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Cratylus – Plato

HERMOGENES: What do you say of pur (fire) and udor barbarians, often borrowed from them.


HERMOGENES: What is the inference?

SOCRATES: I am at a loss how to explain pur; either the muse of Euthyphro has deserted me, or there is some SOCRATES: Why, you know that any one who seeks to very great difficulty in the word. Please, however, to demonstrate the fitness of these names according to note the contrivance which I adopt whenever I am in a the Hellenic language, and not according to the lan-difficulty of this sort.

guage from which the words are derived, is rather likely to be at fault.

HERMOGENES: What is it?

HERMOGENES: Yes, certainly.

SOCRATES: I will tell you; but I should like to know first whether you can tell me what is the meaning of the SOCRATES: Well then, consider whether this pur is not pur?

foreign; for the word is not easily brought into relation with the Hellenic tongue, and the Phrygians may be HERMOGENES: Indeed I cannot.

observed to have the same word slightly changed, just as they have udor (water) and kunes (dogs), and many SOCRATES: Shall I tell you what I suspect to be the true other words.

explanation of this and several other words?—My belief is that they are of foreign origin. For the Hellenes, HERMOGENES: That is true.

especially those who were under the dominion of the 43

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SOCRATES: Any violent interpretations of the words SOCRATES: What shall we take next?

should be avoided; for something to say about them may easily be found. And thus I get rid of pur and udor.

HERMOGENES: There are orai (the seasons), and the two Aer (air), Hermogenes, may be explained as the ele-names of the year, eniautos and etos.

ment which raises (airei) things from the earth, or as ever flowing ( aei rei), or because the flux of the air is SOCRATES: The orai should be spelt in the old Attic way, if wind, and the poets call the winds ‘air-blasts,’ ( aetai); you desire to know the probable truth about them; they are he who uses the term may mean, so to speak, air-flux rightly called the orai because they divide ( orizousin) the ( aetorroun), in the sense of wind-flux ( pneumatorroun); summers and winters and winds and the fruits of the earth.

and because this moving wind may be expressed by eiThe words eniautos and etos appear to be the same,—‘that ther term he employs the word air ( aer = aetes rheo).

which brings to light the plants and growths of the earth in Aither ( aether) I should interpret as aeitheer; this may their turn, and passes them in review within itself ( en eauto be correctly said, because this element is always run-exetazei)’: this is broken up into two words, eniautos from ning in a flux about the air ( aei thei peri tou aera reon).

en eauto, and etos from etazei, just as the original name of The meaning of the word ge (earth) comes out better Zeus was divided into Zena and Dia; and the whole proposi-when in the form of gaia, for the earth may be truly tion means that his power of reviewing from within is one, called ‘mother’ ( gaia, genneteira), as in the language of but has two names, two words etos and eniautos being thus Homer (Od.) gegaasi means gegennesthai.

formed out of a single proposition.


HERMOGENES: Indeed, Socrates, you make surprising progress.


Cratylus – Plato

SOCRATES: I am run away with.

SOCRATES: By the dog of Egypt I have a not bad notion which came into my head only this moment: I believe HERMOGENES: Very true.

that the primeval givers of names were undoubtedly like too many of our modern philosophers, who, in their search SOCRATES: But am not yet at my utmost speed.

after the nature of things, are always getting dizzy from constantly going round and round, and then they imag-HERMOGENES: I should like very much to know, in the ine that the world is going round and round and moving next place, how you would explain the virtues. What in all directions; and this appearance, which arises out principle of correctness is there in those charming words—

of their own internal condition, they suppose to be a wisdom, understanding, justice, and the rest of them?

reality of nature; they think that there is nothing stable or permanent, but only flux and motion, and that the SOCRATES: That is a tremendous class of names which world is always full of every sort of motion and change.

you are disinterring; still, as I have put on the lion’s The consideration of the names which I mentioned has skin, I must not be faint of heart; and I suppose that I led me into making this reflection.

must consider the meaning of wisdom ( phronesis) and understanding ( sunesis), and judgment ( gnome), and HERMOGENES: How is that, Socrates?

knowledge ( episteme), and all those other charming words, as you call them?

SOCRATES: Perhaps you did not observe that in the names which have been just cited, the motion or flux or gen-HERMOGENES: Surely, we must not leave off until we eration of things is most surely indicated.

find out their meaning.


