Cratylus Summaries

of Meaning

A Seminar

Jackson, Jr.

Winter 1999

Summaries of The Cratylus

Date: Monday, January 11, 1999 20:06:53

From: another student Subj: Cratylus Summary


[The] Cratylus
opens with an invitation [Unnecessarily passive.
Say who invited him to join in.]
to Socrates to join a discussion
between Hermogenes and Cratylus over the nature of naming [Have
to be more specific than that or you’ll never get through in this length
of space]
. Cratylus argues that Hermogenes is not named correctly,
since he cannot possibly be „sired by Hermes“ as his name would indicate
wasn’t the argument, this was a joke told on the side. If it were part
of Cratylus’s argument, moreover, he would be siding against himself. Cratylus
is proposing a natural law for names and their relation to what they name.
If he seriously pressed the point that Hermogenes was named incorrectly,
that would be a point for Hermogenes’s side, the „strictly conventional“
theory of language.]
. Hermogenes „cannot convince [himself] that
there is any principle of correctness in names other than convention and
agreement (Cratylus 2).“ He asserts that „the name of each thing is only
that which anybody agrees to call it (ibid.).“

This [Antecedent? Don’t begin
a paragraph with „This“. I really don’t know to what this „this“ refers,
and therefore can’t see anything in the Cratylus or your opening remarks
which raises questions of subjectivity at all.]
raises questions
of subjectivity which Socrates is aware of:

„suppose that I call a man a horse or a horse a man,
you mean to say that a man will be rightly called a horse by me individually
and rightly called a man by the rest of the world; and a horse again would
be rightly called a man by me and a horse by the world (ibid.).“ Socrates
counters this[Not English, and in any event incorrect,
applied to a situation that did not occur any way]
Subjectivity Error !!!!!

[The contemporary theoretical-critical
terms we use, „subject“ and „subjectivity“ have for all intents and purposes
no relation to the colloquial, non-technical use of the term „subjective“.
I can’t state this strongly enough. I want to make sure everyone understands
this difference and the reasons why it is important. Subjectivity isn’t
a big part of this dialogue, and it isn’t here at all. This is about communicative
chaos that would result if everyone allowed themselves an individual idiolect.]

[antecedent! What is similar
to poststructuralism?]
which is similar to some aspects of poststructuralism,
by saying that [Dangling participle! Who is the subject
of „saying“?]
, if Hermogenes believes that statements can be true
or false, then he must believe in the objectivity of names [This
is a non-sequitur. Work it out on paper, and reread the passage you think
you are paraphrasing. Quote directly from the text, this may solve some
of these problems. But just think about it. (1) Statements can be true
or false. Therefore (2) Names are objective. The second statement is not
implied in the first. Furthermore another problem: „Statements can be true
or false,“ implies that statements can be something else too – neither
true nor false. There’s a big difference between your premise and the one
I think you had in mind: „Statements must be either true or false.“ But
this still doesn’t entail statement (2) above. For one thing, „objective“
is not an aspect of „truth“ or „falsity“ of statements, it is usefully
an aspect of the attitude of the person making the statement. Secondly,
„objective“ cannot be a predicate the category „names.“ To say „names are
objective“ is like saying „names are green.“ What do you mean?]

Ironically, Hermogenes later agrees that politicians
are those who are most adept at naming, which points to a social construction
of language.[Where does he say this? What do you
mean by a social construction of language? Your statements are all non-sequiturs.]

Then Socrates segues into a long discourse on etymology,
which is probably more of interest to those fully versed in Greek [This
is a joke on Socrates’s part. He’s not serious.]
. We can infer the
etymology of the word „hermeneutics,“ always important to students of Literature,
through Socrates’s etymology of the God Hermes: „I should imagine that
the name Hermes has to do with speech, and signifies that he is the interpreter
(ermeneus) or messenger, or thief, or liar, or bargainer; all that sort
of thing has a great deal to do with language (Cratylus 21).“ [That
etymology happens to be true – the etymology of „hermeneutics“ – to call
it the etymology of the name Hermes is a cart before the horse conundrum.]

