of the God (suntithemena d’ eis hen dȇloi tȇn phusin tou theou), and the business of a name, as we were saying, is to express the nature (ho dȇ prosȇkein phamen onomati hoiȏi te einai apergazesthai). For there is none who is more the author of life to us and to all (ou gar estin hȇmin kai tois allois pasin hostis estin aitios mallon tou zȇn), than the lord and king of all (ȇ ho archȏn te kai basileus tȏn pantȏn). Wherefore we are right in calling him Zena and Dia, which are one name, although divided, meaning the God through whom all creatures always have life (sumbainei oun orthȏs onomazesthai houtos ho theos einai, di’ hon zȇn aei pasi tois zȏsin huparchei, dieilȇptai de dicha, hȏsper legȏ, hen on to onoma, tȏi “Dii” kai tȏi “Zȇni”). There is an irreverence, at first sight, in calling him son of Cronos (who is a proverb of stupidity) (touton de Kronou huon hubristikon men an tis doxeien einai akousanti exaiphnȇs), and we might rather expect Zeus to be the child of a mighty intellect (eulogon de megalȇs tinos dianoias ekgonon einai ton Dia). Which is the fact; for this is the meaning of his father’s name: Kronos quasi Koros, not in the sense of a youth, but signifying the pure and garnished mind (koron gar sȇmainei ou paida, alla to katharon kai akȇraton tou nou). He, as we are informed by tradition, was begotten by Uranus (esti de houtos Ouranou huos, hȏs logos) rightly so called from looking upwards (hȇ de au es to anȏ opsis kalȏs echei touto to onoma kaleisthai, “ourania”, horȏsa ta anȏ); which, as astronomers tell us, is to have a pure mind (hothen dȇ kai phasin, ȏ Hermogenes, ton katharon noun paragignesthai hoi meteȏrologoi), and the name of Uranus is therefore correct (kai tȏ Ouranȏi orthȏs to onoma keisthai). If I could remember (ei de ememnȇmȇn) the genealogy of Hesiod (tȇn Hȇsiodou genealogian), I would have gone on and tried more conclusions of the same sort on the remoter ancestors of the gods (tinas eti tous anȏterȏ progonous legei toutȏn, ouk an epauomȇn diexiȏn hȏs orthȏs autois ta onomata keitai), – then I might have seen whether this wisdom, which has come to me all in an instant, I know not whence, will or will not hold good to the end (heȏs apepeirathȇn tȇs sophias tautȇsi ti poiȇsei, ei ara aperei ȇ ou, hȇ emoi exaiphnȇs nun houtȏsi prospeptȏken arti ouk oid’ hopothen).’ – Her. ‘You seem to me, Socrates, to be quite like a prophet newly inspired, and to be uttering oracles (Kai men dȇ, ȏ Sȏkrates, atechnȏs ge moi dokeis hȏsper hoi enthousiȏntes exaiphnȇs chrȇsmȏidein).’ – Soc. ‘Yes, Hermogenes, and I believe that I caught the inspiration from the great Euthyphro of the Prospaltian deme (Kai aitiȏmai ge, ȏ Hermogenes, malista autȇn apo Euthuphronos tou Prospaltiou prospeptȏkenai moi), who gave me a great lecture which commenced at dawn: he talked and I listened (heȏthen gar polla autȏi sunȇ kai pareichon ta ȏta), and his wisdom and enchanting ravishment has not only filled my ears (kinduneuei oun enthousiȏn ou monon ta ȏta mou emplȇsai tȇs daimonias sophias) but taken possession of my soul (alla kai tȇs psuchȇs epeilȇphthai). I think that this will be the right course (dokei oun moi chrȇnai houtȏsi hȇmas poiȇsai) – today (to men tȇmeron einai) I shall let his superhuman power work and finish the investigation of names (chrȇsasthai autȇi kai ta loipa peri tȏn onomatȏn episkepsasthai); but tomorrow (aurion de), if you are so disposed (an kai humin sundokȇi), we will conjure him away (apodiopompȇsometha te autȇn), and make a purgation of him (kai katharoumetha), if we can find some priest or sophist who is skilled in purifications of this sort (exeurontes hostis ta toiauta deinos kathairein, eite tȏn hiereȏn tis eite tȏn sophistȏn).’ (395d3-397e1)
I must take issue with Jowett’s translation of Socrates’ last entry. Jowett’s ‘and I believe that I caught the inspiration from the great Euthyphro’ stands for Socrates’ Kai aitiȏmai ge, ȏ Hermogenes, malista autȇn apo Euthuphronos tou Prospaltiou prospeptȏkenai moi (396d4-5); autȇn cannot refer to ‘the inspiration caught from Euthyphro’, for Socrates has not mentioned any ‘inspiration of Euthyphro’; it refers to this wisdom (tȇs sophias, 396c6), i.e. to the wisdom, which he has just displayed in his attempt to get to the bottom of ‘the natural fitness of names’ (291a3), the wisdom of which he suddenly became aware as it came to him (hȇ emoi exaiphnȇs nun houtȏsi prospeptȏken arti) when he discussed the names of Zeus, his father Cronus, and Uranus, the father of Cronus. For this ‘wisdom’ he blames (or ‘gives credit for’, aitiȏmai can mean both) Euthyphro, from whom it ‘came to him’ (prospeptȏkenai moi). Although Socrates blames Euthyphro for (or credits him with) this wisdom, he refrains from calling him ‘the great Euthyphro’. Jowett’s ‘I shall let his superhuman power work’ stands for Socrates’ chrȇsasthai autȇi, i.e. ‘use it’ or ‘make use of this wisdom’. Jowett’s ‘we will conjure him away’ stands for Socrates’ apodiopompȇsometha te autȇn, i.e. ‘we shall conjure it, that is this wisdom, away’; Jowett’s ‘and make a purgation of him’ stands for Socrates’ kai katharoumetha, i.e. ‘purify ourselves’ from being touched by ‘this wisdom’.
