Plato's Ingenius Discovery

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"But when they came to the 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" (Plato, 361, Writing Material).

Socrates is explaining to Phaedrus the first discovery of letters in ancient Egypt.  Plato can be very hard to understand so I was actually proud of myself for being able to understand the short passage at hand.  I think the discussion between Socrates and Phaedus reflects some of the discussions we had in class about the written word and oral communication.  Socrates explains the he and Thamus think that writing will create forgetfulness.  

I never imagined people thought that in the early ages although I see how it makes sense.  I write notes in class so as not try and remember everything the teacher tells me but the beauty is that I can take them back to my room and work on remembering them later.

By the end of this passage, Socrates explains, "in the garden of letters he will sow and plan, but not only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path" (Plato, 363, Writing Material).

Sometimes I do write things down to forget them.  The priest at my church would talk to the youth group and tell us that a good way to get troubling thoughts out of our minds was to write them down.  He could not have been more right.  I would constantly think about a situation that made me very upset by reliving it over and over again in my mind.  When I wrote down the situation it was like a release.  I never had to think about it again but it existed on paper in case I ever chose to be reminded of it; and that was a comforting thought.

For the most part, I can agree with the conclusions of Socrates in that writing memories down does not mean they will be forgotten.  If I write memories down it is for the reasons that Socrates says; in case I forget them when I am older.  But when I read memories that I have written down it only takes a second for me to remember them because they are never completely forgotten.


Jessie Krehlik said:

I can't imagine not being able to write things down. Like you, you I write stuff down that I need to remember, because I can rely on something physical a lot more than my own memory. We're all a little spacey now and then. I don't typically write things down to forget them, though. But, now that you mention that, I do write my feelings out on paper to get out my frustrations sometimes. Thanks for the insightful idea!

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