I feel like Western culture has lost so much of our memory traditions that this trite story, which I’ve seen often repeated, doesn’t have the weight it should.
Why can’t we simultaneously have the old system AND the new? Lynne Kelly and Margo Neale touch on this in their coinage of the third archive in Songlines - The Power and Promise.
In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom). 1
links: Western culture memory reading literacy orality Luddites technophobia
- broader terms (BT): culture technology
- narrower terms (NT): memory traditions
- related terms (RT): wisdom
- used for (UF) or aliases:
connected ideas: Plato Socrates Phaedrus