Not Hearing Socrates


Not Hearing Socrates Essay, Research Paper

Writing and speaking are two very different, yet extremely important activities to any educated person. Socrates, from Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII, seems to think that spoken word holds great precedence over writing. His explanation of choosing speech over text is two fold. Through the breakdown of real knowledge and wisdom, Socrates proclaims that the only true teaching is done through speech. And through the way that he speaks with others, Socrates demonstrates how speech is the way to interact, teach, and learn from one another. Socrates is a firm believer of the notion that knowledge and wisdom can’t be derived from written word. Memory is lost easily in his quote from the king Thamus, “those who acquire it [written word] will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful”(Plato 96). He is using the story as an example of how the improper use of memory makes people scatterbrained. In this state people are therefore unable to interact with one another due to a lack of information. As for wisdom, “they [writers] will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part very ignorant” (Plato, 96). Socrates is saying that words on paper cannot teach in a proper manner. Teaching is a method in which you act together with a person, using your mind and voice. If the teaching process is not properly carried out with speech, than there is no way that the learning by a student can take place. Through text both teaching and learning are incapacitated.

Socrates lives the words that he speaks by trying to interact in a way that demonstrates his strong feelings for the uprising of spoken word. Issuing compliments on other known, intelligent philosophers by quoting is constant in his dialogue with Phaedrus. He uses descriptive words and the full scope of the language to get much out of people. In the case of Phaedrus, Socrates speaks volumes on just about any subject. It is something that he does to enlighten the friendship between the two. Socrates is keeping activity going in the conversation by talking, as Phaedrus is by asking intuitive questions. The interaction taking place is in no written form, it is all in speech. Therefore it only makes sense that Socrates is right in his anti-text assumption.

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