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The beginning of Kratylos in the oldest surviving medieval manuscript, the Codex Clarkianus written in 895 (Oxford, Bodleian Library , Clarke 39)

The Kratylos ( ancient Greek Κρατύλος Kratýlos , Latin Cratylus ) is a script of the Greek philosopher Plato . The work, written in dialogue form , forms the starting point of European philosophy and linguistics . Three people are involved in the fictional, literary conversation: Plato's teacher Socrates , the philosopher Kratylos , after whom the dialogue is named, and his friend Hermogenes .

The validity of the assertion that not only statements are right or wrong, but that there is also a correctness of names and designations is discussed. This is the case when designations are not arbitrarily assigned to their objects, but are assigned by nature and express the nature of the objects truthfully. If every correct designation expresses what it actually is, the etymological investigation of the individual words, by illuminating their meaning , enables conclusions to be drawn about the essence of the things they designate. Kratylos is convinced of the natural correctness of words (semantic naturalism), while Hermogenes starts from the hypothesis of an arbitrary agreement of the word meanings ( conventionalism ). Socrates takes a critical look at both concepts.

After examining the theoretical assumptions and numerous examples, Socrates rejects both the assumption that the assignment of names and things is based on accidental convention , as well as the opposite position, according to which all names are objectively "correct" and therefore a fundamentally recognizable truth about the essence of things contained. According to Socrates' view, the "word formers" or "namesake" as the originators of the designations wanted to assign them sensibly, but made mistakes. Thus one cannot arrive at a reliable knowledge of what the individual things are by examining words. Rather, the philosopher has to research things independently of their designations.

The kratylos is considered to be one of the most difficult works by Plato. In more recent research, its groundbreaking importance for the European philosophy of language is recognized: The considerations in the dialogue appear to set the course in a direction that ultimately led to the modern character theory of language .

Place, time and participants

Socrates (Roman bust, 1st century, Louvre , Paris)

The debate takes place in Athens , no details of the place of the meeting are given. For the dating of the fictional plot, the text offers only a few clues. A casual remark by Socrates about a nocturnal ban on going out on the island of Aegina suggests that Aegina is under Athenian rule; this is from 431 BC. Was the case. The 422/421 BC Hipponikos von Alopeke , who died in the 4th century BC , the father of Hermogenes, is apparently still alive because, according to a remark by Socrates, Hermogenes has not (yet) inherited. Accordingly, the action of the dialogue falls in the period 431 to 421, ie in the first phase of the Peloponnesian War , which was interrupted for a few years from 421 by the " Peace of Nicias ". Since Socrates, who was born in 469, mentions his old age by the standards of the time, a period before the late 420s is out of the question. However, according to a different interpretation, the comment about the inheritance that has not been accepted means that Hermogenes has not inherited anything, although his father has already died. If so, it is not 421 BC. But the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. The upper limit for the dating of the dialogue action, while 422 BC. Forms the lower limit.

Kratylos and Hermogenes are not fictional characters, they actually lived in Athens as contemporaries of Socrates. The historical Kratylos, who was probably born around the middle of the 5th century, professed the teachings of the pre-Socratic Heraclitus . The historical Hermogenes belonged to Socrates' circle, he was closely connected to him and was present when he died.

In the dialogue, Kratylos is described as young and Hermogenes also seems to be a young man. Socrates, on the other hand, points out - albeit jokingly - that his mental resilience is already decreasing due to age.


A framework is missing, the conversation starts suddenly. Kratylos and Hermogenes have already discussed their contradicting linguistic and philosophical views in a controversial and inconclusive way. Now Socrates has joined and Hermogenes proposes that he be included. Kratylos agrees. Hermogenes describes the problem by summarizing the two opposing positions. The subsequent debate falls into two parts. In the first, much larger part, Socrates discusses with Hermogenes, Kratylos listens in silence. In the second part, Socrates and Kratylos debate, Hermogenes listens.

The problem

First, Hermogenes summarizes the position of Kratylos. Kratylos believes that there is a natural correctness of words. Accordingly, every namable naturally has a single, objectively correct naming that is not culturally conditioned but is equally valid for all people. Since it is a matter of nature, the difference in languages ​​does not matter; the right words make up a universal language. It is possible to determine the natural names. For example, Kratylos and Socrates are rightly entitled to their names, but the name of Hermogenes is incorrect; it is not really his, although everyone uses it.

Socrates points out that Kratylos' latter remark may be a joke: "Hermogenes" means " descended from the god Hermes ", and if that were true, Hermogenes would have to be successful in money matters, because Hermes is, among other things, the god of profit. In reality, however, Hermogenes is not in a good financial position. Socrates is happy to undertake a joint examination of the question of the philosophy of language, but he considers the problem to be difficult and admits his ignorance. He takes the opportunity to swipe at the famous sophist Prodikos , who claims to be well versed in this field and is willing to impart his wisdom to those willing to learn in return for ample payment. Ironically, Socrates, who is impotent, attributes his ignorance to the fact that he did not hear the lecture of the Prodikos, for which an entrance fee of fifty drachmas is required.

As a conventionalist, Hermogenes takes a view that is radically opposite to that of Kratylos. He believes that all meanings of words are arbitrarily determined, they are based solely on agreement and habit. A name is only correct on the basis of the convention by which it is assigned to an object. In principle, any such convention can be changed at any time, and as soon as that happens, the new naming is valid and correct.

Theoretical investigation of the Hermogenes hypothesis

According to Hermogenes, everyone can create a private language as they wish, in which, for example, the word “horse” is given the meaning “man” and the word “man” the meaning “horse”. The word meanings in private language are not more correct or less correct than those in common usage. On the other hand, Socrates argues that it is inconsistent to consider a statement as a whole to be true or false, but to assign no truth value to the parts of the statement, including the smallest parts, the individual words . However, this consideration does not dissuade Hermogenes from his opinion. In favor of his hypothesis, he asserts that not only are there different languages, but that language usage varies from city to city.

Socrates then chooses a new approach. He asks whether the subjectivity and arbitrariness that Hermogenes assumes for the meanings of words should also apply to things. In doing so, he places the subjectivist language theory of his interlocutor in the context of a subjectivist worldview, as advocated by the influential sophist Protagoras . Protagoras teaches that man is the measure of all things. According to the interpretation of his view given here, this means every single person. Accordingly, there is no such thing as an objective reality, but for everyone things are really as they appear to him. Except for the appearances that are perceived and evaluated in a subjective way, there is no recognizable reality. Hermogenes tends to take this position, but Socrates draws his attention to a problem: if you think like this, terms like “good”, “bad”, “reasonable” and “unreasonable” lose all objective meaning. Then no one is more sensible or ethically better than another, and it is no longer possible to come to an understanding about the correctness or falsity of such judgments. Hermogenes shrinks from this consequence, so he agrees with Socrates' view. In this way, agreement is reached that statements about the nature of people relate to objective facts in their nature; People are actually good or bad in character.

Likewise, as Socrates explains afterwards, human actions are not the result of arbitrary ideas, but are based on natural conditions. You can only cut or burn something as the laws of nature allow. The correct approach is to adapt to the circumstances in order to achieve a purpose. Here “right” and “wrong” are objective facts, success or failure is the criterion for the correctness of an action. Since speaking is an action, so must communication. Here, too, there is right and wrong behavior: Those who do not follow the natural rules of verbal communication will achieve nothing. Socrates deduces from this that naming, which is a fundamental part of speaking, must also be aligned with an objective reality; a designation has to correspond to the nature of what is named. The word is the speaker's tool just as a drill is the tool of a craftsman or the shuttle is the tool of the weaver. Like a craft tool, it must be suitable for the task it has to perform. Its task is to instruct and delimit the essence of what it designates. So it is not arbitrary. The “legislator” or “word builder” who introduced the word meanings cannot have acted arbitrarily. He must have introduced the terms from the point of view of their suitability for the respective purpose. Just like a manufacturer of handicraft tools, he must have been a specialist and as such must have had a special “art” ( téchnē ) .