Cratylus – Plato

HERMOGENES: No, indeed, I never thought of it.

( phronesis) which we were just now considering.

Epioteme (knowledge) is akin to this, and indicates that SOCRATES: Take the first of those which you mentioned; the soul which is good for anything follows ( epetai) the clearly that is a name indicative of motion.

motion of things, neither anticipating them nor falling behind them; wherefore the word should rather be read HERMOGENES: What was the name?

as epistemene, inserting epsilon nu. Sunesis (understanding) may be regarded in like manner as a kind of con-SOCRATES: Phronesis (wisdom), which may signify phoras clusion; the word is derived from sunienai (to go along kai rhou noesis (perception of motion and flux), or per-with), and, like epistasthai (to know), implies the pro-haps phoras onesis (the blessing of motion), but is at gression of the soul in company with the nature of any rate connected with pheresthai (motion); gnome things. Sophia (wisdom) is very dark, and appears not (judgment), again, certainly implies the ponderation or to be of native growth; the meaning is, touching the consideration ( nomesis) of generation, for to ponder is motion or stream of things. You must remember that the same as to consider; or, if you would rather, here is the poets, when they speak of the commencement of noesis, the very word just now mentioned, which is neou any rapid motion, often use the word esuthe (he rushed); esis (the desire of the new); the word neos implies that and there was a famous Lacedaemonian who was named the world is always in process of creation. The giver of Sous (Rush), for by this word the Lacedaemonians sig-the name wanted to express this longing of the soul, nify rapid motion, and the touching ( epaphe) of mo-for the original name was neoesis, and not noesis; but tion is expressed by sophia, for all things are supposed eta took the place of a double epsilon. The word to be in motion. Good ( agathon) is the name which is sophrosune is the salvation ( soteria) of that wisdom given to the admirable ( agasto) in nature; for, although 46

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all things move, still there are degrees of motion; some ciple, have been told in a mystery that the justice of are swifter, some slower; but there are some things which which I am speaking is also the cause of the world: are admirable for their swiftness, and this admirable now a cause is that because of which anything is cre-part of nature is called agathon. Dikaiosune (justice) is ated; and some one comes and whispers in my ear that clearly dikaiou sunesis (understanding of the just); but justice is rightly so called because partaking of the na-the actual word dikaion is more difficult: men are only ture of the cause, and I begin, after hearing what he agreed to a certain extent about justice, and then they has said, to interrogate him gently: ‘Well, my excellent begin to disagree. For those who suppose all things to friend,’ say I, ‘but if all this be true, I still want to know be in motion conceive the greater part of nature to be a what is justice.’ Thereupon they think that I ask tire-mere receptacle; and they say that there is a penetrat-some questions, and am leaping over the barriers, and ing power which passes through all this, and is the have been already sufficiently answered, and they try instrument of creation in all, and is the subtlest and to satisfy me with one derivation after another, and at swiftest element; for if it were not the subtlest, and a length they quarrel. For one of them says that justice is power which none can keep out, and also the swiftest, the sun, and that he only is the piercing ( diaionta) and passing by other things as if they were standing still, it burning ( kaonta) element which is the guardian of na-could not penetrate through the moving universe. And ture. And when I joyfully repeat this beautiful notion, this element, which superintends all things and pierces I am answered by the satirical remark, ‘What, is there ( diaion) all, is rightly called dikaion; the letter k is no justice in the world when the sun is down?’ And only added for the sake of euphony. Thus far, as I was when I earnestly beg my questioner to tell me his own saying, there is a general agreement about the nature honest opinion, he says, ‘Fire in the abstract’; but this of justice; but I, Hermogenes, being an enthusiastic disis not very intelligible. Another says, ‘No, not fire in 47

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the abstract, but the abstraction of heat in the fire.’

mains after justice? I do not think that we have as yet Another man professes to laugh at all this, and says, as discussed courage ( andreia),—injustice ( adikia), which Anaxagoras says, that justice is mind, for mind, as they is obviously nothing more than a hindrance to the pen-say, has absolute power, and mixes with nothing, and etrating principle (diaiontos), need not be considered.

orders all things, and passes through all things. At last, Well, then, the name of andreia seems to imply a my friend, I find myself in far greater perplexity about battle;—this battle is in the world of existence, and the nature of justice than I was before I began to learn.