It is ironic in the context of this dialogue that Socrates says that thievery,
lying and bargaining all have to do with language [Why
ironic? He does this completely intentionally. Remember on the back of
his mind is the sophists.]
. The question of who gave the name[s]
to deities who supposedly created the universe is not sufficiently addressed,
either [Why should it be addressed at all? It would
be about something that never happened to entities that never existed.]
Certain questions of causality are involved [These
passive-like, subjectless sentences are less than meaningful. „Certain
questions of causality“? What questions? Causality in what sense, of what?
What are these questions involved with? According to whom? Impinging upon
whom? This oracle just floats here at the end of your paragraph describing
nothing in our world or theirs either.]
, which could lead to statements
of the „it’s turtles all the way down“ ilk. [See
what I mean? these „questions“ could lead to „statements“ – apparently
contentless statements said by no one in repsonse to unidentified questions
raised by no one of a causality with out a cause or a rebel.]

At the end, Cratylus enters the discussion [Isn’t
the dialogue named after him? He enters it only at the end? What do you
. He and Socrates review some of the points of the discussion.
At the end [At the end twice!], Socrates warns
Cratylus to avoid the nihilism inherent in believing that everything is
subjective and that nothing can be adequately described by language [I
think you’re getting the sides confused. You should rewrite this clearly
stating the position of Hermogense and that of Cratylus – in fact, it’s
rather alarming that in a summary of the Cratylus these positions are never
mentioned much less explicated. What were you trying to summarize? Always
ask your self that before and during the writing of the summary.]
„Reflect well and like a man, and do not easily accept such a doctrine;
for you are young and of an age to learn. And when you have found the truth
come and tell me (Cratylus, 48).“ [Good advice, please
follow it.]

[The]Cratylus begins with
the question, are names natural or chosen by convention.[Unnecessarily
passive. And the syntax and the punctuation is askew.]
believes names are natural due to a truth or correctness about them [In
relation to what? Without that your statement is unintelligible.]
Hermogenes believes names are chosen by convention and agreement [The
use of the word ‚agreement‘ will get you in trouble without more context
and precision. It could be construed to mean the agreement of the name
with the thing named, in which case Hermogenes’s position becomes Cratylus’s.]
They [antecedent?]may be changed and continue
to be just as correct as the previous name.

Socrates professes to know nothing as always but begins
by examining Hermogenes definition of names [This
mean that no matter what the dialogue is or with whom, Socrates begins
by examining Hermogenes’s definitions of names, certainly a peculiar habit.]


Socrates begins [Two beginnings.
– Your use of „define“ in this sentence is not English.]
by attempting
to define if there are true names and false names just as there are true
propositions and false propositions. Since propositions may be true and
false, names are parts of propositions, and a „part of a falsehood [is]
also a falsehood.“ [Even in summaries it’s more than
alright to examine critically the premises your quote. Just to cite this
statement of Socrates without questioning it is not really reading the
text. You should be in dialogue with the dialogue constantly. What do you
think about Socrates’s thesis you just quoted. Be specific. It’s one of
the things you can answer simply by thinking concretelyy about it. ]
names may be true and false (deductive reasoning, although I would not
necessarily agree with the proposition that a part shares the truth value
with the whole) [Whoops! Sorry, never mind ;-)]
If the truth of a name is decided by the individual who chooses to name,
then every utterance of a name is the truth at the time of the utterance
hybridizing Hermogenes’s viewpoint with Cratylus’s. If names are totally
conventional, they don’t have „truths.“ Only Cratylus’s kinds of names
require a truth-predicate.]
. How can there then be a false name?
If everything is as they appear to each individual, then there is no falsehood
just as there is no wise vs. foolish or just and unjust [You’re
mixing jabberwockkies and flibbertijibbets. If all names are conventional,
then they have no burden of „truth.“ That’s one statement. From there you
might want to build an argument for the conventionality of „truths“ and
„justices“ etc, sicne they are also linguistic constructions. But the conventionaliity
and arbitrariness of names doesn’t lead to the statement you made that
all appearances are correct. That’s also sort of half to a radical relativism
but doesn’t quite get there, and you couldn’t have gotten there from here
anyway. I will map this out in class, but it would be great if you took
a shot at it beforehand.]
. But, if what if everything has its „own
proper and permanent essence?“ Now [Now? When? By
whom? Why? These passive sentences are death to intelligibility.]

