05
Dec
08

Donald’s Origins of the Modern Mind

Merlin Donald
Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter Eight: Third Transition: External Symbolic Storage and Theoretic Culture

•    Before the human body could be dissected and catalogued, it had to be demythologized
o    Demytholgoization illustrates the transformation in mythic (narrative) → theoretic (analytic)
•    Rhetoric is a set of skills that controls language use on the level of discourse
•    The Trivium: Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar
273: “Whereas oral-mythic cultures rely heavily on individual biological memory, modern cultures rely much more on external memory devices, mostly on various classes of graphic symbols, from pictures and graphs to ideograms and writing.  Thus, the shift is from internal to external memory storage devices.  As the pattern of memory use shifts toward the external symbolic store, the architecture of the individual mind must change in a fundamental way, just as the architecture of a computer changes if it becomes part of a larger network.”
308:  “As long as future recipients possess the ‘code’ for a given set of graphic symbols, the knowledge stored in the symbols is available, transmitted culturally across time and space.  This change, in the terms of modern information technology, constitutes a hardware change, albeit a nonbiological hardware change.”
309:  External memory is best defined in functional terms: it is the exact external analog of internal, or biological memory, namely, a storage and retrieval system that allows humans to accumulate experience and knowledge.”
314:  “The major locus of stored knowledge is out there, not within the bounds of biological memory.  Biological memories carry around the code, rather than a great deal of specific information.  Monads confronted with a symbolic information environment are freed from the obligation to depend wholly on biological memory; but the price of this freedom is interpretative baggage.”
344:  “the result was that, for the first time in history, complex ideas were placed in the public arena, in an external medium, where they could undergo refinement over the longer term, that is, well beyond the life-span of single individuals.  This meant that the EXMF could be fully exploited for the first time; where its use had been restricted to analog models, lists, and a few simple narratives, it was not the field of more elaborate symbolic structures.”

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