Socrate’s dilemma

The man who taught us how to think didn’t like us to write. Socrates was suspicious of two subjects. Rhetoric and writing. What he didn’t like about both was their intransigence. He said that with writing, there was no room to criticise. In Phaedrus, Plato quotes Socrates as saying that ‘writing is only useful to remind oneself of what one already knows. The problem with words is that they don’t answer back when you question them.’ Yet, we only know of Socrates because his words were reported to us by Plato.

We like to know who was first. Socrates was our first great thinker, though there have been many thousands of thinkers since. Maybe words are more flexible than he first imagined.

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