Reference and symbol in Plato's Cratylus and kuukai's Shojijissogi

Philosophy East and West
Vol. 32:4 (October 1982)
The University of Hawaii Press
(C) by University of Hawaii Press

P.393 Early in its development, a philosophical tradition will consider the nature of language, for language is, after all, the medium of philosophical express- ion. To be truly philosophical, an inquiry must have a least a rudimentary theory about the relationship between words and nonlinguistic reality. This does not mean that every cultural tradition will make the same initial decision about this relationship. We only require that a preliminary theory of language be logically consistent and a reasonable reflection of at least some aspect of language as used in everyday life. This paper examines the pioneering Western and Japanese philosophies of language as presented in Plato's Cratylus and Kuukai's Shojijis sogi(a) (The Significance of Sound-word-reality). We will find similar questions asked in these two works, as well as dissimilar answers.The comparisons and contrasts will suggest some general observations about the nature of comparative philosophy. Both Platoand Kuukai inquire into the origin, function, and truth of language.The Cratylus and Sound-word-reality are ground-breaking efforts that emerge out of and go beyond a prephilosophical view of language. In most ancient cultures, words are generally believed to have a creative, magical power. In fact, the ancient assumption is often that things exist through speech.In Genesis,for example, God says "let there be light" as part of his creation of light. Since God was the only conscious being at that time, his speech can hardly be regarded as communicative. It displays rather a performative, creative power. The opening of the Gospel of John also refers to the divinity,timeless- ness, and creative force of the World. In fact, the Gospel tells us, the word is God. Similarly, India's earliest philosophical-religious text, the .RgVeda, refers to sacred speech(vaac)as a supreme principle or deity of sustenance. The text says, for example, that it is through vaac that we eat (see X.125.4). In China, the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching claims the nameless to be the beginning of the cosmos at large, but it is the named which is the mother of the variegated universe of things. Such examples could be multiplied almost endlessly, but the point is merely to recognize this archaic view as constituting, to a large extent, the tradition both Plato and Kuukai tried to supersede. Both figures tried to go beyond the simply magical into the philosophical. This consideration of the prephilosophical view of language reminds us that Plato and Kuukai lived in worlds very different from our own. Their cultures were still very much imbued with shamanism, ritual, oracular pronouncements, divination, and frenzied in cantations. Even Socrates,a hero of Western rationa- lism,supposedly initiated his philosophical quest in response to a pronouncement P.394 from Delphi and, to his dying days, believed in the advice of a guardian spirit (daimoon). Cognizant of this difference in worldviews, we should not expect too much of our philosophical pioneers.In reading an ancient philosophical text, we sometimes feel it stops just when it approaches the key issue and it leaves the most critical point unargued. But that is partly an indication of the greatness of the work seminal treatises lead us to the questions we ask today.We can hardly expect an ancient classic to answer our questions, since its answers are what generated our questions. In short,we must view Plato and Kuukai with both reverence and tolerance. Our cross-cultural comparison will begin with a brief synopsis of the two works under consideration. Since the Cratylus is more familiar to most Western readers, we will start with it.Before discussing any details, however, we should first make a general observation about its general subject matter. The main topic of the dialogue is the nature of language. Today, such a philosophical discussion would involve an analysis of word, meaning, and reference. To the extent the Cratylus inquires into the connection between names and the things to which they refer, the discussion is modern.The conversants in the ancient dialogue are also interested, however, in the origin of language. The dialogue assumes that in order to understand the relationship between the name and the named, one must also understand how that relationship could come about. For most of us today, the origin of language is hardly a philosophical issue. We are only too happy to leave the question to linguists and philologists (who also, as a matter of fact, prefer not to deal with it). Yet,insofar as we develop a philosophy of language,we implicitly take a metaphysical, if not a historical, position on origination. That is, in our concern for what language can be used to accomplish, we often reflect assumptions about why or how language came into being in the first place. Wilbur Marshall Urban expresses this point well: It is often maintained that origins do not affect validity, but notoriously they do and nowhere more clearly than in this sphere of language.It is, as we have seen, almost universally assumed that what speech was originally made for determines in some significant way what it is capable of doing now...In any case, to revert to our primary question, historical origins may not affect values, but metaphysical concepts of ultimate origin certainly do.