The diversity of languages, each of which has its own word-builder, does not contradict this. The word formers are comparable to blacksmiths, each of whom uses a different type of iron and uses it to make useful tools. When a blacksmith makes a drill, he has an archetype in mind, a spiritual pattern that he uses as a guide. Similarly, when a word-builder introduces a word, he or she orientates himself on the archetype - the " platonic idea " - the designation for the respective object. The word he assigns to this object in the respective language is a reflection of that general idea. Every term in every language is modeled on the naming idea assigned to the named thing, which optimally expresses the nature of the thing to be named. The difference in the names of the same thing in different languages ​​results from the fact that they are different images of the same archetype. As such, like all Platonic ideas, the archetype itself has no form that can be perceived by the senses. Only the images are audible words.

The assessment of the quality of an instrument falls within the competence of the professional who is supposed to use it. According to Socrates' conviction, it is analogous with the words: It is the task of the person who is supposed to use them to judge the correctness of their assignment to things. He is the one who knows how to ask and answer expertly: the dialectician , the scientifically investigative philosopher. Socrates agrees with Kratylos in principle by assuming an inner connection between the nature of words and that of things and tracing this back to the deliberate approach of competent word formers. He also shares the opinion of Kratylos, according to which the laws that apply are in principle recognizable and their research is one of the tasks of the philosopher.

The investigation using examples

Hermogenes cannot oppose Socrates' argument on the theoretical level. But he still doubts that a natural correctness of the words can be demonstrated in concrete terms, and asks Socrates to point it out. Socrates does not claim to be able to do this, but is happy to conduct an investigation with Hermogenes. Hermogenes is now clear that nothing can be hoped for from sophists like Protagoras in this regard.

Socrates finds a first clue for determining natural correctness in Homer . The famous poet states on various occasions that different names are used for gods than for humans. For example, one learns in Homer's Iliad , the river, the people Skamandros call will called by the gods Xanthos. Accordingly, Xanthos is the right name, because the gods can be trusted to have better knowledge than humans. Socrates then discusses a number of names, initially names of mythical figures such as the king Tantalus and the Trojan hero Hector and of gods such as Zeus and Uranus . The personal names are related to similar sounding terms and thus say something about their bearer; for example, the name of the mythical hero Orestes is supposed to express the wild and rough in the character of the name bearer due to its similarity with oreinón ("mountainous"). On the basis of such etymological interpretations of the names, Socrates explains how one can imagine their inner connection with the namesake. He sometimes considers several interpretations for a name. He expresses himself carefully, which shows his uncertainty. At the same time he seems to be enthusiastic about his ideas.

Socrates emphasizes that the connection is only based on the fact that the name suggests something characteristic of its wearer. This can be done in different ways, the correctness of the naming does not depend on a certain sound structure or a certain sequence of letters or syllables. However, Socrates points out that people are often named after their ancestors or the naming expresses the wishes of their parents, as in Theophilos (“god-loved”, German loan translation Gottlieb ). Such names could not do justice to the nature of their bearers, they were not naturally correct. Therefore, one would come across more correct terms with general terms than with individual names.

Numerous words are then analyzed, starting with "gods", " daimons ", " heroes " and "people". The word "gods" (theoí) is traced back to the running (thein) , which is related to the course of the stars believed to be gods. “Man” (ánthrōpos) is made up of two components according to the etymology of Socrates: Man is characterized by the fact that he thinks (anathreí) what he has seen (ópōpe) ; In contrast to the animals, who think nothing about it, he is the contender (anathrṓn) of what is seen. Then the words " soul " and "body" are considered. Socrates gives an interpretation according to which the body ( s )ma) is the grave (sēma) of the soul because it is enclosed in it as in a grave; in addition, he interprets - with reference to an Orphic teaching - the body as that in which the soul is kept until death (s (zetai) . At the request of Hermogenes, Socrates then examined a number of gods' names as well as designations for stars, elements and times. In doing so, he sometimes combines the analysis of words with philosophical-theological considerations; Thus, when discussing the name of Hades , the god of the realm of the dead, he declares that people fear him for no reason. The cause of the fear is that the deceased will not return. In reality, however, they voluntarily stayed in the realm of the dead, since they preferred the bodily existence there to the earthly and Hades was a great benefactor. Finally, Socrates turns to terms from epistemology and ethics , as well as numerous other expressions from various areas.

In these discussions, Socrates also takes into account the phenomenon of language change, which he attributes in part to the pursuit of euphony or comfortable pronunciation. The words have been reshaped over time and their original inner connection with the things they belong to has been impaired. In some cases words have been changed by adding and removing letters in such a way that their original natural correctness can no longer be recognized. The original meaning could even be turned into its opposite; in these cases you have to stick to the old word forms.

The elementary words

The etymological explanations discussed so far consist in the fact that words or their components are traced back to other, similar words. However, as Socrates now ascertains, this process cannot be continued indefinitely; it must come up against a limit. Therefore there must be elementary words that are neither composed of other words nor can they be traced back to other words in any other way. Socrates suspects that "go", "flow", "bind" and "hold" are such elementary words. According to the theory, these, like all other words, must have a correctness based on their correspondence with what they designate. However, since the correctness cannot be determined etymologically in these cases, another approach has to be found.

The starting point here is the consideration that the word-builder must have mimicked what was to be named when designing the terms in order to achieve the desired consistency. But this cannot be a matter of simple aping with the voice, otherwise the correct naming of an animal would be to imitate its utterances. Rather, we should start with the smallest components of words, the sounds, by determining their relationships to things, and when the essential connection between the individual sounds and things has been grasped, we can move on to the larger units, the syllables, and finally to the Words are advanced.

With regard to the concrete design of the classification system, Socrates feels uncertain, he emphasizes in advance the hypothetical character of his considerations, which seem strange to him, and then presents his interpretation of individual sounds. He regards the sound r as the appropriate means of expression for movements of all kinds, since with this sound the tongue remains the least motionless, but vibrates particularly strongly. That is why the word- builder used the word rheín (“to flow”) to imitate the movement, which is involved, using the r. The i is the sound that goes through everything most easily, so it goes with anything subtle. The sounds ph, ps, s and z are breathy, so they are suitable for describing everything that has this nature, for example the windy (physṓdēs) . In forming the d and t, the tongue is compressed and pressed, so these sounds are included in words like desmós ("tie") and stásis ("standstill"), which refer to the inhibition or lack of movement. The tongue slides the most with the l, which is why this sound is contained in leía (“smooth”) as well as in words such as olisthánein (“glide”), liparón (“greasy”) and kollṓdes (“gluey”). The g counteracts the sliding of the tongue, so the combination of g and l fits words such as glíschron (“sticky”), glyký (“sweet”) and gloiṓdes (“resinous”). The n arises inside the mouth, so the situation is expressed with this sound in words like éndon ("inside") and entós ("inside"). The a is large and therefore assigned to the word mégas ("large"), the long ē matches mēkos ("length"), while the o dominates with its roundness in gongýlon ("the round").

The Review of the Theory of Kratylos

Hermogenes complains that Kratylos has so far not explained his doctrine of the relationship between designations and things named to him in concrete terms, but has limited himself to vague assertions. Now Kratylos is to take a position on the concept of Socrates and at the same time reveal his own. Kratylos reacts evasively; he justifies his reticence with the excuse that it is a difficult subject that is not so easy to deal with. But Hermogenes and Socrates allow him no excuses. Socrates asks him to express himself as an expert that he is. Thereupon Kratylos generally agrees with the previous statements of Socrates without contributing anything in terms of content. But now Socrates invites him to a joint critical review of the concept and warns of the danger of succumbing to an illusion in the event of insufficient self-criticism. Self-deception is the worst form of deception, since the deceiver does not leave the side of the deceived for a moment.