actions are also classified as „being,“ thereby having its own proper essence[Keep
your arguments anchored to the proponents. It’s difficult to follow you
now and to tell whose position your representing, and even what part of
the dialogue text you’re summarizing here.]
, and since speech is
an action, speech may be successful as an action or unsuccessful [Classifying
„action“ under „being“ with an „essence“ just prior to this statement doesn’t
help the clarity of your summary or understanding the reason you are making
this observation.]
Naming is also an action and therefore must be
acted out in its natural process [Why does it suddenly
have a „natural process“? If an action isn’t acted out, then it didn’t
occur, so it couldn’t have a „natural process“ that wasn’t fulfilled. But
you haven’t kept the boundaries between the opposing positions clear at
or it will be unsuccessful. A name is then established [passive
as an instrument [Naming is an
action and a statement is an action that can be successful or not but naming
has a natural process that is its action which is to establish a name which
becomes an instrument. – Can you make sense of this scenario? Where in
the Cratylus does anything like this occur?]
because it is used
to name a thing much like an awl is used to pierce [
wow! the name becomes an instrument because it names a thing like a awl
pierces. What does it name? Does the name name the thing or the name giver
name the thing? Why is identifying something like peircing it? How is a
name like an awl?]
. The action of naming „give[s] information to
one another [Who the hell is the „one another“? The
quote has to make sense within the host sentence. This is not English.]
and [distinguishes] things according to their nature.“ [Can
you actually envision what you’re describing? The act of naming – you don’t
have any person doing the naming nor anything receiving the name but you
have communication occurrign between a mysterious „one another“ while distinguishing
things according to their nature? Where is this occurring? It’s impenetrable.]

Naming is the instrument of the teacher [You can’t
have the action of naming to be an instrument and the name to be an instrument.
And whatever happened to Hermogenes and Cratylus? Of the question of the
just as the shuttle is the instrument of the weaver.
The skilled craftsman that creates names is the legislator [You’ve
gotten the metaphor backwards.]
, and not the common man. The legislator
must choose a name that fits the nature of the thing [You
are supposed to be summarizing at least two sides of an argument -yet you
keep collapsing them as if all sides suddenly believed that names must
fit the nature of the object named. This is not the case.]
. However,
the name may be different from another legislators [The
name isn’t any legislator as your syntax here implies. Please proofread
before sending.]
as long as the form is the same just as blacksmiths
may be legislators and may even be different legislators as long as the
legislator is in the shape of a blacksmith. Well, that certainly clears
it up.]
may make different versions of the same awl type. A dialectician
is then the director of the legislator
[Why would
legislators have directors?]
in making names as the pilot directs
the carpenter how to make the rudder of the boat. Therefore, not everyman
can choose to name a thing but there are those skilled to find the nature
of a thing and express it in a name?[I can’t go on.]

„What is the nature of this truth or correctness of
names?“ Homer speaks of the Gods knowing the names of things. What of mans
names for things, are they of the things nature and are they proper? Socrates
sees that some names are chosen to represent the individual named such
as Astyanax represents the king of the city. Now is the important point.
Whether the syllables of words are the same or different, they must represent
the same meaning to represent the same thing. Hector and Astyanax both
mean ruler despite being spelled differently
Socrates then examines names of persons, gods and objects in detail to
see if the name properly represented the nature of the individual. This
is a difficult and large section because I can not tell where he is playing
with the reader and Hermogenes or being serious. He constantly rearranges
words, finding roots and meanings as if finding the nature of the thing
in the name. I don’t know enough about the actual words he is taking apart
but there are definitely times he seems to have gone beyond the bounds
of what the word could possibly have been. He finds sentences in a single
word and gets rid of half of a word on a whim. Then again, maybe this is
what a dialectician actually does? From what I know of mythology, I feel
he is toying with meaning a lot. His argument on Hades and desire keeping
souls in Hell as shown by the Nature of Hades name seems somewhat counter
to what I know of Hades and his underworld.

