omni-science. sophistry.

Plato wrote the following passage about the adoption of the alphabet in Phaedrus. I think this is timely – in an era of online dictionaries, computer-generated music mashups and myspace frontin’:

The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Beware. Knowledge is hard-earned, not copy-pasted. Especially in a world already filled up with signs and devoid of authenticity.

2 thoughts on “omni-science. sophistry.”

  1. Ah, the problem of literacy. The thing is, writing/reading needn’t be at the expense of contemplation and conversation. The magic of literacy is when it is *combined* with debate.

  2. Do you mean writing and speech (what you refer to as debate) used together? If so, I agree, except for how power resides inequitably in the written (or electronically recorded) document – how it becomes the official record of the speech event, while debates (legislative, scientific, aesthetic) are often masked by a fixed recording of them – the publication.

    If Innis is correct in arguing that “the task of understanding a culture built on the oral tradition is impossible to students steeped in the written tradition”, then might the same be said of students of a digital culture failing to understand literate cultures? Do click-drag brats get it, or are their ideas as canned and empty as Plato implies, in part due to the greater efficiency of the new tech?

    Also, is digital culture even more precarious than oral culture? A simple reformat could erase an entire society unless they ‘back up their data’ in the form of written documents or an oral tradition.

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