Socrates asserts that there are better and worse artists and craftsmen such as painters or builders . Kratylos admits that. Socrates wants to point out that analogous quality differences can then also be assumed among legislators and word formers, which relativizes the correctness of the naming. But Kratylos does not admit that. He radically rejects this line of thought, which undermines his position, and claims that all terms are equally correct. In order to secure his thesis against any possible criticism, he includes it in the definition of the term “designation”: “Designation” is always only to be understood as the correct designation, all “wrong” designations are in reality none.

On the other hand, Socrates objects that - as already mentioned at the beginning of the dialogue - "Hermogenes", according to Kratylos, is not the real name of Hermogenes, but his name is nevertheless that. Consequently, Kratylos replies that Hermogenes only apparently bears this name, since it is not his own name but that of someone else. With this interpretation of the facts, Kratylos proves to be a follower of a theory that was widespread at the time, according to which appearance and deception are in no way real, only truth exists. Truth is always absolute, there is no graduated or partial correctness. Since lies and error relate to something that is not, they cannot have any being. Statements that deal with non-being belong to non-being themselves. This means that false statements are not really statements. For example, if someone confuses Kratylos with Hermogenes and greets them with “Welcome, Hermogenes!”, He is not saying anything wrong, but nothing at all; what he utters are not words, but only a meaningless sequence of tones, like when you hit metal and thus create a sound.

Socrates then tries to show the denial of the reality of falsities as nonsensical. He illustrates his point of view with a comparison: a picture is an imitation of what is depicted, a name according to Kratylos' theory is an imitation of what is named. An image can be wrongly assigned to an object that it does not depict. For example, you can show a man the picture of a woman as his own portrait. You can also tell him that he is a woman. If incorrectly showing is possible, incorrect labeling must also be possible. This is what the terms "incorrect" and "incorrect" should refer to when using words. So there really are wrong names. Then there must also be wrong sentences.

Socrates then turns against the denial of relative correctness, again using a comparison with drawings and paintings to show that there is relative correctness in the elementary words. You can improve or deteriorate an image by adding or removing individual colors and shapes. This creates differences in quality in painting, and the imitation of what is depicted works better or worse. It should behave analogously with the elementary words: Their correctness can be changed by changing the volume of sounds and syllables, it varies and is and therefore relative. Kratylos initially follows this line of thought, but then rejects the conclusion and insists on his old position: If you make even the slightest change to the correct name, for example shifting a letter, it immediately becomes another. In doing so, it not only loses its correctness, but also its being. It is then no longer a designation.

On the other hand, Socrates argues that Kratylos thinks mathematically, but here, as in mathematics, it is not about quantities that are either correct or not, but about the quality of imitations. His train of thought is: An imitation never copies the imitated exactly, otherwise it would be its duplication, and then there would no longer be any difference between the image and the depicted, the naming and the named; a thing and its name would be identical. Each image can only partially reproduce the object depicted; For example, a painter who paints Kratylos can reproduce his skin color and shape, but not his interior, the gradations of his softness and warmth, his way of moving, his soul and his thinking. It is the same with a name; Since it is only a word, it can never contain the totality of what is named in itself. A designation should only reflect the characteristics of what is designated as well as possible. Thus, the correctness of the individual names is relative and fluctuating. Kratylos reluctantly concedes this.

Following on from this, Socrates now wants to show that the convention hypothesis of Hermogenes is by no means entirely wrong. He gives the following example. As already explained, the r goes with the roughness, the l with the smooth and soft. The Greek word for “rough” is sklērós . But if the l expresses the opposite of "rough", it should not appear in the word that has that meaning. Kratylos agrees and suspects it is a falsification; the original, correct word form might be skrērós . Now Socrates draws attention to the fact that everyone nevertheless connects the common word form with what it is supposed to denote. Kratylos attributes this to habit. With this he has made an important concession, because now he admits that the sound composition of the words is based at least in part on conventions that have become established through habituation, although in part they even contain the opposite of what is inherently correct according to his theory. Another argument of Socrates is that the model of imitation of Kratylos fails because of the numbers: The series of numbers cannot be represented with names that imitate acoustically, the number names must be assigned by convention.

Epistemological consequences

Finally, Socrates turns to the core of Kratylos' theory: the epistemological relevance of words. Kratylos considers names to be instructive: whoever knows them also knows things thanks to the inner context, and that is where the value of names lies. In his view, understanding the words is the only way in which one can get to the truth about things. This means that for Kratylos the possibility of philosophical knowledge of reality stands or falls with his theory of language. However, after it has been shown that terms are based at least in part on arbitrary conventions and habits and that they can also be false or falsified, even if one starts out from the concept of natural correctness, exploring the truth using the words appears to be very problematic. As Socrates now emphasizes, secure knowledge cannot be obtained this way.

Kratylos does not want to support this result, however, as the complete collapse of his theory is now threatening. He invokes the competence of the word-builder, who certainly made the right decision; In addition, Socrates himself had already shown the meaningfulness and appropriate formation of the word forms. However, Socrates does not accept this argument. With the help of a series of examples, he shows contradictions that arise when one tries to consistently systematize the words in the sense of Kratylos' theory. Furthermore, he points out an illogic in the theory: The word formers of the individual languages ​​must have introduced the terms one after the other and assigned them to the things, starting with the elementary words. To do this, they needed a knowledge of the nature of things. But if, as Kratylos thinks, the nature of things can only be inferred from their names, the word formers could not have known about them when they began their work. As a way out, Kratylos suggests adopting a word-forming authority with superhuman abilities. In doing so, however, he cannot resolve the inconsistencies that have caused the application of his theory to fail.

Socrates now draws the conclusion from the result of the discussion. It has turned out that the names are sometimes inappropriate as imitations of the things named. Therefore one must not start from the words if one wants to gain knowledge about things, but one must turn directly to the things themselves. This has the major advantage that one then does not strive for knowledge about reality in a detour via images, but in a direct way.

However, as Socrates added, the striving for knowledge can only be successful if there are objects of knowledge that always remain the same to themselves. If the nature of something is changeable, it cannot be recognized, since then the correctness of the statements relating to it is also subject to change, even during the observation and knowledge process. With this consideration Socrates turns against the "river theory" of Kratylos. The pre-Socratic Heraclitus, whose doctrine shaped Kratylos' view of the world, emphasized the incessant change of all phenomena and illustrated them with flow metaphors. The Heraklitees - namely Kratylos - are said to have pointed this thought to a point. According to the radical variant of the theory of flow criticized by Socrates here, everything is, without exception, so "in flux" that there is absolutely nothing permanent. However, this principle would also have to apply to the designations and would generally make any knowledge impossible. Socrates wants to warn against such an epistemological pessimism as a consequence of the theory of the river. At the same time he promotes his alternative, the theory of ideas, according to which there is, for example, an unchangeable "beautiful in itself" as an objective reality. Although he cannot rule out that it is behaving as the Heraclitees believe, he disagrees and calls on Kratylos to reconsider his position.

Kratylos resolves to think about it further, but wants to stick to the flow theory, which he continues to find convincing.

