Inquiry without names in Plato's cratylus

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (3):pp. 341-364 (2008)
Abstract
The interlocutors of Plato’s Cratylus agree that “it is far better to learn and to inquire from the things themselves than from their names” (439b6–8). Although surprisingly little attention has been paid to these remarks, at least some commentators view Plato as articulating a preference for direct, nonlinguistic cognitive access to the objects of inquiry. Another commentator takes Plato simply to recommend first-hand, yet linguistic, experience in addition to instruction from experts. This paper defends, in contrast to both interpretations, the view that inquiry without names is dialectical, linguistic inquiry into metaphysical first principles. As such, inquiry without names is (logically) prior to inquiry from or through names. Inquiry without names is a form of transcendental metaphysics.
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