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I think there is no other at all; this is both the best and the only method.

Do you think this is also the method of discovering realities, and that he who has discovered the names has discovered also the things named; or do you think inquiry and discovery demand another method, and this belongs to instruction?

I most certainly think inquiry and discovery follow this same method and in the same way.

Let us consider the matter, Cratylus. Do you not see that he who in his inquiry after things follows names [436b] and examines into the meaning of each one runs great risks of being deceived?

How so?

Clearly he who first gave names, gave such names as agreed with his conception of the nature of things. That is our view, is it not?


Then if his conception was incorrect, and he gave the names according to his conception, what do you suppose will happen to us who follow him? Can we help being deceived?

But, Socrates, surely that is not the case. [436c] He who gave the names must necessarily have known; otherwise, as I have been saying all along, they would not be names at all. And there is a decisive proof that the name-giver did not miss the truth, one which you must accept; for otherwise his names would not be so universally consistent. Have you not yourself noticed in speaking that all names were formed by the same method and with the same end in view?

But that, Cratylus, is no counter argument. For if the giver of names erred in the beginning [436d] and thenceforth forced all other names into agreement with his own initial error, there is nothing strange about that. It is just so sometimes in geometrical diagrams; the initial error is small and unnoticed, but all the numerous deductions are wrong, though consistent. Every one must therefore give great care and great attention to the beginning of any undertaking, to see whether his foundation is right or not. If that has been considered with proper care, everything else will follow. [436e] However, I should be surprised if names are really consistent. Let us review our previous discussion. Names, we said, indicate nature to us, assuming that all things are in motion and flux. Do you not think they do so?

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