according to the doctrine of flux is only the counterflux But still I am of opinion that the name, which has led ( enantia rhon): if you extract the delta from andreia, me into this digression, was given to justice for the the name at once signifies the thing, and you may clearly reasons which I have mentioned.

understand that andreia is not the stream opposed to every stream, but only to that which is contrary to jus-HERMOGENES: I think, Socrates, that you are not im-tice, for otherwise courage would not have been praised.

provising now; you must have heard this from some one The words arren (male) and aner (man) also contain a else.

similar allusion to the same principle of the upward flux ( te ano rhon). Gune (woman) I suspect to be the SOCRATES: And not the rest?

same word as goun (birth): thelu (female) appears to be partly derived from thele (the teat), because the teat HERMOGENES: Hardly.

is like rain, and makes things flourish ( tethelenai).

SOCRATES: Well, then, let me go on in the hope of mak-HERMOGENES: That is surely probable.

ing you believe in the originality of the rest. What re-48

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SOCRATES: Yes; and the very word thallein (to flourish) SOCRATES: Yes, my dear friend; but then you know that seems to figure the growth of youth, which is swift and the original names have been long ago buried and dis-sudden ever. And this is expressed by the legislator in guised by people sticking on and stripping off letters the name, which is a compound of thein (running), and for the sake of euphony, and twisting and bedizening allesthai (leaping). Pray observe how I gallop away when them in all sorts of ways: and time too may have had a I get on smooth ground. There are a good many names share in the change. Take, for example, the word generally thought to be of importance, which have still katoptron; why is the letter rho inserted? This must surely to be explained.

be the addition of some one who cares nothing about the truth, but thinks only of putting the mouth into HERMOGENES: True.

shape. And the additions are often such that at last no human being can possibly make out the original mean-SOCRATES: There is the meaning of the word techne (art), ing of the word. Another example is the word sphigx, for example.

sphiggos, which ought properly to be phigx, phiggos, and there are other examples.

HERMOGENES: Very true.

HERMOGENES: That is quite true, Socrates.

SOCRATES: That may be identified with echonoe, and expresses the possession of mind: you have only to take SOCRATES: And yet, if you are permitted to put in and away the tau and insert two omichrons, one between pull out any letters which you please, names will be too the chi and nu, and another between the nu and eta.

easily made, and any name may be adapted to any ob-HERMOGENES: That is a very shabby etymology.



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and this evil motion when existing in the soul has the general name of kakia, or vice, specially appropriated to SOCRATES: Yes, that is true. And therefore a wise dicta-it. The meaning of kakos ienai may be further illustrated tor, like yourself, should observe the laws of modera-by the use of deilia (cowardice), which ought to have tion and probability.

come after andreia, but was forgotten, and, as I fear, is not the only word which has been passed over. Deilia HERMOGENES: Such is my desire.

signifies that the soul is bound with a strong chain ( desmos), for lian means strength, and therefore deilia SOCRATES: And mine, too, Hermogenes. But do not be expresses the greatest and strongest bond of the soul; too much of a precisian, or ‘you will unnerve me of my and aporia (difficulty) is an evil of the same nature (from strength (Iliad.).’ When you have allowed me to add a ( alpha) not, and poreuesthai to go), like anything else mechane (contrivance) to techne (art) I shall be at the which is an impediment to motion and movement. Then top of my bent, for I conceive mechane to be a sign of the word kakia appears to mean kakos ienai, or going great accomplishment— anein; for mekos has the mean-badly, or limping and halting; of which the consequence ing of greatness, and these two, mekos and anein, make is, that the soul becomes filled with vice. And if kakia is up the word mechane. But, as I was saying, being now at the name of this sort of thing, arete will be the opposite the top of my bent, I should like to consider the meaning of it, signifying in the first place ease of motion, then of the two words arete (virtue) and kakia (vice); arete I that the stream of the good soul is unimpeded, and has do not as yet understand, but kakia is transparent, and therefore the attribute of ever flowing without let or hin-agrees with the principles which preceded, for all things drance, and is therefore called arete, or, more correctly, being in a flux ( ionton), kakia is kakos ion (going badly); aeireite (ever-flowing), and may perhaps have had an-50

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other form, airete (eligible), indicating that nothing is SOCRATES: The meaning of aischron is evident, being more eligible than virtue, and this has been hammered only aei ischon roes (always preventing from flowing), into arete. I daresay that you will deem this to be an-and this is in accordance with our former derivations.

other invention of mine, but I think that if the previ-For the name-giver was a great enemy to stagnation of ous word kakia was right, then arete is also right.

all sorts, and hence he gave the name aeischoroun to that which hindered the flux ( aei ischon roun), and HERMOGENES: But what is the meaning of kakon, which that is now beaten together into aischron.

has played so great a part in your previous discourse?

