Apology of Socrates, By Plato

Aristotle classified Plato’s work, representing Socrates’s defense against charges that he corrupted the youth of Athens, as a fiction. But what words! What a defense! (“Greatest mind of history / Solving life’s sweet mystery.” —Schwartz) For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons and your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of…

During World War II, Literature Reigned Supreme

Books symbolized freedom. Posters of 1942 quoted the president: “Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons.” During the Blitz, Muriel Rukeyser recalled, “newspapers in America…

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Socrates envisaged a time when we would forget how to remember.

From Daisy Dunn’s review of Puchner’s The Written World: Socrates envisaged a time when we would forget how to remember. The Iliad, the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Indian epic Ramayanahad been preserved through an oral tradition that seemed destined to perish through overreliance on papyrus. Akhmatova remembered because she had to but Socrates simply chose to. He is one of many great thinkers to have earned a place in Puchner’s book on…