Interestingly, Socrates
that virtues are motion oriented [????]
vices are blocking of motion oriented.[He was disproving
the usefulness of etymological explanations and speculations. This was
about words and misconceptions about them – not about the world we directed-blacksmith-shaped-legislator-of-the-instrumental-naming-of-the
instrument-name-awl live in].
Then, Socrates uses the name justice
and yet gives it different natures [Quite a trick.
How does he do that? And is „justice“ a name? Since when?]
as described
by people he talked to [In the mall?]. The
name of men is derived from upward motion and women from birth and flourish
figurative language and decontextualized parodied speculation from the
text and recording it as factual statements does not help any possible
summary or assessment of anything. „Men“ don’t have a single name, and
that name isn’t „derived from upward motion, nor is this nonexistent name
derived from „women from birth and flourish“ whatever that might mean.
Please proofread. This is not English and doesn’t vaguely even remind me
of the Cratylus. (Remember him?)]
can’t do this any more we can go over it in class or office hours. I’ve
spent over an hour on it already and there’s a lot more to go. Please be
sure to see me.]
as if they were . Hermogenes
then points out that all this changing of words has gotten farfetched and
Socrates points out that as words have changed, the changes have sometimes
been to make the sound of the word easier or more pleasurable to the mouth
and ear. Yet too many changes and names are too easily made and any name
can be adopted to any object. When in doubt as to the origin of a word,
it is also possible to explain it away as foreign.

Eventually, Hermogenes and Socrates get into looking
at the origin of the words they had found to be the derivatives of the
other words. For example, ion is a word that was found to be in most words
when they are examined for origin but what is the origin of ion. Socrates
proposes that eventually one gets to the primary words. Those that all
other words are derived from. The question is then, where did these words
come from. One defining piece about primary as well as secondary words,
„when they are regarded simply as names, there is no difference in them.“
They are all intended to indicate the nature of the things they name. The
argument is unwilling to let the primary words be accepted as simply from
the Gods and the ancients that made them are to far removed to be understood.
However, there must be some understanding of the nature of the primary
words because without, there is arguably no understanding of the secondary
or any other words. Socrates then looks into the nature of the vowels and
syllables for meaning. He finds that certain letters seem to represent
certain sounds and therefore may represent the nature of the word named.
A round object sounds round through the ou, o representing the best form
of round and r represents motion, thus the round object continues in a

Now the name signifies the nature of the thing but
how much of the nature of the thing.[A question?
You make it a rhetorical sentence fragment]
If the name represents
the thing to [spelling!] perfectly, it is
the thing just as a perfect imitation is no longer an imitation. Therefore
what is Cratylus’s perfect name. [Why aren’t you
using question marks?]
If the name is to [spelling!] 
much not like the thing, then arguably it is not the name? Therefore an
assignment of a name that is to [spelling!]
unlike its thing, then the assignment is a falsehood [Your
use of „assignment sounds strange here, but it is also a tautology. „If
the name is wrong then the name doesn’t fit and therefore it’s wrong. That’s
simply tying judgments and conditions into circular knots. Also, „falsehood“
means „lie.“ If someone unsuccessfully assigned a name to an object, this
is definitely a practical failure, but it isn’t necessarily a „falsehood.“
In fact, in terms of the speech act theory,  the attempt to name a
thing is an activity that can be successful or unsuccessful, but without
further contexts, it does not comprise even an implicit state that is immediaely
susceptible to being true or false.]
. However, a proper or true
name can be adjusted, i.e. a letter added or subtracted because a name
is qualitative and not quantitative [This is not
English. Reread the sentence aloud to yourself and let me know what you
meant. Also why would the „ideal name“ need to have its elements changed?].

