[MD] words/time

MarshaV valkyr at att.net
Tue Dec 11 00:18:03 PST 2012

     "Writing establishes what has been called 'context-free' language or 'autonomous discourse', discourse which cannot be directly questioned or contested as oral speech can be because written discourse has been detached from its author.
     "Oral cultures know a kind of autonomous discourse in fixed ritual formulas, as well as in vatic sayings or prophesies, for which the utterer himself or herself is considered only the channel, not the source.  The Delphic oracle was not responsible for they were held to be the voice of the god.  Writing, and even more print, has some of this vatic quality.  Like the oracle or the prophet, the book relays an utterance from a source, the one who really 'said' or wrote the book.  The author cannot might be challenged if only he or she could be reached, but the author cannot be reached in any book.  There is no way directly to refute a text.  After absolutely total and devastating refutation, it says exactly the same thing as before.  This is one reason why 'the book says' is popularly tantamount to 'it is true'.  It is also one reason why books have been burnt.  A text stating what the whole world knows is false will state falsehood forever, so long as the text exists.  Texts are inherently contumacious."  

The author presents Plato's view: 


     "Most persons are surprised, and many distressed, to learn that essentially the same objections commonly urged today against computers were urged by Plato in _Phædrus_ and in the _Seventh Letter_ against writing.  Writing, Plato has Socrates say in the _Phædrus_, is inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can be only in the mind.  It is a thing, a manufactured product.  The same of course is said of computers.  Secondly, Plato's Socrates urges, writing destroys memory.  Those who use writing will become forgetful, relying on an external resource for what they lack in internal resources.  Writing weakens the mind.  Thirdly, a written text is basically unresponsive ...  Fourthly, ..."  

     "One weakness in Plato's position was that, to make his objections effective, he put them into writing, ..."  

     "In fact, as Havelock has beautifully shown, Plato's entire epistemology was unwittingly a programmed rejection of the old oral, mobile, warm, personally interactive lifeworld of oral culture..."  

    (Ong, Walter J., 'Orality and Literacy', pp. 77-78) 

The ideas presented in this book adds new light to the split between the social and intellectual levels. 


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