Plato’s prescription: The origin myth of media theory

Sutherland, Thomas (2022) Plato’s prescription: The origin myth of media theory. Media Theory . ISSN 2557-826X

Plato’s prescription: The origin myth of media theory
Accepted manuscript

Request a copy
[img] PDF
sutherland_platos_prescription.pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Plato’s Phaedrus, perhaps his most enigmatic and structurally convoluted dialogue, could easily be said to inaugurate a pointed critique of mass media that persists to the present day. Indeed, in certain corners of media theory, the origin myth of writing furnished in the Phaedrus (in which the Egyptian god Theuth presents writing as a gift to King Thamus) has in turn come to serve as a kind of origin myth for media theory: a primaeval pharmacopoeia of media effects. And yet, this is an origin myth that can only underwrite not only its own non-originarity and non-truth, insofar as its very status as a written text ensures that it will never meet the criteria that it itself establishes for a reasoned account of things (logos). It remains perpetually orphaned, unable to defend itself, irrevocably cut off from its ‘father’, the speaking subject, and thus from the vitality of living discourse. But this paradox, I argue, is not a failing of the dialogue, but is a device intended to encourage the reader’s active involvement in the text’s status as medium. The Phaedrus is not just diagnostic, but therapeutic.

Keywords:philosophy, media theory, communication, Plato, Jacques Derrida, speech, dialogue
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:48817
Deposited On:11 Apr 2022 11:10

Repository Staff Only: item control page