Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Socrates on the written word

A couple days ago I touched on the subject of how some people worry that excessive use of Google,  smartphones, and similar technology assistance is inherently making us less intelligent. Well apparently Socrates had similar concerns thousands of years ago over the spread of the written word to nearly every facet of life, and particularly when it was used to support, or replace, human memory. So maybe it's just our natural human trepidation of change and whatever is new showing up again and again. We're so predictable.
"Socrates, for example, was skeptical of writing, fearing that 'it will implant forgetfulness' in the human mind, offering 'no true wisdom... but only its semblance... Written words... seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent,' the philosopher said, 'but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you the same thing forever.'"

Quoted from: O'Toole, James M. "On the Idea of Permanence." American Archivist 52, no. 1 (1989): 10-25.

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