(1) Bearing in mind this comment on the metaphysical origins of language,we will pay special attention to the metaphysical positions underlying Plato's and, later, Kuukai's views of language. II In the Platonic dialogue,Socrates tries to delineate a middle position between the views of Cratylus and Hermogenes. Hermogenes takes the stand of many sophists: names or words are merely conventions, lacking any nonarbitrary basis. Thus, any word whatsoever may be used to refer to a thing as long as one establishes a convention in doing so. This conventionalism probably arose out of P.395 the awareness that different languages use different words to refer to the same thing. This fact was well known to the cosmopolitan Greeks who were in contact with foreign lands through trade,travel,and military operations.The problem with Hermogenes'interpretation, however, is that it leads to a radical relativism and leaves open the possibility for completely private languages. Plato has Socrates respond that although the phonetic form of a word may vary cross-culturally, the meaning of the word is not arbitrary.The meaningfulness of a word is judged by how well it serves us in actual use;the succession of sounds used in pronouncing the word is not important. Plato's basic model is that our experience yields (or, more technically, reminds us of) formal patterns of mean- ing to which we refer through a conventionally approved sequence of sounds. Although we may say "dog" and Germans say "der Hund," the idea expressed is universal.To speak falsely is to apply that idea to a wrong referent-a cat,for example.According to Plato, pronunciation may be conventional,but meaning and reference are not at all arbitrary. Cratylus, on the other hand,is a disciple of Heraclitus. As such, he holds two seemingly imcompa- tible opinions. On the one hand, he maintains the inherent rightness of names.He audaciously informs Hermogenes, for example, that "Hermogenes"cannot be his true name, even though everyone knows him as such. Why? Because he is no son of Hermes (the etymological derivation of the name). Cratylus is reticent to say whence the appropriateness of names is derived, so Hermogenes accuses him of oracular obscurity.That there is some inherent, unanalyzed structure in words is probably a reflection of Heraclitus' doctrine of logos.On the other hand, Heracliteans also maintain that the physical world is in constant transformaton. Insofar as words refer to things and things are in flux, words must also be continuously changing.Ultimately,this position leads to ineffability. Aristotle informs us (Metaphysics, 1010a) that Cratylus eventually disdained to speak in words at all and communicated only through gestures. Fortunately, for the purposes of Plato's dialogue, he had not yet reached this extreme position. In responding to Cratylus, Socrates again leads us in the direction of the Platonic theory. That is, words do not refer to the ever-changing objects of sense experience,but rather to the permanent objects of reason,the realm of forms or ideas. Whereas every particular dog may undergo changes, the idea of dog is constant.The world of flux is real-the senses observe it and we learn (remember) from our contact with it-but it is ultimately grounded in something permanent, the true referent of words, that is,the forms. Both Cratylus'pre-Socratic and Hermogenes'sophistic position are at least proto-philosophical, but is there any evidence of the prephilosophical understanding of language we discussed above? It is so interwoven into the dialogue that we might have overlooked it were we not already sensitive to it.First, we find several references to the oracular. At the opening of the dialogue, Hermogenes is frustrated with Cratylus' mysticism and Socrates is invited to interpret Cratylus' P.396 "oracular" speech (384a).This,I believe,is a clue to the purpose of the entire dialogue:Socrates will ex- plain and,therefore,supersede the primitive religious view of language. Throughout the dialogue, Plato reminds us that Socrates is taking the role formerly held by priests and priestesses. Once by Hermogenes (396d) and once by Cratylus (428c), Socrates is said