An Interpretation of Plato's Cratylus

Phronesis 45 (4):284-305 (2000)
Abstract
Plato's main concern in the _Cratylus, I claim, is to argue against the idea that we can learn about things by examining their names, and in favor of the claim that philosophers should, so far as possible, look to the things themselves. Other philosophical questions, such as that of whether we should accept a naturalist or a conventionalist theory of naming, arise in the dialogue, but are subordinate. This reading of the _Cratylus, I say, explains certain puzzling facts about the dialogue's structure and dramatic emphasis, as well as making the dialogue look better on philosophical grounds. (edited)
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