Mr. Coward
Tue Feb 18 18:11:21 CST 1997

In Plato's "Phaedrus," Socrates' primary complaint about writing is that writing has the power to produce the appearance of wisdom without the reality of wisdom (275b). In Derrida's "Plato's Pharmacy," there is the argument that Plato is claiming that speech is closer to the perfection of the Forms than writing while the truth of the matter is that speech and writing are equally fraught with the perils of miscommunication. Thus, we should take both with an equal amount of skepticism and criticism and not elevate the false sense of presence that speech emulates or that writing tries to vainly imitate (as Western Metaphysics has done from Plato onward). This position relates to the notion that has Plato adroitly making an ironic argument for writing by pointing to its relation to speech as the newer medium. Just as literary and literacy types today bash television for its supposed dumbing down of America, so Plato's Socrates does with the relatively recent popularity of alphabetic writing in ancient Athens. Yet, at the end of the dialogue, Plato has Socrates say that if the rhetor genuinely knows the truth, then writing can be an aid to wisdom. Writing (or television) is not worse; it is just different. Finally, in consideration of these warnings, I say that the pursuit of wisdom is education--not the study of writing or any other technology because the technology is secondary to the dialectic of inquiry. I only take enough of the poison of writing to render myself immune to it. That is why I know it signifies nothing.


General Response:

Please use this form to offer reactions to Fred's attempt to portray an alternative to the classroom.



[Feel free to use whatever HTML coding you'd like in this field.]