4 March 2013

Was Heidegger a Cratylist?

Some thoughts on:

Right Names: On Heidegger’s Closet Cratylism
by Christopher Eagle
Epoché 14(1), 57–75, 2009.

The author claims that Heidegger practised a covert form of Cratylism, defined as the belief that some words are more appropriate than others for designating certain realities.

(a) In Plato's dialogue this adequacy should be understood as similarity; succinctly stated, "that rightness must be founded on mimesis." (p. 58).

Such an interpretation is however incompatible with Heidegger's thought, as the author admits:

"At a glance, Cratylism would appear to be necessarily at odds with Heidegger’s conception of language, due to his well-known antipathy for correspondence theory." (p. 59). 

so the adequacy criterion must be modified:

(b) "If Heidegger allows us therefore to rewrite the terms of Cratylism in a way that situates it outside of the correspondence theory of truth, he has made this possible by shifting the sense of rightness away from an epistemological ground towards an ontological one." (p. 71).

While Cratylism fits naturally within framework (a), its meaning in relation with (b) is unclear. There is some mystique of language in Heidegger (see Poetically man dwells), but I am not sure that Cratylism is the proper term for it.

1 comment:

  1. When asked, why did he speak the way he did, Heidegger answered, because that is the way I think. Man lives in the House of Language was another one of his sayings. Yes, Cratylus was a disciple of Heraclitus, whose sayings Heidegger loved to quote, but that doesn't make him a Cratylist.

    Thank you for the post.