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Cratylus by Plato
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by Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The Cratylus has always been a source of perplexity to the student of
Plato. While in fancy and humour, and perfection of style and metaphysical
originality, this dialogue may be ranked with the best of the Platonic
writings, there has been an uncertainty about the motive of the piece,
which interpreters have hitherto not succeeded in dispelling. We need not
suppose that Plato used words in order to conceal his thoughts, or that he
would have been unintelligible to an educated contemporary. In the
Phaedrus and Euthydemus we also find a difficulty in determining the
precise aim of the author. Plato wrote satires in the form of dialogues,
and his meaning, like that of other satirical writers, has often slept in
the ear of posterity. Two causes may be assigned for this obscurity: 1st,
the subtlety and allusiveness of this species of composition; 2nd, the
difficulty of reproducing a state of life and literature which has passed
away. A satire is unmeaning unless we can place ourselves back among the
persons and thoughts of the age in which it was written. Had the treatise
of Antisthenes upon words, or the speculations of Cratylus, or some other
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