The conversation

In the course of the discussion, the difference in temperament between Hermogenes and Kratylos becomes apparent. Hermogenes is more insecure and more flexible, he is more ready to accept the consequences of the statements of Socrates that seem conclusive to him. As a result of his naivety and inexperience in philosophical discourse, he is not a difficult opponent of debate for Socrates. Plato paints a relatively unfavorable picture of Kratylos, similar to that of the sophists appearing in other Platonic dialogues. Despite his youth, Kratylos wanted to give the impression of being an experienced expert on difficult philosophical questions and dared to make the much older Socrates his pupil. But he is obviously not in a position to present and explain his own model in his specialty, the philosophy of language, but only reacts to Socrates' questions and suggestions. If he gets argumentatively troubled, he ultimately sticks to his position undeterred. The contrast between his claim to knowledge and the scantness of his contributions to the investigation makes him appear arrogant.

Philosophical balance sheet

The main features of Plato's view can be deduced from the utterances of his Socrates in dialogue, which are, however, sometimes meant ironically. Obviously, Plato shows a lot of understanding for the way of thinking of his Kratylos, who assumes a world order that is sensibly designed down to the last detail and in principle recognizable. Like his Kratylos, he rejects a general tracing back of the names to pure arbitrariness and thus to chance; He considers it legitimate to assume that the words are copied, at least from the point of view of the approach.

However, Plato considers the words as images to be considerably falsified and difficult to interpret. He is well aware of the enormous difficulties that a world explanation model based on this concept encounters in practice. A few remarks by Socrates are intended to make the reader aware of the dubious nature of the attempts made in dialogue to determine the essence of things. So Socrates states that there are indications that the word-builder viewed things as fluid, while other indications suggest that he viewed them as static. Besides, the names of the most excellent things are like those of the worst. When Kratylos remarked that most of the signs indicated that the word-builder had represented a world view in the sense of the river theory, Socrates draws his attention to how absurd it would be to make a truth criterion out of frequency. Kratylos sees that. Here Plato's Socrates turns against hasty, methodologically incorrect conclusions, after he had already warned against self-deception at the beginning of his conversation with Kratylos. On the other hand, the fact that Socrates offers several etymological explanations for some words is unproblematic. In antiquity, such ambiguity was not considered to be contradictory, but rather the interpretations were viewed as complementary to one another. The word-builder could have had several truths inherent in a word in mind at the same time.

Plato does not advocate the historical decay hypothesis, which could provide a general and convenient explanation for the difficulties of etymological analysis. He does not believe that there was initially a perfect original language in a golden age of language and that the falsification only set in later, but he reckons with an initial mistake by the word-builder, which has led to a chain of further errors. He sees language development as an additional factor that came later. He is aware of the fact that convention and habit play an important role in the formation of language. This aspect is also recognized in the dialogue. In view of the many serious problems and uncertainties in the examination of words, Plato is unwilling to grant language the high epistemological relevance that Kratylos assigns to it. He does not accept words as independent means of knowledge. In addition, there is his general aversion to dealing with images instead of directly turning to the archetypes.

The main controversial issue is whether the Platonic philosophy of language is more conventionalistic or naturalistic. Connected with this is the question of how Plato assessed the numerous word interpretations put forward by his Socrates, which, according to today's understanding, are largely etymologically incorrect. According to the dominant research opinion, he only wants to discredit this type of word interpretation as a pointless and ridiculous activity. According to the opposite interpretation, his intention in these parts of the dialogue is not only polemical, but he grants the word interpretations a limited cognitive value, since he considers them etymologically and partly also philosophically correct.

Manfred Kraus points out that in Plato the names refer to the ideas - the archetypes of things that can be perceived by the senses - as the actual objects of knowledge. Since in Platonism only the eternal, unchangeable ideas possess the true being, a truth relation of the language becomes possible without a direct relation between the names and the things of the sensually perceptible world having to be assumed. The relationship between the names and the sense objects is indirect, since the sense objects participate in the ideas through participation ( methexis ).

Another topic of research is the question of whether the words in Kratylos are viewed more in terms of the sound of their sounds or in terms of the letters with which they are fixed in writing.

The fruit of the dialogue consists primarily in the insight that the approach of an etymological interpretation of the world has proven to be unsuitable. The attempt to advance to a knowledge of things through the etymology and sound form of the words has failed. Neither Hermogenes 'nor Kratylos' theory about the origin of language seems to lead to a coherent, completely satisfactory explanation of the linguistic findings. Socrates emphasizes the uncertainty of his considerations. The dialogue ends in perplexity ( aporia ), which requires further efforts and a new approach.

Historical background and time of origin

Plato (Roman copy of the Greek Plato portrait of Silanion , Glyptothek Munich )

As a literary figure, Plato's Socrates differs considerably from the historical Socrates; he represents the doctrine of ideas, a Platonic theory that does not belong to the ideas of historical Socrates. It is unclear to what extent the theories of Kratylos and Hermogenes corresponded to current views at the time.

The Derveni papyrus , a scroll found in 1962, shows that a doctrine of the objective correctness of names had spread even before the emergence of Kratylos . The papyrus contains fragments of a poem commentary from the late 5th or early 4th century BC. The similarities between the interpretive method of allegory presented there and the language perception ascribed to Kratylos are striking, but a concrete connection with Plato's dialogue is not evident.

According to Plato, Kratylos had students whom he taught in "correct use of words". It is possible that Plato himself took Kratylos' classes in his youth before joining Socrates. Aristotle reports that Plato first became familiar with Kratylos and the Heraclitic doctrines from his youth and that he later adhered to the theory of flux with regard to sense objects. Therefore, it is assumed in research that Plato was at times strongly influenced by the ideas of Kratylos. However, it is unclear whether this took place in the context of a teacher-student relationship. In any case, Plato limited the validity of the theory of flux to the realm of sense objects, he emphatically excluded the metaphysical entities from it.

Since the kratylos is a literary work, it is to be expected that Plato took the liberty of putting individual views into the mouth of his kratylos figure that the historical kratylos did not represent in this form. What is striking is the sharp contrast between the strong variant of the theory of the river, which denies any permanence, and which Plato's Kratylos embraces, and the concept of a time-independent correctness of names, which appears in dialogue as a central component of his philosophy.

A sharply pointed version of the Heraclitic doctrine of change is also attributed to Kratylos by Aristotle. According to his information, Kratylos was of the opinion that in the face of incessant change, true - that is, correct - philosophical statements were impossible. Accordingly, Kratylos represented a radical epistemological skepticism . Aristotle explains that for this reason Kratylos finally said nothing more, just moved his finger (to point). However, this anecdote may distort Kratylos' position and behavior, it may come from an opponent or mocker. In any case, Aristotle sees Kratylos as a consistent follower of the theory of flow. Aristotle mentions nothing of a theory of Kratylos about the natural correctness of names and the recognizability of things by means of words, rather he assumes a radical negation of the use of language for the gain of philosophical knowledge resulting from the theory of flow.

One possible explanation for the fact that tradition ascribes both river theory and language theory to Kratylos is the assumption that he has changed his mind. Aristotle's account suggests that Kratylos radicalized his epistemological skepticism based on the theory of fluxes over time and extended it to the designations after initially believing in the epistemological usefulness of etymology. He could have reacted to Plato's criticism of his earlier theory of language and given it up.

Research has often considered the possibility that behind the literary figure of Kratylos an unnamed historical opponent of Plato (or several) was to be found, or that it was a matter of combating tendencies within Plato's academy .

In research it is disputed what place the dialogue takes chronologically among Plato's works. The hypothesis of a rather early emergence has met with approval at times. In recent research, however, the classification under the works of the middle period has established itself. The time of origin cannot be reliably determined from either the stylistic or the content. It is also to be expected that Plato revised the dialogue over the course of time. Mary Margaret Mackenzie advocates late dating; she thinks that in Kratylos a criticism of the theory of ideas can already be elicited, as it can be found in the later work of the philosopher.



The aftermath of kratylos in ancient times was considerable. Plato's most famous student, Aristotle, was a conventionalist. In his work Peri hermeneias (De interpretatione) he presented his theory of language without explicitly referring to the Kratylos . Whether his position is to be understood as a reaction to this dialogue is controversial in research. The Stoics dealt intensively with the subject of dialogue. They rejected conventionalism and professed the doctrine of the natural correctness of words. The basic ideas of this doctrine presented in the Kratylos - the idea of ​​the origin of language and the procedure for interpreting words - they largely adopted. Like Plato's Socrates, they took elementary words and believed that the language creator had created all other words from the elementary words. They also shared the view presented in Kratylos that the task of etymology is to get to the elementary words and that in this way knowledge can also be gained about non-linguistic facts. In some details, however, they developed different views; in particular, they did not consider the words to be images of ideas, since they rejected the doctrine of ideas. The skepticism expressed in the dialogue about the value of etymology for the philosophical striving for knowledge hardly seems to have influenced the stoic discourse; rather, the Stoics attached great importance to etymologizing, as they valued the competence of word formers highly.

In Epicurean circles the assumption that a wordmaker created the words and assigned the names to the named things was rejected as a crazy, ridiculous idea.

The historian and rhetorician Dionysius of Halicarnassus considered Plato to be the initiator of etymological research, with particular reference to the Kratylos .

In the tetralogical order of the works of Plato, which apparently in the 1st century BC Was introduced, the kratylos belongs to the second tetralogy. The history writer of philosophy, Diogenes Laertios , counted it among the “logical” writings and gave “On the Correctness of Words” as an alternative title. In doing so, he referred to a now-lost script by the Middle Platonist Thrasyllos .

The philosopher Alcinous , a well-known exponent of Middle Platonism in the Roman Empire , went into detail on the kratylos in his "textbook (didaskalikós) of the principles of Plato" . According to his understanding, according to Plato's teaching, the correctness of the designations is based on the correct activity of the word formers, who paid attention to the connection between the words and the nature of the things designated. Alcinous concealed Plato's skepticism regarding the competence of word formers. Plutarch had a similarly positive opinion of the wisdom of word formers , who considered the etymologies of god names proposed in Kratylos to be correct. In his discussion of the etymology of the name of the goddess Isis , he referred to Plato's dialogue.

The scholar Porphyrios († 301/305), a Neoplatonist , wrote a commentary on Kratylos that has not been preserved. The dialogue also received a lot of attention from the later Neo-Platonists. Iamblichus († around 320/325), who played a pioneering role in late antique Neo-Platonism, had Kratylos studied in his school as the fourth of the twelve dialogues of Plato that he considered to be the most important, like the author of the anonymous late antique "Prolegomena to the philosophy of Plato" reported. In the 5th century the Neo-Platonist Proklos wrote a Kratylos commentary, from which only excerpts have survived. His concern was to replace the then common Aristotelian theory of language with a Platonic one. Proklos advocated the idea of ​​a natural correctness of names, especially the names of gods, which in his opinion are of cognitive value. He compared the names of the gods with statues of the gods. He considered the demiurge , the creator god, to be the first word- maker. From this perspective he criticized Aristotle, in whom he saw a proponent of the radical conventionalism represented in the dialogue by Hermogenes. Proclus taught that names are images of metaphysical entities composed of form and matter. The material component, the sound, is insignificant, it depends on the archetypes of the names, the Platonic ideas. He located the ideas in the divine intellect ( nous ). The influential Aristotle commentator Ammonios Hermeiou , a student of Proclus, also dealt with the dialogue; in his commentary on Aristotle's work Peri hermeneias , he discussed the contrary views held by Kratylos and Hermogenes, and Plato's own position. In contrast to Proclus, he tried to harmonize the concepts of Plato and Aristotle.

The beginning of Kratylos in the first edition, Venice 1513

The kratylos was also read in Christian circles . The church father Eusebios of Caesarea quoted several passages of the dialogue in a chapter in his Praeparatio evangelica , in which he dealt with the correctness of the names in the Hebrews.

The ancient text transmission is limited to a papyrus fragment from the late 2nd century.

Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

In the Byzantine Empire , some scholars had access to the kratylos ; the oldest surviving medieval manuscript was made there in 895. In contrast, dialogue in the Middle Ages was unknown to Latin-speaking scholars of the West. In the West it was only rediscovered in the age of Renaissance humanism . In the early 15th century the humanist Leonardo Bruni was in possession of a Kratylos manuscript. The humanist Marsilio Ficino created the first Latin translation . He published it in Florence in 1484 in the complete edition of his Plato translations and preceded it with an introduction (argumentum) .

The first edition of the Greek text was published in Venice by Aldo Manuzio in September 1513 as part of the complete edition of Plato's works published by Markos Musuros .


In modern research, the difficulty of interpretation is often pointed out; the Kratylos is considered one of the most difficult works of Plato. As early as 1807, the influential Plato translator Friedrich Schleiermacher stated in the introduction to the first edition of his translation of Kratylos : "The friends of Plato von Alte Schrot und Korn have always made this conversation a lot of trouble."

Friedrich Nietzsche came to the conclusion that Plato had denied any correctness of the names in the sense that "language teaches us things". Overall, Nietzsche was “disappointed in the worst” by the dialogue, because as a modern person one is “so spoiled by the extraordinary knowledge of linguistics” that one “can hardly think back to such naive standpoints”.

In the first half of the 20th century, well-known scholars assumed a very limited aim of Plato. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff was of the opinion that Plato's Socrates in Kratylos "just jokes and clears foreign errors out of the way"; this dialogue is “a funny book” that offers “a real firework of the greatest joke”, a “drizzle of more or less witty etymologies”, but leads to the serious warning that one should not embark on such absurd efforts. Paul Friedländer found in the "amusing and tiresome etymological series" of the dialogue a "change from nonsense and profundity". Kurt Hildebrandt wrote in 1933 that Plato had ironically refuted the scientific claim of the language-analytical method used with the abundance of etymological examples, but at the same time wanted to develop the "lively feeling for language" of philosophy students.

In the more recent research literature, on the other hand, the kratylos is valued as the work with which the European philosophy of language begins: It is the first closed work in our culture that reflects the language and its function (Jürgen Villers), the “starting point of all European philosophy and science of language “( Tilman Borsche ).

The future-oriented aspects of the dialogue are often emphasized. According to Tilman Borsche, “the foundation stone for the later separation of epistemology and language theory is laid here”. The linguistic philosophers Kuno Lorenz and Jürgen Mittelstraß also set the importance of kratylos high: it contains a program of a rational language philosophy that is also relevant to the current discourse, as well as a wealth of useful suggestions that deserve the attention of modern language philosophers. Egil A. Wyller refers to “the not only linguistic, but purely philosophical abundance of problems” that is contained in the dialogue and only gradually comes back into focus. In his investigation of the communication models in the Kratylos, Peter Schmitter also comes to the conclusion that Plato contains "a wealth of thoughts that modern communication theory (...) first had to rediscover". Manfred Kraus states that Plato implicitly differentiates between meaning and designation relation; this means that his concept is “ astonishingly close to modern semantics ”. Noteworthy is the amazing range of important linguistic insights that in Kratylos will spread. Ernst Heitsch finds Plato's analysis "surprisingly modern". He thinks that Plato writes for critical readers that dialogue is an exercise in critical and sensible reading and at the same time provides guidance for precise speaking and thinking.

The language theorist Karl Bühler referred to the kratylos when he presented his “ Organon model ” of language in his standard work on language theory in 1934 . Plato rightly understood language as a tool for communicating about things. The question of whether there has ever been an assignment of sound and thing on the basis of a similarity between them remains open; in any case, no similarity can be seen in the present. In the Kratylos the decision was made in favor of conventionalism, and it remains that way.

