A study of Plato's ''Cratylus''. by Geoffrey Bagwell

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By Geoffrey Bagwell

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29 This sentence resembles the claim Socrates attributes to Protagoras in the Theaetetus: ―πάλησλ ρξεκάησλ κέηξνλ ἄλζξσπνλ εἶλαη, ηῶλ κὲλ ὄλησλ ὡο ἔζηη, ηῶλ δὲ κὴ ὄλησλ ὡο νὐθ ἔζηηλ‖ (152a2–4). The similarity between these claims prefigures discussion of Protagoras‘ claim later in the Cratylus that humans are the measure of all things. This similarity also undermines Sedley‘s view that 385b2-d1 does not belong in the Cratylus (2003, 6–16). 30 Hermogenes insists that the parts of a statement must also be true in order for the statement to be true.

Baxter 1992, 33 agrees. —Certainly. —Ἔζηηλ ἄξα ὄλνκα ςεῦδνο θαὶ ἀιεζὲο ιέγεηλ, εἴπεξ θαὶ ιόγνλ;—Πῶο γὰξ νὔ; 385b2–d1) Socrates appears here to argue that names have truth-value. 29 Hermogenes admits that this is the case; in doing so, he concedes that individual statements can be true or false. This question further implies that it is possible for statements to pick out things that are or things that are not. After Hermogenes grants this premise, Socrates divides statements into parts. He asks 28 Pfeiffer 1972, 90, and Richardson 1976, 135, imply that to construe ιόγνο as ―statement‖ in this context is anachronistic because it imposes a logical distinction between statements and arguments not found in Plato.

Conflict between individual and communal use serves to expose the extremism of Hermogenes‘ position. He allows anyone to coin whatever name one pleases. Individuals can decide for themselves when a name is correct (cf. 385e, 435a8). Thus, Hermogenes‘ conventionalism amounts to a kind of linguistic anarchy. All names are correct because there cannot be an incorrect name. Moreover, since it is possible to change names, all names are correct because someone has at some time decided to use it. The view that anyone can coin a name and the argument that coining a name justifies its use, therefore, undermine the distinction between correct and incorrect names.

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