Plato was concerned about the rise of the written word--that it would detach knowledge from contexts essential to understanding. Among other things, he was certain it would result in the enfeeblement of memory. In one of his dialogues, Phaedrus (written ca. 370 BCE), Plato expresses concerns about the invention and development of writing. One of his characters, the Egyptian god Theuth, believes writing "will make Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered." Plato has the Egyptian King Thamus voice the contrary view to Theuth--that the invention of writing "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 to know many things, when they are not wise, but only appear wise."
Hmm. What would Plato have to say about the invention of the printing press? About Wikipedia--the virtual tip of our instantly available iceberg of information?
In the next several days, I will explore how technology and the instant availability of, and access to, information it makes possible raises anew the age old question of the relationship between knowledge and wisdom. I am reminded of T.S. Eliot's written words from his poem, "The Rock."