In Cratylus, Hermogenes and Socrates debate the arbitrariness of names. Cratylus is a proponent for the idea of naturalism or the "idea or belief that only ’natural’ (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world (Oxford 2014)." Cratylus believed that when people are named it is given to them naturally and it is their true name. This is to say that when an elephant is named an elephant it is not based on its characteristics or on what another being believes it should be called, but rather the name has simply always belonged to it. Socrates said that, “names ought to be given according to a natural process, and with a proper instrument, and not at our pleasure; in this and no other way shall we name with success (Cratylus 360BCE)” He believes names are linked to the object’s essence and have a c...
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...out words but rather just in a physical manner. This brings to light how many words in the english language are either hard to depict or are arbitrary in nature. For example, words such as a tree are physical and the sign for a tree vaguely resembles a tree. The question of arbitrariness is asked not when a sign is made for a word, but rather why a thing has been named that word. When studying languages and someone says a foreign word, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what that word means. Therefore sign language calls upon the iconicity of the world around us, but that can only bring us to a certain point in language. A that point sign language must become arbitrary in order to become comprehensible as a natural language. A natural language draws from both iconic and arbitrary notions. This is how languages can develop organically and with logical proceedings.
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