to be divinely inspired. In fact, when Socrates whizzes through a series of etymologies for the names of gods and heroes, he himself is taken aback and wonders if his soul has been spiritually captured by the speeches of Euthyphro (396d).In short, Socrates can be an oracle, but he can do more-he can be a philosopher. The transcendence of the primitive religious view of language is also reinforced by Socrates'treatment of the thesis that the first naming was of divine origin.He mentions the thesis twice, once in talking with Hermogenes(425d) and once with Cratylus (472c). In neither case does he deny or argue against divine origin.Rather,he points out that the thesis does not help him ansewer the questions with which he is con- cerned. The religious view of the origin of language is not so much wrong as irrelevant. In short, Plato has Socrates bracket the ancient religious point of view.It is simply outside the concern of philosophy. The divine, symbolic, evocative, and participative aspects of language were left to religion.Philosophy would concern itself primarily with reference, that is, the proper way of making words name things.As we shall now see, Kuukai made a significantly different move in the Japanese tradition. III Kuukai (or Kooboo Daishi(b)) (A.D.774-835) is one of the pillars of Japanese culture. He has left us with a set of extraordinary treatises, poems, examples of calligraphy, and legends of superhuman feats(such as curing plagues and carving wooden buddha-images that would not burn). Traditionally considered to be the designer of the Japanese syllabary writing systems (kana),he was the founder of the first public school in Japan. He lived in a critical period for the dev- elopment of Japanese civilization (compared with its Asian mainland neighbors, Japanese culture evolved very late) and he is credited with synthesizing folk religion and Buddhist doctrine through his esoteric or tantric form of Buddhism, Shingonshuu(c) ("true word" or "mantra" school). As Plato could draw upon the prephilosophical, the sophistic, and the pre-Socratic traditions, Kuukai's thought grew out of the Japanese prephilosophical and mainland Buddhist traditions. Like Plato's Greece, Kuukai's Japan was emerging from a mythical, magical, archaic world view. Magical rites and incantations (kotodama(d))were still ubiquitous,not only in rural areas,but in the capital of Kyoto (Heian)itself. The country was filled with kami(e), a sacred presence that could take the form of a person, animal, place, or natural object. The mountains were the retreats for mystical priests (yamabushi(f)) who praticed a strange form of religion that mixed indigenous, so- called Shintoo practices and P.397 ideas with Buddhist texts and doctrines imported from China and Korea,a spiritual movement that would even- tually take from as shugendoo(g).Meanwhile,the court (in the process of moving from Nara to Kyoto) was a mimicry of high Chinese society. The Confucian and Taoist classics were studied, as much for reading practice as to assimilate wisdom, and the six Nara schools of Buddhism were strongly represented in aristocratic circles. Buddhism was, however, still viewed primarily as an exotic, foreign presence. With its marvelous temples, images, scriptures, and rituals, Buddhism was a repositorye of culture and even a political force, but is was not really a source of religious or philosophical inspiration. Kuukai would be a major factor in the Japanization of Buddhism. Like Plato's Greece, Kuukai's Japan was ready to move beyond the imaginative understanding associated with myth to the rational understanding associated with philosophy.The new feeling was that ideas should be grounded in experience and justified through argu- ment. Still, the differences between ancient Greece and ancient Japan were vast.The Athenian world was cosmopolitan, sophisticated in its relativism,moving toward individualism, and even playing with the notion of democracy. Japan, on the other hand, was isolated, afraid of invasion, and in need of a national identity based on a spiritual mandate. Given his cultural setting, it is not surprising that Plato wished to separate philosophy from religion. In such a cosmopolitan context, one would like to find a universally agreed upon basis for truth.For such a situation,individualism rather than collectivism, empiricism rather than intuition, science rather than poetry would better serve one's purposes. When we look at Plato's break with religion from this perspective, Aristotle is his natural successor. In Aristotle's writings the split is so complete that the prephilosophical religious elements of Greek society are seldom, if ever, visible. If Plato were to write a history of philosophy, he might have started with the Delphic oracle's pronouncement to know oneself or perhaps Hesiod's view of the gods as