Volume 25, Issue 2, Spring 2021
The Just as an Absent Ground in Plato's Cratylus
Through a study of nature and paternal power, this paper sheds light on the neglected theme of the relation between language and justice in Plato’s Cratylus. The dialogue inquires after the correctness of names, and it turns out that no lineage leads us back to a natural ground of names. Every lineage breaks; nature is always disrupted by the monstrous. It does not follow, however, that names are mere conventions without significance: on the contrary, naming is best understood as a prayer to and for the just. The Cratylus reveals the insufficiency of language not to lead us to despair but to call us to the humility and the hope in which we must pray for justice.