“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” Nietzsche, somewhere
I often like to begin my writing with a quotation from a philosopher, and this one is particularly apt for this week’s #rhizo14 topic
Is Books Making Us Stupid?
because I do not know where it came from, or if it really is from Nietzsche. Usually I would assiduously track it down before using it, but this week I am not going to bother. Google is making me stupid.
I’m tempted, by the way, just to say “no, of course books don’t make us stupid. We make ourselves stupid, books are inanimate objects”, but I suppose I might say a bit more.
I do love Plato’s Phaedrus, and the fact that I haven’t read it for many years doesn’t stop me from referring to it regularly and telling students what I think that Plato was talking about, amusingly this week’s topic has prodded me into reading some of it:
Writing, Phaedrus, has this strange quality, and is very like painting; for the creatures of painting stand like living beings, but if one asks them a question, they preserve a solemn silence. And so it is with written words; you might think they spoke as if they had intelligence, but if you question them, wishing to know about their sayings, they always say only one and the same thing. Plato Phaedrus 275d
Yeah, that fits with the general theme of this course – it’s not that we should burn all of our books, rather that we should not assume that they have all the answers. They are a starting point, they’re not gospel truth:
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me ﬁnally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)
He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly. Wittgenstein Tractatus 6.54