> To: email@example.com
> From: cassius.z@...
> Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2007 09:49:56 -0800
> Subject: [t93] Re: Ogham was Numerolinguistics: ...
> > it
> > could be that the written (well, carved) version was looked upon as
> > degenerate, similar to Plato's remarks on writing ruining memory.
> This is probably not likely: Plato's remarks are based on his knowledge of
> the Spartan Rhetras, are in a political, not didactic, context. It is not
> the case that writing things down ruins memory but that if the laws are, as
> it were, engraved in the hearts of the citizens, then they will never be
> forgotten or broken.
> One of the primary Rhetras, or meta-laws, of Lycurgic Sparta was just this,
> that they (the Rhetras) should never be written down, for the reason given
> above. (All of this is in Plutarch's *Life of *Lycurgus).
> Plato greatly admired Sparta's laws and institutions: he considered it the
> second-best form of government, short of the Ideal Republic of the
> Aristocratic Philosopher-King.
> C. M. Zedaker
> "It is possible to fail in many ways, but to succeed is only possible in one
> way." -- Aristotle
Our commentator was probably referring to Phaedrus 274c-275b, Socrates' story of how Theuth invented all sorts of things, including writing, and presented them to King Thamus of Egypt -
"I heard, then, that at Naucratis, in Egypt,
was one of the ancient gods of that country, the one whose sacred bird
is called the ibis, and the name of the god himself was Theuth. He it
was who [274d] invented numbers and arithmetic and geometry and
astronomy, also draughts and dice, and, most important of all, letters.
Now the king of all Egypt at that time was the god Thamus, who lived in the great city of the upper region, which the Greeks call the Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians.
But Thamus asked what use there was in each, and as Theuth enumerated
their uses, expressed praise or blame, according as he approved [274e] or disapproved. The story goes that Thamus said many
things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would
take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, �This
invention, O king,� said Theuth, �will make the Egyptians
wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory
and wisdom that I have discovered.� But Thamus replied, �Most ingenious
Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge
of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; [275a] and now you, who are the father of letters, have been
led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that
which they really possess. For this invention will produce
forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they
will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by
external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage
the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir
not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the
appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things
without instruction and will therefore seem [275b] to know many things, when they are for the most part
ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only
(Harold Fowler translation (1925), quoted from the Perseus website -
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