Cratylus has puzzled many readers with its lengthy discussion of the 'true meanings' of more than a hundred Greek names. This book aims to give a coherent interpretation of the whole dialogue, paying particular attention to these etymologies.
The book discusses the rival theories of naming offered by Cratylus, Hermogenes, and Socrates, arguing that Socrates presents a prescriptive theory, laying down what names should be, rather than describing what they are. This distinction between prescriptive and descriptive theories is elaborated and used to illuminate the etymologies themselves. After discussing possible sources for the etymologies, the author argues that the etymological section amounts to a Platonic critique of the muddled attitude of Greek poets and thinkers towards names.
Timothy M.S. Baxter holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, thesis:
Problems of the Cratylus. He currently works at the Department of Health in London.
This cogent and well-written book will certainly help to bring the Cratylus
closer to the mainstream of Platonic studies.'
Greece & Rome, 1994.
...a lucidly argued and plausible interpretation of the whole dialogue which will not fail to impress itself on future work in the field.'
...the core of his argument is convincing, and the work can be recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greek views of language...'
Jackson P. Hershbell,
Religious Studies Review, 1993.
...this commentary is insightful, carefully elaborated and thoroughly researched.'
Canadian Philos. R., 1994.
This book is a useful source for anyone seeking a coherent interpretation of the Cratylus
as a whole.'
Matthew K. McCoy,
Review of Metaphysics, 1994.
The strength of this book lies in its discussion of the purpose of, and targets of, the long middle section of the Cratylus
, which parodies attempts to justify claims about the name of things by appealing to etymologies.'
Richard J. Ketchum,
Ancient Philosophy, 1995.
specialists in ancient philosophy, historians of ancient theories of language.