Wednesday, January 9, 2013
In Lieu of an Update, a Nitpick
Some time way back was a post about some of the hitches we're experiencing as our cultural digitization accelerates. Since then we've seen the unwarranted social media manhunt of Ryan Lanza, beautiful but fake Hurricane Sandy photographs, the bursting of the "Romney will win in a landslide" filter bubble, and so on. But today we're revisiting a recipient of the original post's criticism: QUOTE SITES.
There's a whole bunch of them out there, but they're pretty much the same: websites amassing pithy sayings from famous people and inviting browsers to search and peruse their ad-dappled indexes. One such site is Philosophical Quotes, whose Twitter feed I've recently begun following.
A few days ago, @philo_quotes posted:
« Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another. »
Which is a beautiful quote -- but doesn't it sound sort of familiar?
Plato technically did write that, sure. But in the Republic the line is spoken by Glaucon, and his suggestion that astronomy belongs in the philosopher's curriculum is immediately shot down by Socrates, Plato's mouthpiece within the dialogue. It's equivocal to present the statement as part of Plato's philosophy, since it was only proposed in order to be dismissed.
Yeah, sure. Nobody cares, nobody needs to care. But it's essentially erroneous information that most people following @philo_quotes (over 150,000 of them) will credulously accept. However much we might disagree with his assessment of astronomy's value, our man Plato was a stickler for the truth and would not appreciate being quoted out of context.
I emailed Philosophical Quotes to point this out. The site master thanked me for doing so, but the quote is still there. Well, whatever. Why should he give a shit?
To me this is another line (however small) underscoring the supreme necessity of the fact checker amidst our century's unprecedented gout of information. It also implies that a greater share of the burden of verification has been foisted upon the consumer's shoulders, whether he knows it or not. Want to be a more effective Internet user? Read more books.