following cosmic principles. Aristotle,of course,though of philosophy as starting with Thales' materialism. In Kuukai's context, however, the need was to synthesize the religious and the philosophical. The indigenous Japanese attitudes had to be explained and defended in terms of the sophisticated Buddhist terminology and methodology brought from China, Korea, and ul- timately India. Kuukai struggled with,and eventually mastered,the arguments,perspectives, and insights of more than a millenium of Buddhist philosophy. At the same time, he remembered his Japanese heritage, his spiritual debt to the mystical yamabushi. Naked int the snowy mountain recesses of Japan, Kuukai had chanted his incantations. He had learned firsthand the psychophysical, as well as spiritual, power of words(kotodama). When he encountered the teachings and practices of esoteric Buddhism in China,he found the vehicle for integrating the prephilosophical religious P.398 dynamism of Japanese spirituality with the intricate logic and conceptual clarity of Buddhism. Not surprsingly, then, Kuukai developed a philosophy primarily concerned with those aspects of language that Plato had bracketed out from his discussion: the sacred, symbolic, evocative, and participative. Kuukai's theories are extraordinarily complex, but if we know the type of language use in which he was most interested,his view of language can be summarized relatively easily. Kuukai's paradigm of language is the mantra, a speech-act with which most Westerners have had little personal experience.Nevertheless, by considering the following examples, we can see how Kuukai's analysis relates to certain linguistic ex- periences we have all had. Leaving the college library, I stop at the check out desk, opening my briefcase for the attendant. He shifts through my papers a little and I say, "These are only my own books." "I see," he says and off I go. Opening the door into the late afternoon air, the cold strikes me in the face and I feel a shiver up my spine as I let out a "Grr!" Briskly walking across the campus, I pass a man carrying a little three or four year old on his shoulders. They are reciting "The Night Before Christmas" to the cadence of the father's strides. The father obviously enunciates the words more clearly than the child, but the child bobs up and down at the rhythm of the poem, smiling, saying loudly the last rhyming word of each line: "T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." When I get home, no one else is there. I sit quietly, gazing at the last glimmer of twilight barely illuminating the dark rug. Reminded of an experiment suggested by Edgar Allan Poe, I continue the gaze, intoning over and over slowly, in a low voice, the world"Gloom.Gloom.Gloom." In this little scenario, we have five utterances, each different in kind from the rest. Let us briefly consider them in turn. (i) "These are only my own books." This sentences is in a propositional form and its purpose is to relay information to the attendant. If my words "correspond" to the actual state of affairs, my statement is "true." This referential statement is of the kind Plato's theory of language in the Cratylus addresses. (ii) "I see." The literal utterance notwithstanding, this is not a statement about the attendant's visual acuity. In fact, the attendant is informing me that he has understood my comment, has made a cursory check, and is inclined to believe me. Furthermore, he is giving me permission to leave unmolested. To this extent, the utterance has performative force as well as pro- positional or locutionary meaning(following Austin's distinction).The performative aspect is not included in the discussions within the Cratylus, but we could supplement Plato's theory of language fairly easily if we wished.There is nothing in what Plato said that excludes performatives from possible consideration. P.399 (iii) "Grr!" This exclamatory utterance is obviously not refer- rential. It seems almost a physiolgical response to the cold; it is as if the body were somehow speaking itself, or even that the experience of the cold were speaking through the body. Although such speech acts are common, the Western tradition has generally not found them to be of any particular philosophical interest. For someone like Kuukai who takes the mantra to be the paradigm of language, however, such utterances require further analysis and philosophical attention. First,we should note that the expression"Grr! "was learned. Let us consider a related example. If I am punched in the stomach, I might let out an "aggh!" and it is equally likely that a Japanese, under similar circumstances, would do the same. If I stub my toe, however, I might yell"ouch! " but, strangely enough, ouch is an English word not found in the Japanese language. In such a case, a Japanese would more likely say"itti! "Whereas