International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Journal | Volume | Article


Is there a problem of writing in historiography?

Plato and the pharmakon of the written word

Natan Elgabsi

pp. 225-264


This investigation concerns first what Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricœur consider to be «the question of writing» in Plato’s Phaedrus, and then whether their conception of a general philosophical problem of writing finds support in the dialogue. By contrast to their attempts to «determine» the «status» of writing as the general condition of knowledge, my investigation has two objections. (1) To show that Plato’s concern is not to define writing, but to reflect on what is involved in honest and dishonest inquiry. (2) To argue that Derrida’s and Ricœur’s determination of the instrumental (epistemic and moral) «status» of writing, overlooks crucial difficulties of dishonest writing that Plato’s discussion of the pharmakon reveals. The argument proposed is that honest and dishonest inquiry is not tied to the moral status that writing, as an invention or instrument, unconditionally involves, but to the moral quality of what a human being does when inquiring.

Publication details

Published in:

Stone Richard, Morisato Takeshi (2019) Mediation. Metodo 7 (2).

Pages: 225-264

Full citation:

Elgabsi Natan (2019) „Is there a problem of writing in historiography?: Plato and the pharmakon of the written word“. Metodo 7 (2), 225–264.