HERMOGENES: But what do you say of kalon?

SOCRATES: That is a very singular word about which I can hardly form an opinion, and therefore I must have SOCRATES: That is more obscure; yet the form is only recourse to my ingenious device.

due to the quantity, and has been changed by altering omicron upsilon into omicron.

HERMOGENES: What device?

HERMOGENES: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: The device of a foreign origin, which I shall give to this word also.

SOCRATES: This name appears to denote mind.

HERMOGENES: Very likely you are right; but suppose HERMOGENES: How so?

that we leave these words and endeavour to see the rationale of kalon and aischron.

SOCRATES: Let me ask you what is the cause why any-51

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thing has a name; is not the principle which imposes SOCRATES: Physic does the work of a physician, and the name the cause?

carpentering does the works of a carpenter?

HERMOGENES: Certainly.


SOCRATES: And must not this be the mind of Gods, or of SOCRATES: And the principle of beauty does the works men, or of both?

of beauty?


HERMOGENES: Of course.

SOCRATES: Is not mind that which called ( kalesan) things SOCRATES: And that principle we affirm to be mind?

by their names, and is not mind the beautiful ( kalon)?

HERMOGENES: Very true.

HERMOGENES: That is evident.

SOCRATES: Then mind is rightly called beauty because SOCRATES: And are not the works of intelligence and she does the works which we recognize and speak of as mind worthy of praise, and are not other works worthy the beautiful?

of blame?

HERMOGENES: That is evident.

HERMOGENES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: What more names remain to us?


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HERMOGENES: There are the words which are connected HERMOGENES: Well, but what is lusiteloun (profitable)?

with agathon and kalon, such as sumpheron and lusiteloun, ophelimon, kerdaleon, and their opposites.

SOCRATES: I suppose, Hermogenes, that people do not mean by the profitable the gainful or that which pays SOCRATES: The meaning of sumpheron (expedient) I ( luei) the retailer, but they use the word in the sense of think that you may discover for yourself by the light of swift. You regard the profitable ( lusiteloun), as that the previous examples,—for it is a sister word to which being the swiftest thing in existence, allows of episteme, meaning just the motion ( pora) of the soul no stay in things and no pause or end of motion, but accompanying the world, and things which are done always, if there begins to be any end, lets things go upon this principle are called sumphora or sumpheronta, again ( luei), and makes motion immortal and unceas-because they are carried round with the world.

ing: and in this point of view, as appears to me, the good is happily denominated lusiteloun—being that HERMOGENES: That is probable.

which looses ( luon) the end ( telos) of motion. Ophelimon (the advantageous) is derived from ophellein, meaning SOCRATES: Again, cherdaleon (gainful) is called from cherdos that which creates and increases; this latter is a com-

(gain), but you must alter the delta into nu if you want to mon Homeric word, and has a foreign character.

get at the meaning; for this word also signifies good, but in another way; he who gave the name intended to express HERMOGENES: And what do you say of their opposites?

the power of admixture ( kerannumenon) and universal penetration in the good; in forming the word, however, he in-SOCRATES: Of such as are mere negatives I hardly think serted a delta instead of a nu, and so made kerdos.

that I need speak.


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HERMOGENES: Which are they?

HERMOGENES: You bring out curious results, Socrates, in the use of names; and when I hear the word SOCRATES: The words axumphoron (inexpedient), anoph-boulapteroun I cannot help imagining that you are eles (unprofitable), alusiteles (unadvantageous), akerdes making your mouth into a flute, and puffing away at (ungainful).

some prelude to Athene.


SOCRATES: That is the fault of the makers of the name, Hermogenes; not mine.

SOCRATES: I would rather take the words blaberon (harm-ful), zemiodes (hurtful).

HERMOGENES: Very true; but what is the derivation of zemiodes?