the "aggh! "was a purely physiological wxpulsion of air, the "ouch! "and the "ittai! " are culture-bound expressions. Such words, of course, have no referent so their usage cannot be learned through ostension, but rather through mimicing the verbal exclamations of other people in the society. Futhermore, lacking reference, such word may be said to have no precisemeaning at all, yet they do have a correct and incorrect use. We would want to say, for example, that someone touching a hot stove and yelling"Grr!" is not speaking standard English. Second, in an utterance like "Grr!", there is a melding of the mental, physical, and verbal. Its use is almost a conditioned response.The somatic and the mental, the phonetic and semantic are interfused. From a physiological standpoint, the " Grr! " is somehow more effectively confronting the cold than "Humph" would be, for example. (In both the "ouch!" and the "ittai!", we may note, there is a similar abruptness and sharpness in the actual sounds of the words. It seems that the sequence of sounds forming the utterance of the word is not completely arbitrary). Third, situated halfway between physiologically determined sounds and words with culturally defined meanings, expressions like "Grr!" may serve as a clue to understanding the origin of language. Specifically, if such expressions are taken to be somehow paradigmatic of the most primitive form of language, then a theory (metaphysical or historical) about the origin of language should, following our previous point,meld the mental, physical, and verbal in some fundamental way.As we shall see,this is what Kuukai's theory tries to do. (iv) "T' was the night before Christmas and all through the house. Not a creature was stirring , not even a mouse. Speaking also involves the enjoyment of,and parti- cipation in,sound itself.Children learn nursery rhymes long before they understand their meaning. In our P.400 scenario,the father realizes that if he wants his child to stop complaining about the cold, the chanting of the poem might help. Not only is the child's mind no longer preoccupied with the cold, but the rhythmic movement and forceful exhalation of breath increase circulation.More importantly,the very resonance of words,particularly if they are expressed sonorously or with stylistic sensitivity to euphony, has an uplifting effect on the listener. In the West, this phenomenon is sometimes discussed in terms of rhetoric or in studies of the rituals of primitive cultures, but seldom does this characteristic of speech enter into philosophical forums per se. In Kuukai's philosophy of language, however, the power of sound is very important. The grunt of the weightlifter,the quiet voice that soothes a distraught baby, the "Geronimo!" of a parachutist,and the "ai!" of a martial arts specialist all attest to the everyday importance of phonic forces.Kuukai would say that to think of words independently of their sounds is to rationalize away the somatic physicality of language. In its most primary form, language is speech and speech involves the movement of the body and the vibration of air. (v) "Gloom.Gloom.Gloom." The point of Edgar Allan Poe's word experiment is to demonstrate that under the right conditions, a word can evoke the psychological state to which the word refers. A more complex example is this: "A green mountain, the peak of which is enshrouded with a royal blue cloud glittering with golden specks, is what you are now thinking about." Here we have a proposition about a psychological state that is true upon your hearing or reading it. As noted already, the idea that words can bring things into being is a major premise of what was called the prephilosophical understanding of language. Yet, Plato overlooks the potential importance of such utterances.In discussing the matching of words to things, he implicitly assumes that the existence of the things precedes the existence of words. This brings us to the basic distinction between Plato and Kuukai. It is misleading to say that Plato and Kuukai simply have different theories of language. Rather, they disagree on what usage of language is paradigmatic for understanding the basis or origin of language. It is this decision, which precedes their theorizing, that determines the divergence between their theories. In the most brief terms, we can say that the Platonic theory of language is descriptive of referential language use, that is, utterances in which the referent of the word preexists the naming of it. Nonlinguistic reality is already there and language indicates it in a way that has practical utility. Such a theory of language assumes that reality has a structure independent of human conciousness and that the origin of language is pragmatic. Kuukai's theory of language, on the other hand, is descriptive of symbolic language use, that is, utterances