Post literatura

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  • Publicado : 27 de noviembre de 2010
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J. C. NYIRI

POST-LITERACY AS A SOURCE OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY PHILOSOPHY

For some ten years now I have been articulating the position expressed in the title of my paper: the position according towhich some of the main figures of twentieth-century philosophy can be usefully interpreted as trying to come to conceptual terms with the fact that the dominance of the printed book as the medium ofcommunication has become challenged by the rise of the new, electric and electronic media. I have published bits and pieces of my results in a number of papers; I never had the occasion, however, tosummarize them in a comprehensive form. I am honoured that this conference of the IIP now enables me to put forward just such a summary. The position I am outlining rests on two basic sets ofcontentions. The first, originating with the classical scholar Eric Havelock, is that the emergence of Greek philosophy, with Plato at its centre, was a response to the crisis of social communication caused bythe spread of alphabetic literacy. The second, that the best way to make sense of the struggles of the later Wittgenstein, and in particular of his attitude to Plato, is to see him as trying to liberatehimself from the literary bias of Western philosophy at a time when in everyday experience the sources of that bias were drying up. Havelock’s work provided me with the perspective from which myinterpretation of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy proceeded; and it is from the vantage-point of this interpretation that I arrived at the general thesis to the effect that twentieth-century philosophybears to a significant extent the marks of post-literacy. While under conditions of pre-literacy language spoken-out-loud, or indeed sung-out-loud, serves as the sole medium of collective consciousnessand memory – think, for instance, of Homer – post-literacy has recourse to writing, book printing, and the electronic recording of texts and data. However, from a semantic point of view, pre-literate...
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