In one ancient demonstration of what Kahneman calls the availability heuristic, the character of Euthyphro defines piety as exactly what he has done immediately before beginning his conversation with Socrates. Because this is the first example that comes to mind, Euthyphro naturally offers his own behaviour as a paradigm case of piety – the concept that the dialogue investigates. Consider the difference between saying ‘I am doing X because it is right’ and ‘X is right because I am doing it’. Euthyphro unwittingly falls into the trap of the latter while believing he is doing the former. Plato suggests that a remedy for this tendency must involve changing what gives us pleasure and pain – lessening the pain associated with uncertainty or decreasing the pleasure derived from proving that one is right. These are ethical challenges as much as intellectual ones.
And should we now congratulate ourselves, that our faith has so weakened on both sides, that we can strike smug ecumenical poses?
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