Socrates does not explain what Euthyphro was telling him in his long ‘lecture’, but the reference to him at 400a1 suggests, as the original reference at 396d does, that Euthyphro was giving – or tried to give – Socrates a lecture on the correct interpretation of the names given to gods. At 300d Hermogenes asks Socrates ‘to examine the natural fitness of the word soul’ (psuchȇn episkepsasthai hȏs eikotȏs toutou tou onomatos tunchanei, 399d7-8). Socrates: ‘If I am to say what occurs to me at the moment (Hȏs men toinun ek tou parachrȇma legein), I should imagine that those who first used the name psuchȇ meant to express (oimai ti toiouton noein tous tȇn psuchȇn onomasantas) that the soul (hȏs touto ara) when in the body (hotan parȇi tȏi sȏmati) is the source of life (aition esti tou zȇn autȏi), and gives the power of breath (tȇn tou anapnein dunamin parechon) and revival (kai anapsuchon), and when this reviving power fails (hama de ekleipontos tou anapsuchontos) then the body perishes and dies (to sȏma apollutai te kai teleutai), and this, if I am not mistaken, they called psyche (hothen dȇ moi dokousin auto “psuchȇn kalesai). But please (ei de boulei) stay a moment (eche ȇrema); I fancy that I can discover something (dokȏ gar moi ti kathoran) that will be more acceptable to the disciples of Euthyphro (pithanȏteron toutou tois amphi Euthuphrona, 400a1), for I am afraid that they will scorn this explanation (toutou men gar, hȏs emoi dokei, kataphronȇsaien an), and think it banal (kai hȇgȇsainto phortikon einai). What do you say to another (tode de skopei ean ara kai soi aresȇi)?’ – Her. ‘Let me hear (Lege monon).’ – Soc. ‘What is that which holds and carries and gives life and motion to the entire nature of the body? What else but the soul (Tȇn phusin pantos tou sȏmatos, hȏste kai zȇn kai periienai, ti soi dokei echein te kai ochein allo ȇ psuchȇ)?’ – Her. ‘Just that (Ouden allo).’ – Soc. ‘And do you not believe with Anaxagoras, that mind or soul is the ordering and containing principle of all things (Ti de; kai tȇn tȏn allȏn hapantȏn phusin ou pisteueis Anaxagorai noun kai psuchȇn einai tȇn diakosmousan kai echousan)?’ – Her. ‘Yes; I do (Egȏge).’ – Soc ‘Then you may well call that power phusechȇ which carries and holds nature (Kalȏs ara an to onoma touto echoi tȇi dunamei tautȇi hȇ phusin ochei kai echei “phusechȇn” eponomazein), and this may be refined away into psuchȇ (exesti de kai “psuchȇn” kompseuomenon legein).’ – Her. ‘Certainly (Panu men oun); and this derivation is, I think, more scientific than the other (kai dokei ge moi touto ekeinou technikȏteron einai).’ (399d10-b5)
Does this then mean that Socrates owed Euthyphro his interpretation of the names of Zeus, Cronus, and Uranus? If so, then only by contrast between his interpretation of those names and what Euthyphro had to say on the subject in their early morning discussion. For they had discussed these gods on their previous meeting, which they had in front of the Porch of the King Archon, where Socrates was summoned to face charges raised against him by Meletus, and where Euthyphro came to press a charge of homicide against his father. When Socrates expressed his doubts concerning Euthyphro’s intention to prosecute his father and asked him what piety was, the latter said: ‘Piety is (to men hosion estin) doing what I am doing (hoper egȏ nun poiȏ); that is to say, prosecuting anyone who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime (tȏi adikounti ȇ peri phonous ȇ peri hierȏn klopas ȇ ti allo tȏn toioutȏn examartanonti epexienai) – whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be – that makes no difference (eante patȇr ȏn tunchanȇi eante mȇtȇr eante allos hostisoun); and not to prosecute them is impiety (to de mȇ epexienai anosion). And please to consider, Socrates (epei, ȏ Sȏkrates, theasai), what a notable proof I will give you (hȏs mega soi erȏ tekmȇrion) that this is the law (tou nomou hoti houtȏs echei), a proof which I have already given to others (ho kai allois ȇdȇ eipon, hoti tauta orthȏs an eiȇ houtȏs gignomena): – of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished (mȇ epitrepein tȏi asebounti mȇd’ an hostisoun tunchanȇi ȏn). For do not men acknowledge Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods (autoi gar hoi anthrȏpoi tunchanousi nomizontes ton Dia tȏn theȏn ariston kai dikaiotaton)? – and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons (kai touton homologousi ton hautou patera dȇsai hoti tous hueis katepinen ouk en dikȇi), and that he too (k’akeinon ge au) had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner (ton hautou patera ektemein di’ hetera toiauta – Jowett’s ‘in a nameless manner’ stands for Socrates’ ektemein ‘castrate’). And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me (emoi de chalepainousin hoti tȏi patri epexerchomai adikounti). So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned (kai houtȏs autoi hautois ta enantia legousi peri te tȏn theȏn kai peri emou).’ – Soc. ‘May not this be the reason, Euthyphro (Ara ge, ȏ Euthuphron, tout’ estin), why I am charged with impiety (houneka tȇn graphȇn pheugȏ) – that I cannot away with these stories about the gods (hoti ta toiauta epeidan tis peri tȏn theȏn legȇi, duscherȏs pȏs apodechomai)? That, I suppose is where people think I go wrong (dio dȇ, hȏs eoike, phȇsei tis me examartanein). But as you who are well informed about them approve of them (nun oun ei kai soi tauta sundokei tȏi eu eidoti peri tȏn toioutȏn), I cannot do better but assent to your superior wisdom (anankȇ dȇ, hȏs eoike, kai hȇmin sunchȏrein). What else can I say (ti gar kai phȇsomen), confessing as I do, that I know nothing about them (hoi ge kai autoi homologoumen peri autȏn mȇden eidenai)? Tell me, for the love of Zeus (alla moi eipe pros Philiou), whether you really believe that they are true (su hȏs alȇthȏs hȇgȇi tauta houtȏs gegonenai)?’ – Euth. ‘Yes, Socrates; and things more wonderful still (Kai eti ge toutȏn thaumasiȏtera, ȏ Sȏkrates), of which the world is in ignorance (ha hoi polloi ouk isasin) (5d8-6b6) … I can tell you (all’ hoper arti eipon), if you would like to hear them, many other things about the gods which would quite amaze you (kai alla soi egȏ polla, eanper boulȇi, peri tȏn theiȏn diȇgȇsomai, ha su akouȏn eu oid’ hoti ekplagȇsȇi, 5c5-7).’
On that occasion Socrates had no time for Euthyphro’s wisdom. He was worried about Euthyphro’s intention to prosecute his father, for it was generally considered to be impious, it would have seriously tarnished his reputation and badly affected his relationship with his relatives; he therefore repeatedly insisted on his explaining to him what piety was, and so he did in his final appeal: ‘Then we must begin again and ask (Ex archȇs ara hȇmin palin skepteon), What is piety (ti esti to hosion)? That is an inquiry which I shall never be weary of pursuing as far as in me lies (hȏs egȏ prin an mathȏ hekȏn einai ouk apodeiliasȏ); and I entreat you not to scorn me (alla mȇ me atimasȇis), but to apply your mind to the utmost (alla panti tropȏi prosschȏn ton noun hoti malista), and tell me the truth (nun eipe tȇn alȇtheian). For, if any man knows, you are he (oistha gar eiper tis allos anthrȏpȏn); and therefore I must hold you fast (kai ouk apheteos ei), like Proteus (hȏsper ho Prȏteus), until you tell (prin an eipȇis). If you had not certainly known (ei gar mȇ ȇidȇstha saphȏs) the nature of piety (to te hosion) and impiety (kai to anosion), I am confident that you would never (ouk estin hopȏs an pote), on behalf of a serf, have charged your aged father with murder (epecheirȇsas huper andros thȇtou andra presbutȇn patera diȏkathein phonou). You would not have run such a risk of doing wrong in the sight of the gods, and you would have had too much respect for the opinion of men (alla kai tous theous an edeisas parakinduneuein mȇ ouk orthȏs auto poiȇsois, kai tous anthrȏpous ȇischunthȇs). I am sure, therefore (nun de eu oida), that you know the nature of piety and impiety (hoti saphȏs oiei eidenai to te hosion kai mȇ). Speak out then (eipe oun), my dear Euthyphro (ȏ beltiste Euthuphrȏn), and do not hide (kai mȇ apokrupsȇi) your knowledge (hoti auto hȇgȇi).’ – Euth. ‘Another time (Eis authis toinun), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates); for I am in a hurry (nun gar speudȏ poi), and must go now (kai moi hȏra apienai).’ (15c11-e4)
Socrates’s references to Euthypho in the Cratylus indicate that Euthyphro’s ‘another time’ was not just an excuse.