Skip to main content

Publication Details

On the Two Conceptions of the Lawgiver in the Cratylus

(Original title: On the Two Conceptions of the Lawgiver in the Cratylus)
Filozofia, 79 (2024), 4, 395 - 410.
Type of work: Original Articles
Publication language: English
Ιn this paper, I compare the two conceptions of the “lawgiver” in the Platonic dialogue Cratylus. I present both the idea that words constitute imitations of things (resemblance naturalism) and the claim that names are tools which “separate” and “teach” being (the tool analogy). Then I examine the respective figures of the lawgiver (nomothetes) appearing in each of them. These are the lawgiver of the tool analogy (one who makes names on the model of a craftsman producing tools), and that of the lawgiver who introduces names constituting phonetic imitations of things. I argue that with respect to name giving, the former is in a much better position than the latter, and that mimetic naturalism faces the insuperable “paradox of institution.” My main claim is that, read in conjunction with the tool analogy, the notion of ἒθος introduced in 434e, offers a helpful framework for successfully overcoming the challenge of establishing the first names. Furthermore, the adoption of this perspective by Socrates allows him to navigate a complex position. This is a position that steers clear of both Cratylus’s “resemblance naturalism” and Hermogenes’s unadulterated conventionalism.

tool analogy, paradox of institution, linguistic naturalism, Conventionalism, ἔθος

File to download: PDF