in which the referent and word are ontologically intertwined. The being of one depends on, or is at least enriched by, the other. Thus, reality expresses itself in language (as in the Grr!") and language evokes reality (as in the Gloom!"). With these prefatory remarks P.401 in mind, we can now succinctly state the main thesis of Kuukai's theory of language as developed in sound-word-reality. According to Kuukai's theory, there is no sharp distinction, on the ontological level, between the mental,physical,and verbal.Kuukai calls these three inter-penetrating realms the three mysteries or intimacies (mitsu(h)). They are mysteries insofar as they can be intimately, directly experienced but not expressed in language. Rather, it is more accurate to say that they are expressed as language. Since the body, mind, and speech interpenetrate, they must have a common structural element. Kuukai calls this common factor Kyo(i)-resonance or vibration.Like all Buddhists, Kuukai maintains that there are no per- manent, unchanging substances. Like the Heraclitean, the Buddhist maintains that all is impermanence, all is in a state of flux. What we superficially take to be independently existing entities are understood, upon closer examination, to be processes dependent on other processes. (Whitehead's concresence of actual entities has been compared to this Buddhist concept.) Since everything is a process,it is really vibrating, ever-changing. What is the operation of these vibrations? Sounds. The collections of sounds make words.To what do words refer? To reality. What is reality? Vibrations. Thus, the circle is closed. Reality (the Dharmakaaya personified as Dainichi(j) )expresses itself to itself for itself. We can now see how our examples of symbolic language can be understood in Kuukai's terms. In the "Grr!" experience, there is no sharp experiential distinction among the physiological, psychological, and verbal. For the child reciting the "Night Before Christmas," what the rhyme "means" is ultimately the rhyme itself. In the word experiment with "gloom," where is the gloom? Is it the state of mind? the word? the physical ambiance of the room? The intuited resonance of the three constitutes the gloom. We may also note how Kuukai's theory can be used to support the Heracliteans.The world is in flux, so words, as indicators of reality, must also be in flux.For example,a dog is not exactly the same today as yesterday. Does that mean we can no longer use the same word to refer to it? No, the word "dog" may still be used, but the saying of the word is different. The uttering of a word is itself a vibration. As such, it is as much a part of the physical world as is the dog. To speak is itself a process-physical as well as mental. The word "dog" is, in fact, never pronounced exactly the same way twice. Furthermore, how we say the word at any given time reflects, in part, the situation in which we use the word. This situation includes the way in which the particular dog has changed. Consider the example of seeing your friend's son, Jimmy, after having not seen him in five years. "Jimmy?" you say. This is obviously not the intonation you used when you called him by name five years earlier. From Kuukai's perspective, the name cannot be separated from the saying of the name.Hence,the change in your saying of the name reflects, in part, the change in Jimmy. In short, Kuukai would not accept the analysis that we are using the same name (that is, the same naming) to refer to a different (that is, changed) entity. P.402 Thus far, we have discussedthe metaphysics of Kuukai's position. But how does kuukai know his interpretation to be true? He claims experiential verification, not only in the universal kinds of experience already noted, but more explicitly and less ambiguously in the special practices of Shingon Buddhism. One comes into intimate awareness of the unity behind the physical, verbal, and mental by three means: by penetrating to the base of physical action (mudras), of speech (mantras), and of though (meditation on the mandalas). In each instance, ritual establishes a special context such that one becomes more directly avare of the pure act (which is physical-mental-verbal).Through the pure act, one is aware of the fundamental vibrations constituting the universe.In linguistic terms,these are the five seed mantras-A, Va, Ra, Ha,Kha-out of which language itself is said to arise.Obviously, we cannot derive every word in every language from these five syllables,but this is because uttering these mantras in meditation is what makes them seed mantras. More precisely, through the mantric practice, one knows directly the "true words" (shingon(K))which are in- audible to ordinary hearing.These true words are the resonances of the five elements constituting the entire universe.To modernize the vocabulary a bit,we