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Plato and chat

Im reading Julian Warners “From Writing to Computers,” published in 1994. In a wonderful chapter he looks at the senses in which the Western tradition thought documents contained or were intelligent — written documents “appear to understand what they are saying,” Plato says. Warner looks carefully at Platos Phaedrus, a seminal text for those concerned with the transition from oral to written cultures. Thats the one where Plato worries that the onset of written documents will ruin human memory: Those who acquire the skill of writing “will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of on their own internal resources.”

Plato has another complaint: Writings cant respond to questions: “writing involves a similar disadvantage to painting. The productions of paintings look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence.” Ive taken these quotes from Plato from Warner pp. 58-59.

Makes you wonder what Plato would have made of chat, IM, and SMS.


2 Responses to “Plato and chat”

  1. sorry to be pin pointing David.
    but the man against writing in the dialogue is Socrates

    it is really important a distinction,
    just because Plato was writing down what his oral-brainframed teacher Socrates was talking about,

    the importance is because in only one generation the importance of writing is completely reversed,

    Plato will arrive to hope that poets (the oral masters of the time) would be banned from his perfect ‘Republic’, because they were not able to sustain an objective truth like the avangard alphabetic elite Plato was envisioning

    this is a dear dialogue to me,
    it describe extremely well the generational shift from one brainframe to another
    and it shows how in-context communication has been important before the abstract writing/reading thing

  2. nice article , thanks a lot , i enjoy reading your blog.

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