SOCRATES: What is the meaning of zemiodes?—let me SOCRATES: The word blaberon is that which is said to remark, Hermogenes, how right I was in saying that hinder or harm (blaptein) the stream (roun); blapton is great changes are made in the meaning of words by boulomenon aptein (seeking to hold or bind); for aptein putting in and pulling out letters; even a very slight is the same as dein, and dein is always a term of cen-permutation will sometimes give an entirely opposite sure; boulomenon aptein roun (wanting to bind the sense; I may instance the word deon, which occurs to stream) would properly be boulapteroun, and this, as I me at the moment, and reminds me of what I was going imagine, is improved into blaberon.

to say to you, that the fine fashionable language of modern times has twisted and disguised and entirely 54

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altered the original meaning both of deon, and also of shows the intention of the giver of the name? of which zemiodes, which in the old language is clearly indicated.

the reason is, that men long for ( imeirousi) and love the light which comes after the darkness, and is there-HERMOGENES: What do you mean?

fore called imera, from imeros, desire.

SOCRATES: I will try to explain. You are aware that our HERMOGENES: Clearly.

forefathers loved the sounds iota and delta, especially the women, who are most conservative of the ancient SOCRATES: But now the name is so travestied that you language, but now they change iota into eta or epsilon, cannot tell the meaning, although there are some who and delta into zeta; this is supposed to increase the imagine the day to be called emera because it makes grandeur of the sound.

things gentle ( emera different accents).

HERMOGENES: How do you mean?

HERMOGENES: Such is my view.

SOCRATES: For example, in very ancient times they called SOCRATES: And do you know that the ancients said the day either imera or emera (short e), which is called duogon and not zugon?

by us emera (long e).

HERMOGENES: They did so.

HERMOGENES: That is true.

SOCRATES: And zugon (yoke) has no meaning,—it ought SOCRATES: Do you observe that only the ancient form to be duogon, which word expresses the binding of two 55

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together ( duein agoge) for the purpose of drawing;—

has not contradicted himself, but in all these various this has been changed into zugon, and there are many appellations, deon (obligatory), ophelimon (advanta-other examples of similar changes.

geous), lusiteloun (profitable), kerdaleon (gainful), agathon (good), sumpheron (expedient), euporon (plen-HERMOGENES: There are.

teous), the same conception is implied of the ordering or all-pervading principle which is praised, and the re-SOCRATES: Proceeding in the same train of thought I straining and binding principle which is censured. And may remark that the word deon (obligation) has a mean-this is further illustrated by the word zemiodes (hurt-ing which is the opposite of all the other appellations ful), which if the zeta is only changed into delta as in of good; for deon is here a species of good, and is, nev-the ancient language, becomes demiodes; and this name, ertheless, the chain ( desmos) or hinderer of motion, as you will perceive, is given to that which binds mo-and therefore own brother of blaberon.

tion ( dounti ion).

HERMOGENES: Yes, Socrates; that is quite plain.

HERMOGENES: What do you say of edone (pleasure), lupe (pain), epithumia (desire), and the like, Socrates?

SOCRATES: Not if you restore the ancient form, which is more likely to be the correct one, and read dion instead SOCRATES: I do not think, Hermogenes, that there is of deon; if you convert the epsilon into an iota after any great difficulty about them— edone is e ( eta) onesis, the old fashion, this word will then agree with other the action which tends to advantage; and the original words meaning good; for dion, not deon, signifies the form may be supposed to have been eone, but this has good, and is a term of praise; and the author of names been altered by the insertion of the delta. Lupe appears 56

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to be derived from the relaxation ( luein) which the body cause flowing with desire ( iemenos), and expresses a feels when in sorrow; ania (trouble) is the hindrance of longing after things and violent attraction of the soul motion ( alpha and ienai); algedon (distress), if I am to them, and is termed imeros from possessing this not mistaken, is a foreign word, which is derived from power; pothos (longing) is expressive of the desire of aleinos (grievous); odune (grief) is called from the put-that which is not present but absent, and in another ting on ( endusis) sorrow; in achthedon (vexation) ‘the place ( pou); this is the reason why the name pothos is word too labours,’ as any one may see; chara (joy) is the applied to things absent, as imeros is to things present; very expression of the fluency and diffusion of the soul eros (love) is so called because flowing in ( esron) from ( cheo); terpsis (delight) is so called from the pleasure without; the stream is not inherent, but is an influence creeping ( erpon) through the soul, which may be lik-introduced through the eyes, and from flowing in was ened to a breath ( pnoe) and is properly erpnoun, but called esros (influx) in the old time when they used has been altered by time into terpnon; eupherosune omicron for omega, and is called eros, now that omega (cheerfulness) and epithumia explain themselves; the is substituted for omicron. But why do you not give me former, which ought to be eupherosune and has been another word?

