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Cratylus ; Parmenides ; Greater Hippias ;…
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Cratylus ; Parmenides ; Greater Hippias ; Lesser Hippias

by Plato

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Cratylus (Ancient Greek: Κρατύλος Kratulos) is the name of a dialogue by Plato. Most modern scholars agree that it was written mostly during Plato's so-called middle period.[1] In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to tell them whether names are "conventional" or "natural", that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an intrinsic relation to the things they signify.

Parmenides is one of the dialogues of Plato. It is widely considered to be one of the more, if not the most, challenging and enigmatic of Plato's dialogues.[1][2][3]
The Parmenides purports to be an account of a meeting between the two great philosophers of the Eleatic school, Parmenides and Zeno of Elea, and a young Socrates. The occasion of the meeting was the reading by Zeno of his treatise defending Parmenidean monism against those partisans of plurality who asserted that Parmenides' supposition that there is a one gives rise to intolerable absurdities and contradictions.

Hippias Major (or What is Beauty? or Greater Hippias, to distinguish it from the Hippias Minor, which has the same chief character) is one of the dialogues of Plato. It belongs to the Early Dialogues, written while the author was still young. Its precise date is uncertain, although a date of circa 390 BCE has been suggested; its authenticity has been doubted.
In the Hippias Major, Socrates and Hippias set out to find a definition for "beauty", but are destined to fail due to their inability to formulate an answer which encompasses the entire concept. The actual Greek term that is used in the dialogue is καλόν, which as an adjective often means fine or noble as well as beautiful. For this reason, translators such as Paul Woodruff typically translate the term (τὸ καλόν—the abstract noun of the adjective) as "the Fine" (things) instead of "Beauty."

As in Charmides, Lysis and Euthyphro, Hippias Major has an "anatreptic" or self-defeating virtue, that is the purpose of the author is to defeat commonly held opinions, without necessarily offering a resolution. The concept of something good in and of itself (if only obliquely) makes its first appearance in this work. The dialogue can be read as much as a serious philosophical work as a light satirical comedy with two actors. The astuteness of Socrates in taking refuge under the authority of a supposed third protagonist in order to direct biting criticism at Hippias, endows the dialogue with humour.

Hippias Minor (or On Lying) is thought to be one of Plato's early works. Socrates matches wits with an arrogant polymath who is also a smug literary critic. Hippias believes that Homer can be taken at face value, and that Achilles may be believed when he says he hates liars. Socrates argues that Achilles is a cunning liar who throws people off the scent of his own deceptions, and that cunning liars are actually the "best" liars. Socrates proposes, possibly for the sheer dialectical fun of it, that it is better to do evil voluntarily than involuntarily. His case rests largely on the analogy with athletic skills, such as running and wrestling. He says that runner or wrestler who deliberately sandbags is better than the one who plods along because he can do no better.
  gmicksmith | Jun 23, 2012 |
This volume of Plato's works served as one of the sources for reading and discussion in a class on both the nature of Words in the Basic Program of Liberal Education of The University of Chicago.
The formal topic of the Cratylus is ‘correctness of names’, a hot topic in the late fifth century BC when the dialogue has its dramatic setting. Sophists like Prodicus offered training courses in this subject, sometimes perhaps meaning by it little more than lessons in correct diction. But that practical issue spawned the theoretical question, what criteria determine the correct choice of name for any given object? And in the Cratylus Socrates' two primary interlocutors, Hermogenes and Cratylus (the latter of whom is reported by Aristotle to have been an early philosophical influence on Plato), represent two diametrically opposed answers to that question. It was particularly interesting to see the defense, by Plato, of an objective view as opposed to the relativism of the Sophists.
The positions of Hermogenes and Cratylus have come to be known to modern scholarship as ‘conventionalism’ and ‘naturalism’ respectively. An extreme linguistic conventionalist like Hermogenes holds that nothing but local or national convention determines which words are used to designate which objects. The same names could have been attached to quite different objects, and the same objects given quite different names, so long as the users of the language were party to the convention. Cratylus, as an extreme linguistic naturalist, holds that names cannot be arbitrarily chosen in the way that conventionalism describes or advocates, because names belong naturally to their specific objects. If you try to speak of something with any name other than its natural name, you are simply failing to refer to it at all. For example, he has told Hermogenes to the latter's intense annoyance, Hermogenes is not actually his name.
Socrates is the main speaker in this dialogue, and his arguments are generally taken to represent Plato's own current views. He starts out by criticizing conventionalism, and persuades Hermogenes that some kind of naturalism must be endorsed. In the final part of the dialogue Socrates turns to Cratylus and shows him that his expectations as a naturalist are set impossibly high: names cannot aspire to being perfect encapsulations of their objects' essences, and some element of convention is must be conceded.
This is one of the dialogues that reminded me of the integral connections between Plato and Aristotle in Greek philosophy. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Jan 7, 2012 |
Cratylus: What can words in themselves tell us about the structure of the world? Parmenides: Is the world one thing, or many? Greek text and English translation. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Mar 21, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674991850, Hardcover)

Plato, the great philosopher of Athens, was born in 427 BCE. In early manhood an admirer of Socrates, he later founded the famous school of philosophy in the grove Academus. Much else recorded of his life is uncertain; that he left Athens for a time after Socrates' execution is probable; that later he went to Cyrene, Egypt, and Sicily is possible; that he was wealthy is likely; that he was critical of 'advanced' democracy is obvious. He lived to be 80 years old. Linguistic tests including those of computer science still try to establish the order of his extant philosophical dialogues, written in splendid prose and revealing Socrates' mind fused with Plato's thought.

In Laches, Charmides, and Lysis, Socrates and others discuss separate ethical conceptions. Protagoras, Ion, and Meno discuss whether righteousness can be taught. In Gorgias, Socrates is estranged from his city's thought, and his fate is impending. The Apology (not a dialogue), Crito, Euthyphro, and the unforgettable Phaedo relate the trial and death of Socrates and propound the immortality of the soul. In the famous Symposium and Phaedrus, written when Socrates was still alive, we find the origin and meaning of love. Cratylus discusses the nature of language. The great masterpiece in ten books, the Republic, concerns righteousness (and involves education, equality of the sexes, the structure of society, and abolition of slavery). Of the six so-called dialectical dialogues Euthydemus deals with philosophy; metaphysical Parmenides is about general concepts and absolute being; Theaetetus reasons about the theory of knowledge. Of its sequels, Sophist deals with not-being; Politicus with good and bad statesmanship and governments; Philebus with what is good. The Timaeus seeks the origin of the visible universe out of abstract geometrical elements. The unfinished Critias treats of lost Atlantis. Unfinished also is Plato's last work of the twelve books of Laws (Socrates is absent from it), a critical discussion of principles of law which Plato thought the Greeks might accept.

The Loeb Classical Library edition of Plato is in twelve volumes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:26 -0400)

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