[MD] words/time

MarshaV valkyr at att.net
Sun Dec 30 02:31:49 PST 2012

  "But if the early Greek mentality was neither metaphysical, nor abstract, what then was it, and what was it trying to say?  The resources of epigraphy [the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions], marshaled in the first instance of [Rhys] Carpenter, supplied the next clue.  For  epigraphy pointed to the conclusion that the Greek culture was maintained on a wholly oral basis until 700 B.C. And if this were true, then the first so-called philosophers were living and speaking in a period that was still adjusting to the conditions of a possible future literacy, conditions which I concluded would be slow of realisation, for they depended on the mastery not of the art of writing by a few, but of fluent reading by the many.

  "Those few who had elected themselves to be the prototypes of future philosopher did so by virtue of their attempt to rationalise the sources of knowledge.  What then had been the shape of knowledge when preserved in the oral memory and stored there for re-use?  At this point, I turned to the work of Milman Parry, and thought I saw the outline of the answer, and an answer also to the problem why Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Parmenides, to take the first three thinkers who survive, spoke in the curious ways they did.  The formulaic style characteristic of oral composition represented not merely certain verbal and metrical habits but also a cast of thought, or a mental condition.  The Presocratics themselves were essentially oral thinkers, prophets of the concrete linked by long habit to the past, and to forms of expression which were also forms of experience, but they were trying to devise a vocabulary and syntax for a new future, when thought should be expressed in categories organized in syntax suitable for abstract statement.  This was their fundamental task, and it absorbed most of their energies.  So far from inventing systems in the later philosophical manner, they were devoted to the primary task of inventing a language which would make future systems possible.  Such was the new picture which began to emerge. ..."

     (Havelock, Eric A., 'Preface to Plato', pp. ix-x)    

I don't know how deeply this book will address literacy as the instrument in the making of 'time' and 'space' into objective and static patterns, but it surely looks to be an exciting adventure.  RMP did state that the rules of grammar were contained in the intellectual level; this tome might offer insight to that statement.  


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