Steven Lagerfeld

How is the West's attitude toward "reading" beginning to change?

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Writing "will implant forgetfulness in [men's] souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written." Thus Plato (speaking through a character in one of his dialogues) questioned the value of literacy some four centuries after the Greeks began adopting the alphabet. Only knowledge gained through spirited debate, Plato argued, "is written in the soul of the learner."

Of course, the ultimate reply to Plato is that his doubts about literacy are known to us only because he committed them to writing Yet, in one form or another, Plato's reservations have preoccupied thinkers through the ages. Do reading and writing transform human consciousness? How so? Is literacy best left in the hands of the few, or is mass literacy better? Will widespread literacy ensure social and economic progress? Never in the past were the answers to all these questions self-evident, and some remain, in one form or another, subjects of scholarly debate.

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