By Rachel Barney

This examine deals a ckomprehensive new interpretation of 1 of Plato's dialogues, the Cratylus. all through, the publication combines research of Plato's arguments with attentiveness to his philosophical process.

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Additional resources for Names and Nature in Plato's Cratylus (Studies in Philosophy (New York, N.Y.).)

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21 This conception of convention as decision is not peculiar to Hermogenes: it is presupposed throughout the Cratylus, and with it the idea that conventions can be individual. Much later Socrates will claim that, when you understand some word I use in a conventional way, it is because you have made a compact with yourself to understand the word that way (435a7). This is very striking: we would naturally think that what is essential for you to understand me is some convention obtaining between or common to the two of us.

However, though the practising subjectivist is an intriguing figure I do not think he is at the heart of Plato’s worries here: what is wrong with conventionalism is much more general. 19. g. Baxter (Critique, pp. 18, 21) and Weingartner (Unity, pp. 16–21). Commentators tend to talk as though Hermogenes demanded that everyone adopt constantly changing private naming conventions: Kretzmann speaks of an “unbearable burden of a doctrine of autonomous idiolects” (‘Correctness’, p. 127). Conventionalism does, of course, allow someone to resort to private naming conventions for the purpose of evading public refutation.

Nevertheless, Hermogenes’ democratizing move has a counterpart in the political relativism considered in the Theaetetus:27 So too then concerning political matters, things which are fine and shameful and just and unjust and pious and impious, what each city thinks [oiêtheisa] so and sets down [thêtai] as lawful [nomima] for itself in fact are so for each, and in these things neither any private individual nor any city is wiser than another. (172a1–5) The mention here of ‘any private individual’ presumably envisages primarily the individual advisor of the city, someone like Protagoras.

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