In 1965, the semiotic Roman Jakobson put forward ideas which " revive the question that is acutely discussed in Plato's fascinating dialogue with Kratylos ". In a brief research overview, he found that Hermogenes' view, according to which language is an arbitrary agreement established only by habit and the nature of linguistic signs is indifferent, has met with much approval in modern semiotics, but has also met with contradiction . Jakobson himself stuck to a non-arbitrary component in the symbolic utterances. Among other things, he pointed out that the view that linguistic signs can be interchanged at will is not usually shared by the speakers themselves.

The hermeneutics Hans-Georg Gadamer stresses like many others which paved the way to the Kratylos means as "base font of Greek thought about language" for the European philosophy of language. For him, the work “already represents the first step in a direction at the end of which lies the modern instrumental theory of language and the ideal of a sign system of reason”. However, Gadamer is critical of this development. Plato wanted to put thinking on itself in such a way that it would overcome the “power of words” and its “demonic mechanization in the sophistic art of argument”. In doing so, however, he shrank from the real relationship between word and thing. He had thoroughly covered up the “essence of language”, the word was reduced to its function as a sign and the tool character assigned to it. The “language-relatedness of the thought process” is not adequately considered. The consequence of this point of view is the “oblivion of language in Western thought”.

The literary scholar Gérard Genette published his extensive study Mimologiques (German Mimologiken ) in 1976 , in which he analyzes the history of the “mimological” discourse, that is, the conceptions of language that are based on an imitation relationship between words and things. In it he also deals in detail with the kratylos , which he describes as the "founding text, matrix and program" of the mimological tradition. Genette distinguishes between the "primary cratylism" of kratylism, which applies the mimological concept to real language, and the "secondary cratylism" of Plato and Platonic Socrates. The proponents of secondary cratylism had broken away from the naive thinking of the primary, but stuck to the basic idea of ​​a linguistic state of nature, although they admitted that it had never been realized historically.

The literary design of the dialogue is less appreciated. It is criticized that the structure is opaque and the composition is unbalanced. It is particularly pointed out that the philosophically relatively unproductive etymology part makes up over half of the entire text. As early as 1807 Friedrich Schleiermacher judged that in this work “the art of dialogical composition receded somewhat”; he pointed to hard transitions and remarked that Plato seemed “almost tired of the abundance of philological jokes”, so he had “thrown the final part as easily as possible”.

Editions and translations

  • William SM Nicoll, Elizabeth A. Duke (Eds.): Kratylos . In: Elizabeth A. Duke et al. (Ed.): Platonis opera , Volume 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995, ISBN 0-19-814569-1 , pp. 187-275 (authoritative critical edition).
  • Otto Apelt (translator): Plato's Dialogue Kratylos . In: Otto Apelt (Ed.): Platon: Complete Dialogues , Vol. 2, Meiner, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-7873-1156-4 (translation with introduction and explanations; reprint of the 2nd, revised edition, Leipzig 1922).
  • Julius Deuschle (translator): Kratylos . In: Erich Loewenthal (Ed.): Platon: All works in three volumes , Vol. 1, unchanged reprint of the 8th, revised edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-534-17918-8 , pp. 541–616 .
  • Gunther Eigler (Ed.): Plato: Works in Eight Volumes , Volume 3, 5th Edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-19095-5 , pp. 395-575 (reprint of the critical edition by Louis Méridier, 14th edition, Paris 1969, with the German translation by Friedrich Schleiermacher, 2nd, improved edition, Berlin 1824).
  • Rudolf Rufener (translator): Plato: Spätdialoge I (= anniversary edition of all works , vol. 5). Artemis, Zurich / Munich 1974, ISBN 3-7608-3640-2 , pp. 321-415 (with an introduction by Olof Gigon pp. XLVII-LI).


Overview representations


  • Francesco Ademollo: The Cratylus of Plato. A Commentary . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2011, ISBN 978-0-521-76347-9 .
  • Maria Luisa Gatti: Etimologia e filosofia. Strategy comunicative del filosofo nel "Cratilo" di Platone. Vita e Pensiero, Milano 2006, ISBN 88-343-1132-9 .
  • Jetske C. Rijlaarsdam: Plato on language. A comment on the Kratylos . Bohn, Scheltema & Holkema, Utrecht 1978, ISBN 90-313-0299-6 .


  • Timothy MS Baxter: The Cratylus. Plato's Critique of Naming . Brill, Leiden 1992, ISBN 90-04-09597-7 .
  • Christoph Diehl: Plato's semantics. The theory of linguistic meaning in kratylos . Mentis, Münster 2012, ISBN 978-3-89785-766-7 .
  • Andreas Eckl: Language and logic in Plato . Part 1: Logos, Name and Thing in the Kratylos . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2003, ISBN 3-8260-2577-6 .
  • Konrad Gaiser : Name and thing in Plato's 'Kratylos' . Winter, Heidelberg 1974, ISBN 3-533-02382-6 .
  • Ernst Heitsch : Arbitrariness and awareness of problems in Plato's Kratylos . Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-515-04370-5 .
  • David Meißner: nature, norm, name. Language and reality in Plato's "Kratylos" . Felix Meiner, Hamburg 2019, ISBN 3-7873-3698-2 .
  • David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003, ISBN 0-521-58492-2 .


  • Robbert M. van den Berg: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context. Ancient Theories of Language and Naming . Brill, Leiden 2008, ISBN 978-90-04-16379-9 .

Web links

Wikisource: Κρατύλος  - Sources and full texts (Greek)


