McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
L. Michael Harrington
conventionalism, cratylus, language, naturalism, philosophy, Plato
In the last century, philosophers turned their attention to language. One place they have looked for clues about its nature is Plato's Cratylus, which considers whether names are naturally or conventionally correct. The dialogue is a source of annoyance to many commentators because it does not take a clear position on the central question. At times, it argues that language is conventional, and, at other times, defends the view that language is natural. This lack of commitment has led to a long-standing dispute over the outcome of the dialogue. I argue that the Cratylus provides no clear resolution to this problem because it presupposes certain unexamined metaphysical commitments about the nature of reality, which are in need of thorough investigation.
Bagwell, G. (2010). A Study of Plato's Cratylus (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/259