A Bulleted Review of James Gleick’s The Information

  • Aristotelians used motion to describe a whole range of actions, from peaches ripening and a stone falling to a child growing and a body decaying. p. 7
  • “Economics is reorganizing itself as an information science” p. 9
  • The Gospel of Mark begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” As another web site notes, “The word for “word” here is “logos”, the Greek word for the indwelling logic, or rational order of things. But it also refers to and translated the figure of “Wisdom” from the Hebrew scriptures. p. 11
  • Most African languages are tonal. p. 22
  • The total vocabulary of an oral language numbers in the few thousands. English, the most widely written language has a vocabulary that is over a million. p. 31
  • The word categories comes from the Greek word meaning accusations or predictions. p. 36
  • Plato “The multitude cannot accept the idea of beauty in itself rather than many beautiful things, nor anything conceived in its essence instead of the many specific things. Thus the multitude cannot be philosophic” p. 36
  • For Havelock, the shift from oral to written societies was a shift from the “prose of narrative” to the “prose of ideas.” It was a shift away from events and towards categories. For him, it was the first real instance of thought and thus consciousness. p. 37
  • Logos means not just reason and discourse, but also speech and word. p. 37
  • Formal logic is invented soon after writing has been interiorized by a culture. Logic (logos, words) implicates symbolism directly, things are members of classes and possess qualities. p. 38
  • Before literacy, there is no categorization and thus, no abstract thought. Asking a preliterate peasant what a tree is will elicit a specific response: “Why should I? Everyone knows what a tree is.” This is probably most of the reason why philosophy of language is so ambiguous. Written language is an imperfect tool to explore questions of a type that language was never meant to explore. p.39

First published May 14, 2011