Navigate / search

Thamus and Theuth and the digital age

Statue of an Egyptian scribe, ca. 2500 BC

In the midst of my MA study leave, I am pondering this famous old parable and its implications for the digital age.

“Now the king of all Egypt at that time was Thamus… To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians… When it came to writing, Theuth declared: “… I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and for wisdom.” To this, Thamus replied, “O most expert Theuth, one man can give birth to the elements of an art, but only another can judge how they can benefit or harm those who will use them. And now, since you are the father of writing, your affection for it has made you describe its effects as the opposite of what they really are. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful… What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality: they will receive a quantity of information without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing… And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.”

Phaedrus and the Seventh and Eighth Letters

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website