Article ID: CBB207532051

Extreme and Modest Conventionalism in Plato’s Cratylus (2021)


The Cratylus’ main concern is to outline and evaluate the competing views of language held by two characters, Hermogenes and Cratylus, who disagree about whether convention or nature (respectively) are the source of onomastic correctness. Hermogenes has been thought to hold two radically different views by different scholars, one extreme conventionalism whereby all names are correct relative to their speakers, and another modest conventionalism according to which distinct naming actions – establishment and employment – explain why some names are correct and others are not, depending on the speaker. In this paper I argue that, though Hermogenes ultimately endorses a conventionalism of the latter kind, it is a mistake to assign him this position from the outset. Rather, to understand the structure of the conversation about conventionalism, we must view Hermogenes’ position, and Socrates’ understanding of it, as developing instead of settled. For it is only by discussing the matter that Hermogenes comes to express a moderate conventionalist view and Socrates comes to appreciate the position Hermogenes actually holds.

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Authors & Contributors
Woodruff, Paul
Gerson, Lloyd P.
Barney, Rachel
Nienkamp, Jean
Lombardo, Stanley
Bell, Karen
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
European Legacy
Ancient Philosophy
Hermagoras Press
Oxford University Press
University Press of America
Union Institute and University
Language and languages
Theories of knowledge
Brucker, Jacob
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Pliny, the elder
Time Periods
4th century, B.C.
18th century
Early modern

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