In Derrida's "Plato's Pharmacia," Socrates is quotes as saying "A hungry animal can be driven by dangling a carrot or a bit of greenstuff in front of it; similarly if you proffer me speeches bound in books I don't doubt you can cart me all round Attica, and anywhere else you please" (71). This clearly exemplifies the message of books and writing as pharmacia, or drug-like. Just as an animal is need of food will work towards the goal of eating, a person (in this case Socrates) is driven by texts and the food for thought that these might offer. This suggests writings as power or escape, the same kind of effect that a drug could offer. But, this could be construed as positive or negative. "Pharmacia" can either be "medicine and/or poison" (70), helpful or deadly. The example of the driven animal compared to a human could suggest that this powerful drug, the "biblios," is leading while one mindlessly follows. Drugs, although an easy escape, also may lead to death, as the hemlock certainly would. Derrida writes "This charm...this power of fascination, can be--alternately or simultaneously--beneficent or maleficent" (70), saying that the drug of writing seduced Socrates from his natural path.
Derrida suggests that this shows Plato as not wholly dismissing writing itself (although speechwriting is frowned upon, as it is not truth and as myth it harms the writer). Plato, even in his era, knew to treat some myths as "archeological" (73), as non-truths. Socrates calls writings fables, handed down by tradition, and urges his people to "discover the truth" (74) for themselves and quit wasting time.
2 years ago