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Because we have so deeply interiorized writing, we find it [#permalink]
31 Mar 2013, 07:05
Because we have so deeply interiorized writing, we find it difficult to consider writing to be an alien technology, as we commonly assume printing and the computer to be. Most people are surprised to learn that essentially the same objections commonly urged today against computers were urged by Plato in the Phaedrus, against writing. Writing, Plato has Socrates say, is inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can be only in the mind. Secondly, Plato‘s Socrates urges, writing destroys memory. Those who use writing will become forgetful, relying on external resource for what they lack in internal resources. Thirdly, a written text is basically unresponsive, whereas real speech and thought always exist essentially in a context of give-and-take between real persons.
Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual. Thus, for most literates, to think of words as totally disassociated from writing is psychologically threatening, for literates‘ sense of control over language is closely tied to the visual transformations of language. Writing makes ―words‖ appear similar to things because we think of words as the visible marks signalling words to decoders, and we have an inability to represent to our minds a heritage of verbally organized materials except as some variant of writing. A literate person, asked to think of the word ―nevertheless will normally have some image of the spelled-out word and be quite unable to think of the word without adverting to the lettering. Thus the thought processes of functionally literate human beings do not grow out of simply natural powers but out of these powers as structured by the technology of writing.
Without writing, human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other beautiful and powerful creations. Literacy is absolutely necessary for the development not only of science, but also of history, philosophy, explicative understanding of literature and of any art, and indeed for the explanation of language (including oral speech) itself. Literate users of a grapholect such as standard English have access to vocabularies hundreds of times larger than any oral language can manage. Thus, in many ways, writing heightens consciousness. Technology, properly interiorized, does not degrade human life but enhances it.
In the total absence of any writing, there is nothing outside the writer, no text, to enable him or her to produce the same line of thought again or even verify whether he has done so or not. In primary oral culture, to solve effectively the problem of retaining and retrieving carefully articulated thought, you have to do your thinking in mnemonic patterns, shaped for ready oral recurrence. A judge in an oral culture is often called upon to articulate sets of relevant proverbs out of which he can produce equitable decisions in the cases under formal litigation under him. The more sophisticated orally patterned thought is, the more it is likely to be marked by set expressions skilfully used. Among the ancient Greeks, Hesiod, who was intermediate between oral Homeric Greece and fully developed Greek literacy, delivered quasiphilosophic material in the formulaic verse forms from which he had emerged.
1. In paragraph 5 of the passage, the author mentions Hesiod in order to: a. prove that oral poets were more creative than those who put their verses in written words. b. show that some sophisticated expressions can be found among the preliterate ancient Greeks. c. demonstrate that a culture that is partially oral and partially literate forms the basis of an ideal society. d. thinking in mnemonic patterns is an unsuccessful memory device. e. no sophisticated expressions could be found among the pre-literate ancient Greeks.
2. According to the author, an important difference between oral and literate cultures can be expressed in terms of: a. extensive versus limited reliance on memory. b. chaotic versus structured modes of thought. c. simple versus complex use of language. d. barbaric versus civilized forms of communication. e. presence and absence of books
3. The author refers to Plato in the first and second paragraphs. He brings the philosopher up primarily in order to: a. provide an example of literate Greek philosophy. b. suggest the possible disadvantages of writing. c. illustrate common misconceptions about writing. d. define the differences between writing and computer technology. e. suggest possible benefits of writing
4. The passage is primarily concerned with a. criticizing those who speak against writing b. emphasising the importance of writing c. assert that writing and consciousness are independent of each other d. documenting the negative effects of writing e. discussing how writing has influenced human consciousness