Writing is the act of organizing one’s thoughts on a paper or any other object. It is one of the biggest inventions of humanity dating back thousands of years. It has revolutionized the world in an uncountable number of ways. Since the days the writing was discovered, the man’s way of thinking has changed due to scholars like Plato and Socrates; the new world was beginning to take shape, namely, the world of literacy and knowledge.
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Writing came about and altered the way people used to think. First of all, Ong explained that “writing has enabled our thought processes to grow” (79). Although our mind usually grows through oral processes, it is further enriched and broadened by writing. The writing has changed over time from the early writings of Plato to Shakespeare’s works till the modern times allowing us to trace and compare the way writers think and express their views.
According to Plato, writing destroys the memory (Ong 79). The logic consists in the fact that the more one becomes reliant on external sources, the more he or she becomes forgetful and undermines his or her internal resource which is the mind.
According to Ong ‘writing weakens the mind’ (79) and Hieronimo Squarcifaco also argued that ‘abundance of books makes men less studious’ (Ong 80) meaning that books enfeeble the mind. Ong further counterargues that books create a field where everyone can become wiser (80). Ong further explains that intelligence is reflexive in that fact that it can internalize the external tools that it uses (81).
The first known scripts were discovered dating back to 3500 B.C, and it was suggested that the writing on it was a record kept by Sumerians at the time. This shows that the Sumerians saw it important to keep records and transform their memory into writing to preserve the necessary information. This, in turn, has helped our generation to learn more about Sumerian culture hence broadening our minds.
According to Ong, writing was seen as an instrument of secret and magical powers in the early days (Goody 236) because of the permanence it had on the paper it was written, and the fact that it was perceived as magical amulets (Ong 93). Illiterate societies thought that writing was dangerous and that powerful intermediaries were required to decipher the information on the written texts.
Written texts like orders and receipts were viewed by the illiterates as magical pieces of writings that brought ships from the sea to their lands. Ong explained that it was only during Plato’s time that the Greek were able to get access to writings and internalized them to affect their thought processes (94).
The hopes and fears that surrounded writing are similar to those that surround modern technology today. The hope was that writing would revolutionize the world to form a new world with literate people; the fear was like that of Plato and Hieronimo Squarciafico’s that writing would weaken the mind.
So far, writing has indeed formed a new world and has strengthened the mind of most people contrary to the views of Plato and Hieronimo Squarciafico. On the other hand, writing has brought about the emergence of computers and the internet which others may argue has diminished the value of hard work in the society because everything nowadays seems to be only one click away.
Ong Walter J.”Writing restructures Consciousness.” Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.Ed .Taylor and Francis Group. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 76- 116. Print.