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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Plato Bilingual Anthology : BEINGS AND NAMES

from Cratylus, * 438d-439b, translated by B. Jowett

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OC. But if this is a battle of names, some of them asserting that they are like the truth, others contending that they are, how or by what criterion are we to decide between them? For there are no other names to which appeal can be made, but obviously recourse must be had to another standard which, without employing names, will make clear which of the two are right; and this must be a standard which shows the truth of things. Crat. I agree. Soc. But if that is true, Cratylus, then I suppose that things may be known without names? Crat. Clearly. Soc. But how would you expect to know them? What other way can there be of knowing them, except the true and natural way, through their affinities, when they are akin to each other, and through themselves? For that which is other and different from them must signify something other and different from them. Crat. What you are saying is, I think, true. Soc. Well, but reflect; have we not several times acknowledged that names rightly given are the likenesses and images of the things which they name? Crat. Yes. Soc. Let us suppose that to any extent you please you can learn things through the medium of names, and suppose also that you can learn them from the things themselves- which is likely to be the nobler and clearer way to learn of the image, whether the image and the truth of which the image is the expression have been rightly conceived, or to learn of the truth whether the truth and the image of it have been duly executed? Crat. I should say that we must learn of the truth. Soc. How real existence is to be studied or discovered is, I suspect, beyond you and me. But we may admit so much, that the knowledge of things is not to be derived from names. No; they must be studied and investigated in themselves. Crat. Clearly, Socrates.

ὄντα καὶ ὀνόματα

ΣΩ. Ὀνομάτων οὖν στασιασάντων͵ καὶ τῶν μὲν φασκόντων ἑαυτὰ εἶναι τὰ ὅμοια τῇ ἀληθείᾳ͵ τῶν δ΄ ἑαυτά͵ τίνι ἔτι διακρινοῦμεν͵ ἢ ἐπὶ τί ἐλθόντες; οὐ γάρ που ἐπὶ ὀνόματά γε ἕτερα ἄλλα τούτων· οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν͵ ἀλλὰ δῆλον ὅτι ἄλλ΄ ἄττα ζητητέα πλὴν ὀνομάτων͵ ἃ ἡμῖν ἐμφανιεῖ ἄνευ ὀνομάτων ὁπότερα τούτων ἐστὶ τἀληθῆ͵ δείξαντα δῆλον ὅτι τὴν ἀλήθειαν τῶν ὄντων. ΚΡ. Δοκεῖ μοι οὕτω. ΣΩ. Ἔστιν ἄρα͵ ὡς ἔοικεν͵ ὦ Κρατύλε͵ δυνατὸν μαθεῖν ἄνευ ὀνομάτων τὰ ὄντα͵ εἴπερ ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχει. ΚΡ. Φαίνεται. ΣΩ. Διὰ τίνος ἄλλου οὖν ἔτι προσδοκᾷς ἂν ταῦτα μαθεῖν; ἆρα δι΄ ἄλλου του ἢ οὗπερ εἰκός τε καὶ δικαιότατον͵ δι΄ ἀλλήλων γε͵ εἴ πῃ συγγενῆ ἐστιν͵ καὶ αὐτὰ δι΄ αὑτῶν; τὸ γάρ που ἕτερον ἐκείνων καὶ ἀλλοῖον ἕτερον ἄν τι καὶ ἀλλοῖον σημαίνοι ἀλλ΄ οὐκ ἐκεῖνα. ΚΡ. Ἀληθῆ μοι φαίνῃ λέγειν. ΣΩ. Ἔχε δὴ πρὸς Διός· τὰ δὲ ὀνόματα οὐ πολλάκις μέντοι ὡμολογήσαμεν τὰ καλῶς κείμενα ἐοικότα εἶναι ἐκείνοις ὧν ὀνόματα κεῖται͵ καὶ εἶναι εἰκόνας τῶν πραγμάτων; ΚΡ. Ναί. ΣΩ. Εἰ οὖν ἔστι μὲν ὅτι μάλιστα δι΄ ὀνομάτων τὰ πράγματα μανθάνειν͵ ἔστι δὲ καὶ δι΄ αὐτῶν͵ ποτέρα ἂν εἴη καλλίων καὶ σαφεστέρα ἡ μάθησις; ἐκ τῆς εἰκόνος μανθάνειν αὐτήν τε αὐτὴν εἰ καλῶς εἴκασται͵ καὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἧς ἦν εἰκών͵ ἢ ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας αὐτήν τε αὐτὴν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτῆς εἰ πρεπόντως εἴργασται; ΚΡ. Ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας μοι δοκεῖ ἀνάγκη εἶναι. ΣΩ. Ὅντινα μὲν τοίνυν τρόπον δεῖ μανθάνειν ἢ εὑρίσκειν τὰ ὄντα͵ μεῖζον ἴσως ἐστὶν ἐγνωκέναι ἢ κατ΄ ἐμὲ καὶ σέ· ἀγαπητὸν δὲ καὶ τοῦτο ὁμολογήσασθαι͵ ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ ὀνομάτων ἀλλὰ πολὺ μᾶλλον αὐτὰ ἐξ αὑτῶν καὶ μαθητέον καὶ ζητητέον ἢ ἐκ τῶν ὀνομάτων. ΚΡ. Φαίνεται͵ ὦ Σώκρατες.

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