may say these represent the basic verbal-mental- physical energy states ordering the universe. On the macrocosmic level,we discover these as the integrated phenomenon Kuukai calls sound-word-reality. For Kuukai,then,the ultimate basis of language is not merely linguistic,since it is also psychological and physical. In the Cratylus there is a search for the smallest meaningful building block of language. Since the dialogue assumes this must be a linguistic unit, Socrates speculates whether individual letters have meaning. This hypothesis is obviously untenable and by the time of Aristotle, it is assumed that the word is the smallest unit of meaning (see De Interpretatione, 16a). But what would Heraclitus have said about this? Some commentators interpret his term logos from a verbal point of view (logos as word), some from a psychological point of view (logos as conceptual meaning), and some from a metaphysical point of view (logos as the structure of natural world). Obviously, if Kuukai were to interpret logos, he would have said it was all three.Again we note that if Kuukai's position had been available to Cratylus, the Heraclitean position might have been formulated in a way that would elude Socrates' criticisms. iv We may stand back from our comparison and, in light of it, make some generalities about comparative phi- losophy. We note first of all that questions raised in Cratylus and sound-word-reality are remarkably similar: What is the basis of language and what is the relationship between words and things? Our discussion of Kuukai's position paralleled the issue in Cratylus so well that we can imagine Kuukai as a participant in the dialogue; he would have defended Cratylus' Heracliteanism, for example. The parallel concerns in Plato and Kuukai are P.403 striking,and it would be difficult to find any other such examples of philosophical affinity in comparisons taken from later Western and Japanese thinkers (at least until the emergence of self-conscious East-West dialogue in the past century). This is probably true for any comparison across cultures; the more dev- eloped the philosophical traditions, the less likelihood there is that their concerns will precisely match. This observation leads into our second consideration. In Plato's dialogue, Cratylus and his Heraclitean position lose the argument, lose in a way that Hermogenes and the sophistic tradition do not. Hermogenes' conventionalism is refuted certainly, but it is refuted according to ground rules that Hermogenes would accept, the standard of any sophistic disputation, namely, rational argument based in terminological clarification,analogies, and counter-esamples. Hermogenes becomes a Socratic con- vert and the Phaedo informs us that he was one of the inner circle present at Socrates' death. Cratylus' philosophical destiny, on the other hand, is not so bright. While he can recognize the cogency of Socrates'arguments, he also believes that Socrates has not sympathized with the fundamental vision behind Heraclitus' theory. It is not really the case that Socrates refutes Heracliteanism; rather, he excludes it. Cratylus is dealt out of the game, this new enterprise that the West will come to identify as philosophy. Indeed, the very last line of the dialogue is Cratylus' plea to Socrates that he consider these matters further. Socrates and Plato do not do so, at least not in the way that would make them more sympathetic to the Heraclitean position. Plato's disciple, Aristotle, subsequently makes the rift between religion and philosophy into a chasm. Both literally and symbolically, Cratylus' position is reduced to silent protest. In another millennium on the other side of the world in Japan, the opposite decision was made. Kuukai recognized the referential uses of language and even commented on them briefly in Sound-word- reality. For him, though, referential language is only relevant insofar as it leads one to the symbloic mode. In short, Kuukai does not reject the referntially based theory; he recognizes its validity. Yet, he does not find it philosophically interesting for his concerns. This attitude is much like Plato's treatment of the hypothesis that language has a sacred or divine origin-the issue is meaningful, but not germane to the issue at hand. What should we make of such a situation? Once two philosophical traditions radically diverge, compar- isons and contrasts will become increasingly difficult. Plato's decision about language has had a significant impact on Western thought. Perhaps not until Heidegger has the Heraclitean view of language ever been reconsidered seriously by a major Western philosopher. It can also be noted that when the metaphysical notion of logos was introduced into Christianity via the Fourth Gospel, we traditionally interpret this as a religious development, one contributing to the dominance