Socrates as Midwife and Mediator: On the Political Dimensions of the Cratylus

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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This paper presents a reading of the political dimensions of Plato’s Cratylus. Following Sallis, I argue that Socrates’ claim that we can achieve a direct access to being unmediated by language is ironic. There is a comedic element to the attempt to transcend language in order to test the names given by the ‘lawgiver’ against a pure awareness of the nature of beings themselves. I show that this account of human life, as always mediated by logos, has a political dimension. Specifically, the paper argues that the mediation performed by Socrates in the dialogue is intended to get us to turn toward one another in the formation of communities of philosophical discourse.