Writing changed how we think

writing quote Alex Soojung-Kim Pang“Writing supported social enterprises of unprecedented complexity, but it also had a powerful effect on the human mind. As Walter Ong memorably put it, “Writing is a technology that restructures thought.”

Reading knits together regions of the brain that evolved for different purposes but connected around the challenge of recognizing and deciphering texts.

Writing also externalizes ideas, making it possible for people to abstract and analyze concepts in ways that are very difficult in cultures that do nor have writing. The flourishing of Greek philosophy and science, for example, was preceded by the spread of literacy through cities on the Greek mainland and in Greece’s colonies in what is today Turkey. Literacy supported the development of longer, more elaborate forms of argument built on a wider range of sources. Writing made it possible for a person to take a mental step back and examine how authors made their arguments, to analyze the rhetoric and logic they used. From this point on, even spoken language bore the imprint of cognitive attitudes supported by writing.”

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