Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
Alphabet
 
  ’Tis a mathematical demonstration, that these twenty-four letters admit of so many changes in their order, and make such a long roll of differently-ranged alphabets, not two of which are alike, that they could not all be exhausted though a million millions of writers should each write above a thousand alphabets a day for the space of a million millions of years.
Richard Bentley.    
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  On the greatest and most useful of all human inventions, the invention of alphabetical writing, Plato did not look with much complacency. He seems to have thought that the use of letters had operated on the human mind as the use of the go-cart in learning to walk, or of corks in learning to swim, is said to operate on the human body. It was a support which, in his opinion, soon became indispensable to those who used it, which made vigorous exertion first unnecessary, and then impossible. The powers of the intellect would, he conceived, have been more fully developed without this delusive aid. Men would have been compelled to exercise the understanding and the memory, and, by deep and assiduous meditation, to make truth thoroughly their own. Now, on the contrary, much knowledge is traced on paper, but little is engraved in the soul. A man is certain that he can find information at a moment’s notice when he wants it. He therefore suffers it to fade from his mind. Such a man cannot in strictness be said to know anything. He has the show without the reality of wisdom. These opinions Plato has put into the mouth of an ancient king of Egypt. [Plato’s Phædrus.] But it is evident from the context that they were his own; and so they were understood to be by Quinctilian. [Quinctilian, xi.] Indeed, they are in perfect accordance with the whole Platonic system.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Lord Bacon, July, 1837.    
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