previous next

[439a]

Socrates
Stop for Heaven's sake! Did we not more than once agree that names which are rightly given are like the things named and are images of them?

Cratylus
Yes.

Socrates
Then if it be really true that things can be learned either through names or through themselves which would be the better and surer way of learning? To learn from the image whether it is itself a good imitation and also to learn the truth which it imitates, [439b] or to learn from the truth both the truth itself and whether the image is properly made?

Cratylus
I think it is certainly better to learn from the truth.

Socrates
How realities are to be learned or discovered is perhaps too great a question for you or me to determine; but it is worth while to have reached even this conclusion, that they are to be learned and sought for, not from names but much better through themselves than through names.

Cratylus
That is clear, Socrates.

Socrates
Then let us examine one further point to avoid being deceived by the fact that most of these names tend in the same direction. [439c] Suppose it should prove that although those who gave the names gave them in the belief that all things are in motion and flux—I myself think they did have that belief— still in reality that is not the case, and the namegivers themselves, having fallen into a kind of vortex, are whirled about, dragging us along with them. Consider, my worthy Cratylus, a question about which I often dream. Shall we assert that there is any absolute beauty, or good, or any other absolute existence, [439d] or not?

Cratylus
I think there is, Socrates.

Socrates
Then let us consider the absolute, not whether a particular face, or something of that sort, is beautiful, or whether all these things are in flux. Is not, in our opinion, absolute beauty always such as it is?

Cratylus
That is inevitable.

Socrates
Can we, then, if it is always passing away, correctly say that it is this, then that it is that, or must it inevitably, in the very instant while we are speaking, become something else and pass away and no longer be what it is?

Cratylus
That is inevitable. [439e]

Socrates
How, then, can that which is never in the same state be anything? For if it is ever in the same state, then obviously at that time it is not changing; and if it is always in the same state and is always the same, how can it ever change or move without relinquishing its own form?

Cratylus
It cannot do so at all.

Socrates
No, nor can it be known by anyone.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: