Language and metalanguage in the Cratylus. The case of μηχανή

  • Angelo Giavatto


This article concerns the use of μηχανήσασθαι and μηχανή in Plato’s Cratylus. After observing that the verb contributes to the etymological practice staged in the discussion as a synonym for a component of the name of Hermes (407e-408b) the etymology of μηχανή proposed in 415a-b is analysed, both from the point of view of the position of this etymology in the Cratylus and from the point of view of the very content   centre of an epistemological reflection that runs through the entire dialogue and that posits the μηχανή as a provisional and probable explanatory hypothesis, but also one that is fully effective in the absence of (or pending) an explanation closer to the truth of the object studied. The μηχανή thus appears to be a genuine contribution to knowledge that takes into account the cognitive limits of the research actors and the progressive nature of research itself.