By Geoffrey Bagwell
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Additional info for A study of Plato's ''Cratylus''.
To show that he understands the dispute better, he distinguishes between coining a name and using a name to avoid denying that there is any correctness of names (385d6–e2). This distinction, however, is nonsense as long as Hermogenes insists that anyone can name things. In this part of the Cratylus, Socrates will refute the view just anyone can name something. Instead, he will show that it takes a special artisan with expertise in naming to coin a name correctly. The need to save conventionalism will force Hermogenes to give up the claim that anyone can name things.
The claim that coining a name determines its use may work for names, but it cannot work for beings. When a person coins a name, it determines the way a person can use the name. Likewise, according to Protagoras, appearance determines the way something is for a person. Because Hermogenes denies that appearance determines being (386a6), he cannot maintain that coining a name determines its use and that appearance determines being, if he is willing to consider names and beings analogous. Hermogenes could simply deny that his conventionalism is comparable to Protagorean relativism.
It is possible for Hermogenes to hold a relative view of the correctness of names without accepting a relative view of being so long as there is no connection between names and beings. Hermogenes has implicitly defended the relative view of being (cf. 385a1). He cannot maintain, however, such a position if he grants that naming is a kind of action with its own unique nature that it gets from the nature of the beings it concerns. Hermogenes will accept that actions have their own natures, which derive from the natures of the things they concern (387a1).