  1. This is the writing of the editors; different spelling: Κράτυλος.
  2. Plato, Cratylus 433a.
  3. Plato, Cratylus 391c.
  4. Plato, Cratylus 429d.
  5. See on these reflections Catherine Dalimier: Plato: Cratyle , Paris 1998, pp. 17-19; Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, p. 312 f.
  6. Francesco Ademollo: The Cratylus of Plato , Cambridge 2011, p. 20.
  7. On historical Kratylos see Dieter Bremer : Kratylos und die Herakliteer . In: Hellmut Flashar et al. (Ed.): Early Greek Philosophy (= Outline of the History of Philosophy. The Philosophy of Antiquity , Volume 1), Half Volume 2, Basel 2013, pp. 657–664; Serge Mouraviev: Cratylos (d'Athènes?) . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 2, Paris 1994, pp. 503-510; Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, pp. 105 f .; on the historical Hermogenes Debra Nails: The People of Plato , Indianapolis 2002, pp. 162–164.
  8. Plato, Cratylus 440d.
  9. Serge Mouraviev: Cratylos (d'Athènes?) . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 2, Paris 1994, pp. 503-510, here: 504 f.
  10. Plato, Cratylus 429d.
  11. Plato, Cratylus 383a-384e.
  12. The Greek word ónoma means “designation” as well as “designation” and “name”. Therefore, the terms “designation” and “designation” are usually used synonymously in translation. See Rudolf Rehn: Der logos der Seele , Hamburg 1982, p. 8. Ernst Heitsch, however, opposes this: Weg zu Platon , Göttingen 1992, p. 80 f .; as far as the kratylos is concerned, he considers only “designation” to be correct.
  13. Plato, Cratylus 383a-384a.
  14. Plato, Cratylus 384a-c.
  15. Plato, Cratylus 384c-e.
  16. To understand this controversial consideration in research, see Michel Fattal : Vérité et fausseté de l'onoma et du logos dans le Cratyle de Platon . In: Nestor L. Cordero (Ed.): Ontologie et dialogue , Paris 2000, pp. 13–31, here: 15–21; Mary Richardson: True and False Names in the "Cratylus" . In: Phronesis 21, 1976, pp. 135-145; John V. Luce : Plato on Truth and Falsity in Names . In: The Classical Quarterly New Series 19, 1969, pp. 222-232; Charles H. Kahn: Language and Ontology in the Cratylus . In: Edward N. Lee et al. a. (Ed.): Exegesis and Argument , Assen 1973, pp. 152–176, here: 159–161.
  17. Plato, Cratylus 385a-e.
  18. See David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus , Cambridge 2003, p. 54.
  19. Plato, Cratylus 385E-386d.
  20. On the role of word builder, see David Sedley: The Nomothetês in Plato's Cratylus . In: The Studia Philonica Annual 15, 2003, pp. 5-16.
  21. Plato, Cratylus 386e-389d. For Plato's understanding of techne, see Susan B. Levin: What's in a Name ?: A Reconsideration of the Cratylus' Historical Sources and Topics . In: Ancient Philosophy 15, 1995, pp. 91–115, here: 99–107; Charles H. Kahn: Plato and the Socratic Dialogue , Cambridge 1996, pp. 102-113.
  22. Plato, Cratylus 389d-390a. Cf. on the ideas behind the designations Charles Kahn: Les mots et les formes dans le “Cratyle” de Platon . In: Henri Joly (ed.): Philosophy du langage et grammaire dans l'Antiquité , Bruxelles 1986, pp. 91–103, here: 99–103; Charles H. Kahn: Plato and the Socratic dialogue , Cambridge 1996, p. 364 f .; Norman Kretzmann: Plato on the Correctness of Names . In: American Philosophical Quarterly 8, 1971, pp. 126-138, here: 129-131.
  23. Plato, Cratylus 390b-e.
  24. Plato, Kratylos 390e-391c.
  25. See also Thomas Alexander Szlezák : Platon und die Schriftlichkeit der Philosophie , Berlin 1985, p. 210 f.
  26. Homer, Iliad 20–74.
  27. Plato, Cratylus 391c-392a.
  28. Plato, Cratylus 392b-397a.
  29. Plato, Cratylus 393c-394d.
  30. ^ Plato, Kratylos 397a-c.
  31. Plato, Cratylus 397C-399c.
  32. Plato, Cratylus 397C-400c.
  33. Plato, Cratylus 400d-410e.
  34. Plato, Kratylos 411a-421c.
  35. Plato, Cratylus 414c-e.
  36. Plato, Cratylus 418a-419b.
  37. Plato, Cratylus 421c-422e.
  38. ^ Plato, Kratylos 422e-425b.
  39. Plato, Cratylus 425b-427d.
  40. Plato, Cratylus 427d-428e.
  41. Plato, Kratylos 428e-429b.
  42. Plato, Cratylus 429b-430a. See Bernard Williams : Cratylus' theory of names and its refutation . In: Stephen Everson (Ed.): Language (= Companions to ancient thought 3), Cambridge 1994, pp. 28-36, here: 30-32.
  43. Plato, Cratylus 430a-431c. See Bernard Williams: Cratylus' theory of names and its refutation . In: Stephen Everson (Ed.): Language (= Companions to ancient thought 3), Cambridge 1994, pp. 28-36, here: 31-33.
  44. Plato, Cratylus 431c-432a.
  45. Plato, Cratylus 432a-433c.
  46. Plato, Cratylus 433d-435c.
  47. Plato, Cratylus 435d-436b.
  48. Plato, Cratylus 436b-438d.
  49. Plato, Kratylos 438d-439b. See Christine J. Thomas: Inquiry Without Names in Plato's Cratylus . In: Journal of the History of Philosophy 46, 2008, pp. 341-364. See Allan Silverman: The End of the Cratylus: Limning the World . In: Ancient Philosophy 21, 2001, pp. 25-43.
  50. Plato, Kratylos 439b-440d.
  51. Plato, Cratylus 440d-e.
  52. Louis Méridier (Ed.): Plato: Œuvres complètes , Volume 5, Part 2, Paris 1950, pp. 35 f.
  53. Plato, Kratylos 428b-c, 440d-e.
  54. See Thomas Alexander Szlezák: Platon und die Schriftlichkeit der Philosophie , Berlin 1985, pp. 208 f., 217–220.
  55. David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus , Cambridge 2003, pp. 138-146.
  56. Plato, Cratylus 436e-437d.
  57. Plato, Cratylus 428d.
  58. Catherine Dalimier: Plato: Cratyle , Paris 1998, p. 43.
  59. See Gérard Genette: Mimologiken. Reise nach Kratylien , Munich 1996, p. 42.
  60. See the reviews of the research opinions in Allan Silverman: Plato's Cratylus: The Naming of Nature and the Nature of Naming . In: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 10, 1992, pp. 25–71, here: p. 26 Note 2, Manfred Kraus: Plato and the semiotic triangle . In: Poetica 22, 1990, pp. 242–281, here: p. 274 note 129 and Christine J. Thomas: Inquiry Without Names in Plato's Cratylus . In: Journal of the History of Philosophy 46, 2008, pp. 341–364, here: pp. 345 f. Note 13. For researchers who ascribe a conventionalist philosophy of language to Plato, Imogen Smith: False Names, Demonstratives and the Refutation of Linguistic Naturalism in Plato's Cratylus 427d1–431c3. In: Phronesis 53, 2008, pp. 125–151 and Jochem Hennigfeld: Sprachphilosophie . In: Christoph Horn u. a. (Ed.): Platon-Handbuch , Stuttgart 2009, pp. 225–233, here: 228 f. (with a brief research overview).
  61. This view is represented by Ernst Heitsch, among others: Arbitrariness and Problem Consciousness in Plato's Kratylos , Stuttgart 1984, pp. 36–43, 52 f. and Rudolf Rehn: Der logos der Seele , Hamburg 1982, pp. 23–28, 32–34. See Adam Wood: Names and "Cutting Being at the Joints" in the Cratylus . In: Dionysius 25, 2007, pp. 21–31, here: 26.
  62. The main proponent of this view is David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus , Cambridge 2003, pp. 28–50. In this sense, Marion Hiller expressed herself: The “hybrid” essence of the word. An interpretation of Plato's dialogue "Kratylos" , Tübingen 2001, p. 35 and note 1, p. 40 f. and Note 2. Cf. Damir Barbarić: Spiel der Sprache. To Plato's dialogue with Kratylos . In: Internationales Jahrbuch für Hermeneutik 1, 2002, pp. 39–63, here: 57–59; Jetske C. Rijlaarsdam: Plato on language , Utrecht 1978, p. 143 f .; Adam Wood: Names and "Cutting Being at the Joints" in the Cratylus . In: Dionysius 25, 2007, pp. 21–31, here: 26–28, 31; Alexander Verlinsky: Socrates' method of etymology in the Cratylus . In: Hyperboreus 9, 2003, pp. 56-77.
  63. Manfred Kraus: Name undache , Amsterdam 1987, p. 201 f.
  64. See Gilbert Ryle : Letters and Syllables in Plato . In: The Philosophical Review 69, 1960, pp. 431–451, here: 431–436, 441 f .; Jürgen Villers: The Paradigm of the Alphabet , Würzburg 2005, p. 62 f .; Catherine Dalimier: Plato: Cratyle , Paris 1998, p. 267 f. Note 379.
