Plato and the making of writing

Socrates: I’ve something to tell, something I’ve heard from those who came before us; they alone know the truth of it. But if we were to find it out ourselves, would we care anymore what mere men happen to think?

Phaedrus: A laughable question! But anyway, tell me what you heard?

Socrates:  At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth… he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters… It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust  external marks that are alien to themselves rather than remember of themselves from within. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth…they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality….

Phaedrus: O Socrates, you easily use Egypt or some other country if you want to poetise/make a story/logos. Plato, Phaedrus [274c-275b].

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