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The Criticism—and the Practice—of Literacy in the Ancient Philosophical Tradition

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how various philosophers, from different schools and periods, criticize literacy and describe their own practice of it. It also examines how philosophers proceed to reject reading and writing separately. The analysis of the ancient philosophers' criticism of literacy shows that, in their view, philosophical knowledge is best conveyed by oral technologies. The chapter then examines philosopher's practices of reading, writing, and orality, in order to understand better how these practices can be consistent with their criticism. The study of the criticism as well as the practice of orality and literacy in such a broad period shows that the terms 'invention of literature' or 'invention of the literary author', usually employed to account for the literacy of Plato or Isocrates do not correspond to the infinite slowness of a mutation that is quite restricted.

Keywords:literacy; Plato



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