Quick Quote

Apropos of nothing, I just ran across this quote:

Plato used the dialogue format because the exchange of views, the posing and answering of questions, showed that understanding is a living, dynamic process. He distrusted writing because the settled character of the written word makes it look as if truth can be fixed and made to stand still. It is worth remembering that this greatest advocate of the objective reality of truth also believed that our access to that truth was sustained in reasoned discussion.

— John Churchill, From the Secretary: Inspiring Conversations in The Key Reporter. Vol 67, Number 4. P. 2., Summer 2002

I think this is one of the strongest, most concise arguments in favor of free speech and open debate that I have ever heard. I’d never heard of this guy, but it seems he’s the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa. Sounds like a smart cookie.

(Posted at the very lowest possible priority on our blog because it doesn’t have anything to do anything, bears repeating, and won’t fit in a tweet.)


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  1. Great post. I stole this quote for my tumblr blog (http://notobviouslybad.tumblr.com) because by coincidence I’ve already posted two quotes by modern thinkers reflecting on past thinkers’ views on how we arrive at truth. I’lll copy them here:

    “The way in which we understand reality and truth is by exposing a proposition to the maximum number of perceptions and then coming up with the consensus.”

    “Nietzsche is a nihilist about knowledge. He refuses to take “The Truth” as something fixed, absolute, and easily accessible. Quite the contrary. He says: Where truth is concerned, we should be skeptical. We should be subtle, and we should not accept this notion that says that truth is something fixed and out there as opposed to something that, in part, we create through our experiments and through our living.”

    Comment by autodidakto — February 13, 2011 #

  2. I find biologist and philosopher Humberto Maturana’s exploration of this question to be particularly compelling. This isn’t the best translation (I’ve studied extensively with one of his colleagues who conversed with him about this after it was written), but it will suffice to convey the general idea:


    It’s a fairly dense read and worth reading more than once.

    Comment by flux — February 17, 2011 #

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