Qualitative changes [Define these terms. What’s a
qualitative change?]
make a thing maybe a little more true or false
proofread in the future, but reread this sentence until you understand
what’s wrong with it. I can explain too. Here’s a capsule: [1] How would
a qualitative change alter the „truth“ value of a term? [2] „True“ and
„false“ cannot be predicated of single nouns. A sentence can be. But a
name isn’t more or less true or false. Do you mean more „accurate“ in imitation
– like a mask or a picture? Remember that is on the order of mimesis –
not of language. A linguistic sign does not „resemble“ its signified –
with the possible alphabetic exception in the Hungarian word for „scissors“:

The <a href=“#topofpage“
target=window>Hungarian </a>word is :    ollo ]

but these changes are in degrees like a grey scale
seem to be describing a world you’re imagining quite autonomous from that
of the Platonic dialogues. Please return to the text.]

Quantitative is add one to five and you no longer have
five, but instead you have six. Then how do we recognize different words
as they change. We all have the same meaning for things
[What!!! First of all who is „we“? And  how did we get to share absolutely
unquestioned common meanings to terms – any terms. How would we have the
same meanings for things, and if this were the case why would there ever
be any ambiguity, debate, misunderstanding, reinterpretation. Indeed, such
a common ground would make literature very unlikely and would ultimately
render speech nearly pointless. ]
such as man [„We“
all have the same meaning for „man“? Since when? For some of us that word
means male adult humans. Period. For some it means „human race in general
or in a universal singularity. And when the people in Virginia and other
locales were drafting the bill of rights, what „common meaning“ did „man“
and „equal“ have among the senators who did not own slaves and those who
did? For instance, when they jointly declared „Certain truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal. I can’t find any common meanings in those
and sun but the words can be different [So
we go around sharing, bald, naked meanings that can spread from person
within this colective „we“  these meanigns can insinuate themselves
in „all of us“ even across linguistic, cultural, sociopolitical and temporal
distances? Not only that, but these common meanings can be transmitted
to „us“ all even if the languages are not conmmensurable, and even if the
meaning has slipped the  shackles of its „signe.“ How do you transmit
a  concept, a  meaning without a sign system and a sign to exchange
or convey?].
Understanding between individuals is reached through
custom or convention [Translation: „Understanding
between individuals is reached through understanding between individuals.
And don’t use the passive voice („is reached“).].
By this we [There
is no such „we“ fortunately. Don’t resort to it. If you see them lurking
anywhere gun them all down. Or use a flamethrower.]
accept common
words attached to common meanings [No such version
of „meaning“ can be found in the cratylus, nor do I think you’ll encounter
it very often in any even half-way sophisticated discussion of such questions.
Cratylus believes that knowing a name of a thing equals knowing a thing
but this is refuted [passive voice!] by inconsistencies
in the language. Words don’t always seem to [split
properly imitate their thing which may have been caused
by the first namers[ Who?]. Their conception
of the thing may have been wrong [A conception of
a thing that is wrong is not the conception of the thing.]
and how
would they name if a thing did not already have a name to know it by since
knowing seems tied into knowing the name [Close but
no cigar-eidolon]
. And how can we know since the nature of all things
seems to be change [This is not English. And you
have left Hermogenes and Cratylus languishing on the road. This was to
have been a synopsis of the dialogue]
. What we [I
want this „we“ as dead as a princess.]
know is what was and not
what is. [Recount the positions of each of the participants,
clearly demarcating who thinks what. There shouldn’t be any „we“ sentences
since „we“ weren’t there, and definitely no transformations of the very
local arguments into statements that speak as general „truths.“]

van Wambeck’s
Cratylus response

– Ousia-free! Very Important Site!




duet for Cratylus

Meno synopses

Earl’s first Meno reading

Earl’s first Ion reading

Tekne One

Our Task

Required surfing this topos



Argos Limited
Area Search Engine
for the Classics



Another Scene


Jackson, Jr.