changed euphrosune, is named, as every one may see, from the soul moving ( pheresthai) in harmony with HERMOGENES: What do you think of doxa (opinion), nature; epithumia is really e epi ton thumon iousa and that class of words?

dunamis, the power which enters into the soul; thumos (passion) is called from the rushing ( thuseos) and boil-SOCRATES: Doxa is either derived from dioxis (pursuit), ing of the soul; imeros (desire) denotes the stream ( rous) and expresses the march of the soul in the pursuit of which most draws the soul dia ten esin tes roes—be-knowledge, or from the shooting of a bow ( toxon); the 57

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latter is more likely, and is confirmed by oiesis (think-necessary and resistant being contrary to our will, iming), which is only oisis (moving), and implies the move-plies error and ignorance; the idea is taken from walk-ment of the soul to the essential nature of each thing—

ing through a ravine which is impassable, and rugged, just as boule (counsel) has to do with shooting ( bole); and overgrown, and impedes motion—and this is the and boulesthai (to wish) combines the notion of aiming derivation of the word anagkaion (necessary) an agke and deliberating—all these words seem to follow doxa, ion, going through a ravine. But while my strength lasts and all involve the idea of shooting, just as aboulia, let us persevere, and I hope that you will persevere with absence of counsel, on the other hand, is a mishap, or your questions.

missing, or mistaking of the mark, or aim, or proposal, or object.

HERMOGENES: Well, then, let me ask about the greatest and noblest, such as aletheia (truth) and pseudos (false-HERMOGENES: You are quickening your pace now, hood) and on (being), not forgetting to enquire why Socrates.

the word onoma (name), which is the theme of our discussion, has this name of onoma.

SOCRATES: Why yes, the end I now dedicate to God, not, however, until I have explained anagke (necessity), SOCRATES: You know the word maiesthai (to seek)?

which ought to come next, and ekousion (the volun-tary). Ekousion is certainly the yielding ( eikon) and HERMOGENES: Yes;—meaning the same as zetein (to unresisting—the notion implied is yielding and not enquire).

opposing, yielding, as I was just now saying, to that motion which is in accordance with our will; but the SOCRATES: The word onoma seems to be a compressed 58

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sentence, signifying on ou zetema (being for which there SOCRATES: You mean to say, how should I answer him?

is a search); as is still more obvious in onomaston (notable), which states in so many words that real exist-HERMOGENES: Yes.

ence is that for which there is a seeking ( on ou masma); aletheia is also an agglomeration of theia ale (divine SOCRATES: One way of giving the appearance of an an-wandering), implying the divine motion of existence; swer has been already suggested.

pseudos (falsehood) is the opposite of motion; here is another ill name given by the legislator to stagnation HERMOGENES: What way?

and forced inaction, which he compares to sleep ( eudein); but the original meaning of the word is dis-SOCRATES: To say that names which we do not under-guised by the addition of psi; on and ousia are ion with stand are of foreign origin; and this is very likely the an iota broken off; this agrees with the true principle, right answer, and something of this kind may be true of for being ( on) is also moving ( ion), and the same may them; but also the original forms of words may have be said of not being, which is likewise called not going been lost in the lapse of ages; names have been so ( oukion or ouki on = ouk ion).

twisted in all manner of ways, that I should not be surprised if the old language when compared with that HERMOGENES: You have hammered away at them man-now in use would appear to us to be a barbarous tongue.

fully; but suppose that some one were to say to you, what is the word ion, and what are reon and doun?—

HERMOGENES: Very likely.

show me their fitness.

SOCRATES: Yes, very likely. But still the enquiry de-59

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mands our earnest attention and we must not flinch.

HERMOGENES: I believe you to be in the right.

For we should remember, that if a person go on analysing names into words, and enquiring also into the elements SOCRATES: And suppose the names about which you out of which the words are formed, and keeps on al-are now asking should turn out to be primary elements, ways repeating this process, he who has to answer him must not their truth or law be examined according to must at last give up the enquiry in despair.

some new method?

HERMOGENES: Very true.

HERMOGENES: Very likely.

