Interlocutors (participants) of the dialogue:
- Socrates (S) the ancient Greek philosopher circa 400 B.C. famously accused of impiety. He is here being represented as a student on academic probation.
- Euthyphro (E) the ancient Greek mystic, a contemporary of Socrates, who believes he understands about piety and the divine but, it turns out, really doesn't. He is here being represented as a somewhat conceited student.
Waiting in line:
- E: Hey, I remember you from Ancient Philosophy class. What are you here at the Financial Aid Office for?
- S: Apparently, something’s going on with my financial aid and they might kick me out of the university. Why are you here?
- E: I’m applying for another scholarship because I am the best student in the school so I think I absolutely deserve one.
- S: How do you know you deserve another scholarship?
- E: Because I am the best student in the school, of course.
- S: Oh really? It’s a good thing I ran into you here because I could use your help. I think I might be on academic probation and I really need a way to prove that I will be a better student in the future. Maybe you could tutor me in becoming a better student? If I could tell them that the best student in the school was tutoring me then that would certainly prove that I will become a better student. So how do you know you are a good student? More importantly, what does it really mean to be a good student?
- E: The teachers decide who the good students are. I’m a good student because my Speech teacher says so and my Science teacher says so.
- S: Well I happen to know that your Math teacher and your Ancient Philosophy teacher really hate your guts and think you’re a huge know-it-all. So being a good student can't mean being liked by the teachers because the teachers don't all agree on who they like and dislike. So I'm still trying to figure out: what does it really mean to be a good student?
- E: Well, all the teachers who really matter agree that I am a good student.
- S: Assuming that’s true, are you a good student because you are liked by the teachers or liked by the teachers because you are a good student?
- E: I don't get what you are trying to say...what do you mean?
- S: Are you a good student because you are liked by the teachers or are you liked by the teachers because you are a good student?
- E: Sheesh. Are you psychotic? Why do you care?
- S: I care about the truth. I really want to know and I need to know what it means to be a good student so that I can convince the school that I can stay. I think it might be that getting along with the teachers is part of being a good student, but that can't be all there is. Don't you think?
- E: Well, sure.
- S: So, as my tutor by virtue of being the best student in the school, I'd really like to know: how much of being a good student is just getting along with the teachers?
- E: Getting along with the teachers is important but obviously another big part of being a good student is doing the assignments and getting good grades.
- S: Sounds about right but there's one more thing I'd like to know. Why should we do the assignments? I'm sure the teachers would enjoy not having to grade any assignments and just pass us without doing the work.
- E: We aren't just doing the assignments to get the teachers to like us, if that's what you mean … and we certainly don’t do them because the teachers actually need us to.
- S: So, why do we do the assignments?
- E: For lots of reasons.
- S: Well, we may do them for lots of reasons but when asked why we are doing something, we should at least be able to list some of the most important reasons, shouldn’t we?
- E: I guess.
- S: So what are they?
- E: Well, it’s really hard to explain. But I do know that if you do the assignments and participate in class enough to impress the teachers, then you will be a good student and you will get good grades. But if you don't do the homework and play Angry Birds in class then you will not impress the teachers and you will get bad grades.
- S: So, knowing how to be a good student is doing the assignments, participating in class, and impressing the teachers?
- E: Yes.
- S: But why do we do the assignments? Is it for the teacher’s benefit?
- E: Doing the homework does not benefit the teachers. We do it to get good grades.
- S: So, being a good student isn't really about impressing the teachers or even doing the assignments: it's really about getting good grades?
- E: Yes.
- S: That still doesn't answer the question because we still need to figure out whether you are a good student because you get good grades or get good grades because you are a good student.
- E: Well, it's my turn in line and I've really got to go. This will have to wait for some other time.
- S: Well this really sucks. Now I will be unprepared. I really wanted to know how I could show that my grades would improve so that I could get my financial aid package extended and become a better student!