The Word

Some interesting stuff about memory and the written word from Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein:

[…] an orator delivering a speech should make one image for each major topic he wants to cover, and place each of those images at  a locus. Indeed, the word “topic” comes from the Greek word topos, or place. (The phrase “in the first place” is a vestige from the art of memory.)

[…] the ancient Greek word most commonly used to signify “to read” was ánagignósko, which means to “know again,” or “to recollect.”

As books became easier and easier to consult, the imperative to hold their contents in memory became less and less relevant, and the very notion of what it meant to be erudite began to evolve from possessing information internally to knowing where to find information in the labyrinthine world of external memory.

Socrates goes on […], saying it would be “singularly simple-minded to believe that written words can do anything more than remind one of what he already knows.”

I think it’s brilliant that the father of Western philosophy and education thought writing was a waste of time. Also, as Foer points out later in that passage, it is incredibly ironic that the only reason we know of Socrates’ disdain for the written word is because Plato and others wrote down what he said.

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