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[391a] I think you would be more likely to convince me, if you were to show me just what it is that you say is the natural correctness of names.

I, my dear Hermogenes, do not say that there is any. You forget what I said a while ago, that I did not know, but would join you in looking for the truth. And now, as we are looking, you and I, we already see one thing we did not know before, that names do possess a certain natural correctness, and that not every man knows [391b] how to give a name well to anything whatsoever. Is not that true?


Then our next task is to try to find out, if you care to know about it, what kind of correctness that is which belongs to names.

To be sure I care to know.

Then investigate.

How shall I investigate?

The best way to investigate, my friend, is with the help of those who know; and you make sure of their favour by paying them money. They are the sophists, [391c] from whom your brother Callias got his reputation for wisdom by paying them a good deal of money. But since you have not the control of your inheritance, you ought to beg and beseech your brother to teach you the correctness which he learned of Protagoras about such matters.

It would be an absurd request for me, Socrates, if I, who reject the Truth1 of Protagoras altogether, should desire what is said in such a Truth, as if it were of any value.

Then if you do not like that, [391d] you ought to learn from Homer and the other poets.

Why, Socrates, what does Homer say about names, and where?

In many passages; but chiefly and most admirably in those in which he distinguishes between the names by which gods and men call the same things. Do you not think he gives in those passages great and wonderful information about the correctness of names? For clearly the gods call things [391e] by the names that are naturally right. Do you not think so?

Of course I know that if they call things, they call them rightly. But what are these instances to which you refer?

Do you not know that he says about the river in Troy which had the single combat with Hephaestus,2“whom the gods call Xanthus, but men call Scamander
Hom. Il. 20.74?

Oh yes.

1 Truth was the title of a book written by Protagoras.

2 Hom. Il. 21.342-380

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