Plato, Cratylus (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Cra.].
<<Pl. Cra. 429b Pl. Cra. 431b (Greek) >>Pl. Cra. 433a

430c

Cratylus

They can.

Socrates

First, then, consider this question: Can we assign the likeness of the man to the man and that of the woman to the woman, and so forth?

Cratylus

Certainly.

Socrates

And can we conversely attribute that of the man to the woman, and the woman's to the man?

Cratylus

That is also possible.

Socrates

And are these assignments both correct, or only the former?

Cratylus

The former.

Socrates

The assignment, in short, which attributes to each that which belongs to it and is like it.

Cratylus

That is my view.

Socrates

To put an end to contentious argument between you and me, 430dsince we are friends, let me state my position. I call that kind of assignment in the case of both imitations paintings and names—correct, and in the case of names not only correct, but true; and the other kind, which gives and applies the unlike imitation, I call incorrect and, in the case of names, false.

Cratylus

But it may be, Socrates, that this incorrect assignment is possible in the case of paintings, and not in the case of names, 430ewhich must be always correctly assigned.

Socrates

What do you mean? What difference is there between the two? Can I not step up to a man and say to him, “This is your portrait,” and show him perhaps his own likeness or, perhaps, that of a woman? And by “show” I mean bring before the sense of sight.

Cratylus

Certainly.

Socrates

Well, then, can I not step up to the same man again and say, “This is your name”? A name is an imitation, just as a picture is. 431aVery well; can I not say to him, “This is your name,” and then bring before his sense of hearing perhaps the imitation of himself, saying that it is a man, or perhaps the imitation of the female of the human species, saying that it is a woman? Do you not believe that this is possible and sometimes happens?

Cratylus

I am willing to concede it, Socrates, and grant that you are right.

Socrates

That is a good thing for you to do, my friend, if I am right; for now we need no longer argue about the matter. 431bIf, then, some such assignment of names takes place, we will call one kind speaking truth, and the other speaking falsehood. But if this is accepted, and if it is possible to assign names incorrectly and to give to objects not the names that befit them, but sometimes those that are unfitting, it would be possible to treat verbs in the same way. And if verbs and nouns can be assigned in this way, the same must be true of sentences; for sentences are, I conceive, a combination of verbs and nouns. 431cWhat do you say to that, Cratylus?

Cratylus

I agree; I think you are right.

Socrates

If, then, we compare the earliest words to sketches, it is possible in them, as in pictures, to reproduce all the colors and shapes, or not all; some may be wanting, and some may be added, and they may be too many or too large. Is not that true?

Cratylus

Yes, it is.

Socrates

Then he who reproduces all, produces good sketches and pictures, and he who adds or takes away produces also sketches and pictures, but bad ones? 431d

Cratylus

Yes.

Socrates

And how about him who imitates the nature of things by means of letters and syllables? By the same principle, if he gives all that is appropriate, the image—that is to say, the name—will be good, and if he sometimes omits a little, it will be an image, but not a good one; and therefore some names are well and others badly made. Is that not true?

Cratylus

Perhaps. 431e

Socrates

Perhaps, then, one artisan of names will be good, and another bad?

Cratylus

Yes.

Socrates

The name of such an artisan was lawgiver?

Cratylus

Yes.

Socrates

Perhaps, then, by Zeus, as is the case in the other arts, one lawgiver may be good and another bad, if we accept our previous conclusions.

Cratylus

That is true. But you see, Socrates, when by the science of grammar we assign these letters—alpha, beta, and the rest—to names, 432aif we take away or add or transpose any letter, it is not true that the name is written, but written incorrectly; it is not written at all, but immediately becomes a different word, if any such thing happens to it.

Socrates

Perhaps we are not considering the matter in the right way.

Cratylus

Why not?

Socrates

It may be that what you say would be true of those things which must necessarily consist of a certain number or cease to exist at all, as ten, for instance, or any number you like, 432bif you add or subtract anything is immediately another number; but this is not the kind of correctness which applies to quality or to images in general; on the contrary, the image must not by any means reproduce all the qualities of that which it imitates, if it is to be an image. See if I am not right. Would there be two things, Cratylus and the image of Cratylus, if some god should not merely imitate your color and form, as painters do, but should also make all the inner parts like yours, should reproduce



Plato, Cratylus (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Cra.].
<<Pl. Cra. 429b Pl. Cra. 431b (Greek) >>Pl. Cra. 433a

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