of the religious over the philosophical. These "dark ages" prevailed until scholastic Aristotelianism resurrected philosophy in its classical form. The situation in Japan, especially in terms of the influence of Kuukai (and his kindred Trendai esotericist, Saichoo), was quite the opposite. The P.404 nature of the symbolic function, the unity of mind and body,and the inseparability of consciousness and matter became primary concerns for Japanese philosophy. Religion and philosophy were never sharply separated. Even Nishida, a twentieth-century philosopher very sympathetic to the West, believed the distinction between religion and philosophy to be, at best, superficial. The recognition of these historical tendencies often leads to the generaliza- tion that Japanese thinking is more aesthetic and Western thinking more logical or empirical. The assumption that people in different cultures actually think differently in some inherent way is untenable. If true, all translation would be imposs- ible, not merely difficult. Furthermore, how could we account for Japan's being the world's largest producer of steel, a world leader in electronics and optics, and the third largest producer of steel, a world leader in electronics and optics,and the third largest manufacturer of computers? Are those marks of a people who think aesthetically rather than logically? No, the difference among traditions derives not from variance in inherent thinking patterns, but from differences in what is thought about. A tradition which tends to focus on speech acts like "Grr!" rather than propositional, referen- tial speech is obviously going to sound aesthetic to us. But if we were discussing such experience, we would sound much the same. Conversely, when the Japanese found it relevant to mate logic and electronics, they developed computers that "think" just like ours. Perhaps this seems unfair. After all, when con- fronted with the same options, Plato did exclude the religious view of language whereas Kuukai did embrace it. Does this not indicate that even in the earliest stages of their intellectual traditions, Japan and the West had different philosophical inclinations? Not necessarily. As already noted, Plato's historical and social context was very different from Kuukai's. We have seen that, to a great extent, the decision as to what speech act should be considered paradigmatic depended on what the two philosophers found to be most relevant or philosophically interesting. It is not that logic alone led them inevitably to their conclusions. Their choices might well have been partly a reflec- tion of their times and places.Furthermore, we have the problem of the sociopolitical acceptance of ideas. Even if Kuukai had lived in ancient Athens and esta- blished a Heraclitean-Shingon school to rival Plato's Academy, would he have attracted Greece's best students(such as Arittotle)? If Plato had been in Japan, would his ideas have received the imperial patronage that Kuukai enjoyed? We cannot know the answers to these questions, of course. But it is at least imaginable that ideas dominate a tradition not only because they are rational and grounded in experience, but also because they are timely. In summation, there is no prima facie reason to abandon the hypothesis that the logical form of rationality is the same around the world. Rather, the divergence between cultures lies in the traditional concerns of rationality, and therefore, the experiences to which logic is applied. Human experience is too complex to be analyzed all at once. A tradition must be selective, choosing certain points to be examined first and others deferred until some later time. But P.405 once the initial topics are chosen, their complexity leads to ever further analysis and enrichment. New terms are developed and the answer to one question carries in its wake the beginnings of the next question. A tradition seldom has the leisure to return to those experiences initially bracketed from consideration. At the same time, in each culture certain forms of human experience come to be understood as being particularly profound or revealing. The experiences even become intensified as they are self-consciously named and analyzed. In short, each culture specializes, as it were, in the cultivation and analysis of particular human possibilities. This is why intellectual traditions diverge as much as they do. Plato and Kuukai, great individual thinkers and also products of their social conditions, recognized similar alternative interpretations of language. They chose diverging paths and, to a large extent, that choice has affected the disparate developments of the Western and Japanese traditions. Note 1. Wilbur Marshall Urban, Language and Reality (New York:Macmillan, 1939; reprinted 1961). pp.83-84 a 聲字實相義 b 空海(弘法大師) c 真言宗 d 言靈 e 神 f 山伏 g 修驗道 h 密 i 響 j 大日 k 真言