better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.
Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of
an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his
own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are
the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children
have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have;
for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners'
souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to
the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The
specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to
reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the
semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will
have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will
generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show
of wisdom without the reality.
Phaedr. Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of
any other country.
Soc. There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first
gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their
simplicity to young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth
even from "oak or rock," it was enough for them; whereas you seem to
consider not whether a thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is
and from what country the tale comes.
Phaedr. I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that
the Theban is right in his view about letters.
Soc. He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the
oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive
in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be
intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all
better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?
Phaedr. That is most true.
Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is