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[423a]

Socrates
If we wished to designate that which is above and is light, we should, I fancy, raise our hand towards heaven in imitation of the nature of the thing in question; but if the things to be designated were below or heavy, we should extend our hands towards the ground; and if we wished to mention a galloping horse or any other animal, we should, of course, make our bodily attitudes as much like theirs as possible.

Hermogenes
I think you are quite right; there is no other way.

Socrates
For the expression of anything, I fancy, [423b] would be accomplished by bodily imitation of that which was to be expressed.

Hermogenes
Yes.

Socrates
And when we wish to express anything by voice or tongue or mouth, will not our expression by these means be accomplished in any given instance when an imitation of something is accomplished by them?

Hermogenes
I think that is inevitable.

Socrates
A name, then, it appears, is a vocal imitation of that which is imitated, and he who imitates with his voice names that which he imitates.

Hermogenes
I think that is correct. [423c]

Socrates
By Zeus, I do not think it is quite correct, yet, my friend.

Hermogenes
Why not?

Socrates
We should be obliged to agree that people who imitate sheep and cocks and other animals were naming those which they imitate.

Hermogenes
Yes, so we should.

Socrates
And do you think that is correct?

Hermogenes
No, I do not; but, Socrates, what sort of an imitation is a name?

Socrates
In the first place we shall not, in my opinion, be making names, if we imitate things as we do in music, [423d] although musical imitation also is vocal; and secondly we shall make no names by imitating that which music imitates. What I mean is this: all objects have sound and shape, and many have color, have they not?

Hermogenes
Certainly.

Socrates
Well then, the art of naming is not employed in the imitation of those qualities, and has nothing to do with them. The arts which are concerned with them are music and design, are they not?

Hermogenes
Yes. [423e]

Socrates
Here is another point. Has not each thing an essential nature, just as it has a color and the other qualities we just mentioned? Indeed, in the first place, have not color and sound and all other things which may properly be said to exist, each and all an essential nature?

Hermogenes
I think so.

Socrates
Well, then, if anyone could imitate this essential nature of each thing by means of letters and syllables, he would show what each thing really is, would he not?


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