"If I can assign names as well as pictures to objects, the right assignment of them we may call truth, and the wrong assignment of them falsehood." ~ Socrates
How can we be sure that we are making "the right assignment?" The problem is that we often make assignments and assessments purely on the basis of what others have told us or what we have read in various news media.
We also accept the definition of, and adopt as our own, certain words, phrases, terminology, and symbols that are delivered to us by social conventions and all forms of media.
Is this prudent behavior? Just because something is widely accepted or is intelligently communicated should one, by default, accept its validity? We do it every day...
Today, I would like to share a portion of one of my favorite Socrates dialogues, where he is applying his famous "Socratic Method," as written by Plato, in Cratylus:
CRATYLUS: I think, Socrates, their function is to instruct, and this is the simple truth, that he who knows the names knows also the things named.
SOCRATES: I suppose, Cratylus, you mean that when anyone knows the nature of the name -- and its nature is that of the thing -- he will know the thing also, since it is like the name, and the science of all things which are like each other are one in the same. It is, I fancy, on this ground that you say whoever knows names will know things also.... Do you think that he who has discovered the names has discovered also the things named; or do you think inquiry and discovery demand another method, and this belongs to instruction?
CRATYLUS: I most certainly think inquiry and discovery follow this same method and in the same way.
SOCRATES: Let us consider the matter, Cratylus. Do you not see that he who in his inquiry after things follows names and examines into the meaning of each one runs great risks of being deceived?
CRATYLUS: How so?
SOCRATES: Clearly, he who first gave names, gave such names as agreed with his conception of the nature of things. That is our view, is it not?
SOCRATES: Then if his conception was incorrect, and he gave the names according to his conception, what do you suppose will happen to us who follow him? Can we help being deceived?
What were you thinking about when reading this dialogue? Personally, I imagined a modern day Socrates and Cratylus strolling down the street and catching a glimpse of CNBC on a television monitor in the window of Circuit City. They stop for just a moment to watch and listen to some commentary on the economy and stock market and Cratylus asks Socrates if he thinks he should follow the "advice" of the financial media pundits. From there, Socrates delivers his dialogue...
What are your thoughts? As Socrates asked Cratylus, "Can we help being deceived?"