SOCRATES: And at what point ought he to lose heart SOCRATES: Quite so, Hermogenes; all that has preceded and give up the enquiry? Must he not stop when he would lead to this conclusion. And if, as I think, the comes to the names which are the elements of all other conclusion is true, then I shall again say to you, come names and sentences; for these cannot be supposed to and help me, that I may not fall into some absurdity in be made up of other names? The word agathon (good), stating the principle of primary names.

for example, is, as we were saying, a compound of agastos (admirable) and thoos (swift). And probably thoos is HERMOGENES: Let me hear, and I will do my best to made up of other elements, and these again of others.

assist you.

But if we take a word which is incapable of further resolution, then we shall be right in saying that we SOCRATES: I think that you will acknowledge with me, have at last reached a primary element, which need not that one principle is applicable to all names, primary as be resolved any further.

well as secondary—when they are regarded simply as 60

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names, there is no difference in them.

names which precede analysis show the natures of things, as far as they can be shown; which they must HERMOGENES: Certainly not.

do, if they are to be real names? And here I will ask you a question: Suppose that we had no voice or tongue, SOCRATES: All the names that we have been explaining and wanted to communicate with one another, should were intended to indicate the nature of things.

we not, like the deaf and dumb, make signs with the hands and head and the rest of the body?

HERMOGENES: Of course.

HERMOGENES: There would be no choice, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And that this is true of the primary quite as much as of the secondary names, is implied in their SOCRATES: We should imitate the nature of the thing; being names.

the elevation of our hands to heaven would mean light-ness and upwardness; heaviness and downwardness HERMOGENES: Surely.

would be expressed by letting them drop to the ground; if we were describing the running of a horse, or any SOCRATES: But the secondary, as I conceive, derive their other animal, we should make our bodies and their ges-significance from the primary.

tures as like as we could to them.

HERMOGENES: That is evident.

HERMOGENES: I do not see that we could do anything else.

SOCRATES: Very good; but then how do the primary 61

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SOCRATES: We could not; for by bodily imitation only SOCRATES: Because if we have we shall be obliged to can the body ever express anything.

admit that the people who imitate sheep, or cocks, or other animals, name that which they imitate.

HERMOGENES: Very true.

HERMOGENES: Quite true.

SOCRATES: And when we want to express ourselves, either with the voice, or tongue, or mouth, the expres-SOCRATES: Then could I have been right in what I was sion is simply their imitation of that which we want to saying?


HERMOGENES: In my opinion, no. But I wish that you HERMOGENES: It must be so, I think.

would tell me, Socrates, what sort of an imitation is a name?

SOCRATES: Then a name is a vocal imitation of that which the vocal imitator names or imitates?

SOCRATES: In the first place, I should reply, not a musical imitation, although that is also vocal; nor, again, an HERMOGENES: I think so.

imitation of what music imitates; these, in my judgment, would not be naming. Let me put the matter as SOCRATES: Nay, my friend, I am disposed to think that follows: All objects have sound and figure, and many we have not reached the truth as yet.

have colour?


HERMOGENES: Certainly.


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SOCRATES: But the art of naming appears not to be con-will this imitator be called?

cerned with imitations of this kind; the arts which have to do with them are music and drawing?

HERMOGENES: I imagine, Socrates, that he must be the namer, or name-giver, of whom we are in search.


SOCRATES: If this is true, then I think that we are in a SOCRATES: Again, is there not an essence of each thing, condition to consider the names ron (stream), ienai (to just as there is a colour, or sound? And is there not an go), schesis (retention), about which you were asking; essence of colour and sound as well as of anything else and we may see whether the namer has grasped the which may be said to have an essence?

nature of them in letters and syllables in such a manner as to imitate the essence or not.

HERMOGENES: I should think so.

HERMOGENES: Very good.

SOCRATES: Well, and if any one could express the essence of each thing in letters and syllables, would he SOCRATES: But are these the only primary names, or are not express the nature of each thing?

there others?


HERMOGENES: There must be others.