  65. For the matches see Barbara Anceschi: Die Götternamen in Plato's Kratylos. A comparison with the papyrus by Derveni , Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 16–21, 30 ff. Analyze the commentary in the Derveni papyrus Alberto Bernabé : The Derveni Theogony: Many Questions and Some Answers . In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 103, 2007, pp. 99–133 and Gábor Betegh : The Derveni Papyrus , Cambridge 2004. For dating, see Walter Burkert : Kleine Schriften III. Mystica, Orphica, Pythagorica , Göttingen 2006, p. 50 f.
  66. Plato, Cratylus 428b.
  67. Aristotle, Metaphysics 987a – b; see. 1078b.
  68. See on Kratylos' influence on Plato Wolfgang Schadewaldt : Hellas and Hesperien , 2nd, revised edition, Vol. 1, Zurich 1970, pp. 626–632.
  69. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1010a. Compare with Barbara Cassin: Le doigt de Cratyle . In: Revue de Philosophie Ancienne 5, 1987, pp. 139–150.
  70. Rachel Barney: Names and Nature in Plato's Cratylus , New York 2001, p. 55, note 16; Victor Goldschmidt : Essai sur le "Cratyle" , Paris 1982 (reprint of the 1940 edition), p. 33.
  71. Serge Mouraviev: Cratylos (d'Athènes?) . In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Volume 2, Paris 1994, pp. 503-510, here: 506-509. Cf. Konrad Gaiser: Name and matter in Plato's 'Kratylos' , Heidelberg 1974, pp. 13-17; David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus , Cambridge 2003, pp. 18-21.
  72. Konrad Gaiser provides an overview of the hypotheses: Name und Ding in Plato's 'Kratylos' , Heidelberg 1974, p. 11 f. Cf. Luc Brisson : Cratyle . In: Richard Goulet (Ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Vol. 5, Part 1, Paris 2012, pp. 685 f., Here: 685.
  73. Michael Erler: Platon , Basel 2007, p. 109; Gerard R. Ledger: Re-counting Plato. A Computer Analysis of Plato's Style , Oxford 1989, pp. 147, 212-217, 224; William KC Guthrie : A History of Greek Philosophy , Vol. 5, Cambridge 1978, pp. 1 f. See Holger Thesleff : Platonic Patterns , Las Vegas 2009, pp. 314-317; Michael D. Palmer: Names, Reference and Correctness in Plato's Cratylus , New York 1989, pp. XIII-XVI.
  74. Evidence for this assumption is given by David Sedley: Plato's Cratylus , Cambridge 2003, pp. 7-16.
  75. ^ Mary Margaret Mackenzie: Putting the Cratylus in its place . In: The Classical Quarterly 36, 1986, pp. 124-150. Compare Rudolf Rehn: Der logos der Seele , Hamburg 1982, p. 7 f.
  76. Catherine Dalimier: Plato: Cratyle , Paris 1998, p. 12 and note 1.
  77. ^ Aristotle, De interpretatione 16b – 17a.
  78. ^ Robbert M. van den Berg: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context , Leiden 2008, p. 23 f.
  79. ^ Karl Barwick : Problems of the stoic language theory and rhetoric , Berlin 1957, pp. 29, 60, 76–79; Robbert M. van den Berg: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context , Leiden 2008, pp. 33-36.
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  82. Diogenes Laertios 3: 57-58.
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  84. Robbert M. van den Berg: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context , Leiden 2008, pp. 46–51.
  85. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride 60 (375c – d).
  86. Francesco Romano offers a compilation of references to the kratylos in Neoplatonic literature: Proclo: Lezioni sul “Cratilo” di Platone , Rome 1989, pp. XV – XVII.
  87. Prolegomena to the Philosophy of Plato 26, ed. von Leendert G. Westerink: Prolégomènes à la philosophie de Platon , Paris 1990, p. 40. See Robbert M. van den Berg on Iamblichos 'reception of the dialogue: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context , Leiden 2008, p. 78– 81.
  88. Francesco Romano (ed.): Proclo: Lezioni sul "Cratilo" di Platone , Rome 1989 (contains the text of the critical edition by Giorgio Pasquali : Procli diadochi in Platoni's Cratylum commentaria , 1908, with introduction, Italian translation and commentary by Romano) . Cf. Christa M. Haeseli: φύσει or θέσει? In: Freiburg Journal for Philosophy and Theology 55, 2008, pp. 5–27; Francesco Romano: Proclo lettore e interprete del Cratilo . In: Jean Pépin, Henri Dominique Saffrey (eds.): Proclus lecteur et interprète des anciens , Paris 1987, pp. 113–136; Anne Sheppard : Proclus' philosophical method of exegesis: the use of Aristotle and the Stoics in the Commentary on the Cratylus . In: Jean Pépin, Henri Dominique Saffrey (eds.): Proclus lecteur et interprète des anciens , Paris 1987, pp. 137–151; Robbert M. van den Berg: Proclus' Commentary on the Cratylus in Context , Leiden 2008, pp. 93-199.
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  90. Eusebios of Caesarea, Praeparatio evangelica 11: 6, 2–7.
  91. Corpus dei Papiri Filosofici Greci e Latini (CPF) , Part 1, Vol. 1 ***, Firenze 1999, pp. 50-52.
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  94. ^ Friedrich Schleiermacher: Kratylos. Introduction . In: Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher: About the philosophy of Plato , ed. by Peter M. Steiner, Hamburg 1996, pp. 228–244, here: 228.
  95. ^ Lecture recording in: Friedrich Nietzsche: Werke. Critical Complete Edition , Department 2, Vol. 4, Berlin 1995, p. 130.
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  97. ^ Paul Friedländer: Platon , Vol. 2, 3rd, improved edition, Berlin 1964 (1st edition Berlin 1930), pp. 193, 200.
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  99. Jürgen Villers: Das Paradigma des Alphabets , Würzburg 2005, p. 45. Cf. Olof Gigon: Introduction . In: Rudolf Rufener (translator): Plato: Spätdialoge I (= anniversary edition of all works , vol. 5), Zurich / Munich 1974, pp. V – LI, here: LI; Michael Erler: Platon , Munich 2006, p. 126.
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  102. ^ Kuno Lorenz, Jürgen Mittelstraß: On Rational Philosophy of Language: The Program in Plato's Cratylus Reconsidered . In: Mind 76, 1967, pp. 1–20, here: 4, 12.
  103. ^ Egil A. Wyller: Der late Plato , Hamburg 1970, p. 32.
  104. Peter Schmitter: On the prehistory of the communication theory . In: Sprachwissenschaft 6, 1981, pp. 186–199, here: 199.
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  107. Ernst Heitsch: Paths to Plato , Göttingen 1992, p. 83.
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  109. ^ Karl Bühler: Sprachtheorie , 2nd, unchanged edition, Stuttgart 1965 (1st edition 1934), pp. 24, 29 f.
  110. ^ Roman Jakobson: Quest for the Essence of Language (1965), German in: Roman Jakobson: Semiotik. Selected texts 1919–1982 , Frankfurt am Main 1988, pp. 77–98, here: 81.
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  112. Hans-Georg Gadamer: Hermeneutik I. Truth and Method (= Collected Works , Volume 1), 6th, reviewed edition, Tübingen 1990, pp. 409, 422.
  113. Hans-Georg Gadamer: Hermeneutik I. Truth and Method (= Collected Works , Volume 1), 6th, reviewed edition, Tübingen 1990, pp. 411-422. Cf. Damir Barbarić: Game of Language. To Plato's dialogue with Kratylos . In: Internationales Jahrbuch für Hermeneutik 1, 2002, pp. 39–63, here: 48 f.
  114. ^ Gérard Genette: Mimologiken. Reise nach Kratylien , Munich 1996, pp. 10, 13–45 (translation of the original edition Mimologiques published in 1976. Voyage en Cratylie ).
  115. Rudolf Rehn: Der logos der Seele , Hamburg 1982, p. 9.
  116. ^ Friedrich Schleiermacher: Kratylos. Introduction . In: Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher: About the philosophy of Plato , ed. by Peter M. Steiner, Hamburg 1996, pp. 228–244, here: 243.
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