A Tool to Aid Forgetfulness

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The Egyptian God Thoth lived in the Egyptian city of Naucratis. Thoth was the inventor of many arts such as math and astronomy, but the most significant was the invention of writing. Thoth showed writing to the king of Egypt, claiming that it would make Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; that it it would vastly improve both the memory and the wit of the Egyptian people.

The king replied: "Thoth, you invented this tool. As such you are not the best one to judge such things. You have not created a tool to aid memory, you have created a tool to aid forgetfulness. Learners will not use their memories, they will blindly trust these sigils and not remember for themselves.

"You have discovered an aid to vague recollection, as the users of this tool will not be given truth. They will only be given a semblance of truth.

"They will be hearers of many things and learners of nothing. They will appear to know all the knowledge of the world yet when asked they will only be the middleman to external forces that are trusted without verification. They will know wisdom, but not truth."

Adapted from The Dialogues of Plato in Five Volumes, 3rd ed. Oxford University, 1892. Vol. 1 pp. 483-489.

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