SOCRATES: The musician and the painter were the two SOCRATES: So I should expect. But how shall we further names which you gave to the two other imitators. What analyse them, and


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where does the imitator begin? Imitation of the essence see, too, whether they have in them classes as there are is made by syllables and letters; ought we not, there-in the letters; and when we have well considered all fore, first to separate the letters, just as those who are this, we shall know how to apply them to what they beginning rhythm first distinguish the powers of el-resemble—whether one letter is used to denote one ementary, and then of compound sounds, and when thing, or whether there is to be an admixture of several they have done so, but not before, they proceed to the of them; just, as in painting, the painter who wants to consideration of rhythms?

depict anything sometimes uses purple only, or any other colour, and sometimes mixes up several colours, as his HERMOGENES: Yes.

method is when he has to paint flesh colour or anything of that kind—he uses his colours as his figures SOCRATES: Must we not begin in the same way with appear to require them; and so, too, we shall apply let-letters; first separating the vowels, and then the conso-ters to the expression of objects, either single letters nants and mutes (letters which are neither vowels nor when required, or several letters; and so we shall form semivowels), into classes, according to the received dis-syllables, as they are called, and from syllables make tinctions of the learned; also the semivowels, which are nouns and verbs; and thus, at last, from the combina-neither vowels, nor yet mutes; and distinguishing into tions of nouns and verbs arrive at language, large and classes the vowels themselves? And when we have per-fair and whole; and as the painter made a figure, even fected the classification of things, we shall give them so shall we make speech by the art of the namer or the names, and see whether, as in the case of letters, there rhetorician, or by some other art. Not that I am literally are any classes to which they may be all referred (cf.

speaking of ourselves, but I was carried away—mean-Phaedrus); and hence we shall see their natures, and ing to say that this was the way in which (not we but) 64

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the ancients formed language, and what they put to-them we know nothing, and do but entertain human gether we must take to pieces in like manner, if we are notions of them. And in this present enquiry, let us say to attain a scientific view of the whole subject, and we to ourselves, before we proceed, that the higher method must see whether the primary, and also whether the is the one which we or others who would analyse lan-secondary elements are rightly given or not, for if they guage to any good purpose must follow; but under the are not, the composition of them, my dear Hermogenes, circumstances, as men say, we must do as well as we will be a sorry piece of work, and in the wrong direc-can. What do you think?


HERMOGENES: I very much approve.

HERMOGENES: That, Socrates, I can quite believe.

SOCRATES: That objects should be imitated in letters SOCRATES: Well, but do you suppose that you will be and syllables, and so find expression, may appear riable to analyse them in this way? for I am certain that diculous, Hermogenes, but it cannot be avoided—there I should not.

is no better principle to which we can look for the truth of first names. Deprived of this, we must have recourse HERMOGENES: Much less am I likely to be able.

to divine help, like the tragic poets, who in any perplexity have their gods waiting in the air; and must get SOCRATES: Shall we leave them, then? or shall we seek out of our difficulty in like fashion, by saying that ‘the to discover, if we can, something about them, accord-Gods gave the first names, and therefore they are right.’

ing to the measure of our ability, saying by way of pref-This will be the best contrivance, or perhaps that other ace, as I said before of the Gods, that of the truth about notion may be even better still, of deriving them from 65

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some barbarous people, for the barbarians are older than HERMOGENES: Fear not; I will do my best.

we are; or we may say that antiquity has cast a veil over them, which is the same sort of excuse as the last; for SOCRATES: In the first place, the letter rho appears to all these are not reasons but only ingenious excuses for me to be the general instrument expressing all motion having no reasons concerning the truth of words. And ( kinesis). But I have not yet explained the meaning of yet any sort of ignorance of first or primitive names this latter word, which is just iesis (going); for the let-involves an ignorance of secondary words; for they can ter eta was not in use among the ancients, who only only be explained by the primary. Clearly then the pro-employed epsilon; and the root is kiein, which is a for-fessor of languages should be able to give a very lucid eign form, the same as ienai. And the old word kinesis explanation of first names, or let him be assured he will will be correctly given as iesis in corresponding modern only talk nonsense about the rest. Do you not suppose letters. Assuming this foreign root kiein, and allowing this to be true?

for the change of the eta and the insertion of the nu, we have kinesis, which should have been kieinsis or HERMOGENES: Certainly, Socrates.

eisis; and stasis is the negative of ienai (or eisis), and has been improved into stasis. Now the letter rho, as I SOCRATES: My first notions of original names are truly was saying, appeared to the imposer of names an excel-wild and ridiculous, though I have no objection to im-lent instrument for the expression of motion; and he part them to you if you desire, and I hope that you will frequently uses the letter for this purpose: for example, communicate to me in return anything better which in the actual words rein and roe he represents motion you may have.

by rho; also in the words tromos (trembling), trachus (rugged); and again, in words such as krouein (strike), 66