- Series: Hackett Classics
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (September 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0872204162
- ISBN-13: 978-0872204164
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cratylus (Hackett Classics) Paperback – September 15, 1998
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"Perhaps no subject matter is more distinctive or more central to twentieth century philosophy than the philosophy of language. The Cratylus, Plato's most sustained investigation of language, may be his least appreciated work, no doubt in large part because of its difficult Greek. At long last, Reeve’s fine translation will make this rich work accessible to students and scholars of Plato. In addition, Reeve’s long introductory essay provides a concise guide to the argument and is itself a significant piece of scholarship. Teachers of Plato (and historical linguistics) are truly in his debt." --Allan Silverman, Ohio State University
"The Cratylus, Plato's sole dialogue devoted to the relation between language and reality, is acknowledged to be one of his masterpieces. But owing to its often enigmatic content no more than a handful of passages from it have played a part in the global evaluation of Plato's philosophy. This new English translation by C. D. C. Reeve is the first since 1926, and incomparably the most helpful and accessible now available. It opens up the Cratylus to all philosophically interested readers, as well as to cultural historians and to those whose primary concern is the history of linguistics. The full and lucid Introduction does much to illuminate the internal dynamic of this important text and to explain its place within Plato’s oeuvre." --David Sedley, University of Cambridge
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek
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In the Cratylus, we see the rational mind first beginning to struggle with this ancient notion of the importance of names. Are names merely conventions or, without granting them magical power, are they somehow connected to the essence of what is named? Did the gods give things their names or was there a ancient lawgiver who came up with the first ones?
Though the path is long and winding we can see here the foundations of emancipating human thought from mythological foundations. Once names are held to merely be conventions then perhaps essences can be conventions as well. One can see in the distance Watson’s banishing of essences from scientific biology some two thousand years later with the discovery of DNA as the code of life. Essences are now seen, not as part of a causal explanation as to why a living thing is what it is, but as a creation of the human mind.
Without these first efforts at rising above the mythological understanding of names, however, none of this would have been possible.
In this sense, the Cratylus is an important text in the history of ideas. True, modern anthropology has long surpassed Plato in understanding the birth of language, but the dialogue remains a fascinating look into the first struggle of the Western intellect to understand the rational basis of names.
All of this is in an edition with a useful preface by C.D.C Reeve to help the reader navigate the text. Highly recommended to those interested in the history of ideas in Western civilization.