To follow that upward ascent and turn his words into lively vessels of spiritual growth, Plato chose to present his philosophical ideas through dialogues. The choice was dictated by the belief that the forward mental motion produced by dialogue was the only way to enliven the verbal message, above the tomb-like rigidity of the dead written word — the sema, or tomb of the word, which we’ve discussed before.
— Ingrid Rossellini, Know Thyself: Western Identity from Classical Greece to the Renaissance
It’s funny how you only notice some obvious things belatedly, once you’re ready for them. I’ve long known of Plato’s famous antipathy to the written word, but the perfunctory reminder here was accompanied by the surprising realization that somewhere along the way, I’ve come to largely agree with him. No, I don’t mean that I’ve KonMari’d all my books or anything. If books are the tombs of thoughts, I’m still quite gothic insofar as I prefer to spend my time brooding in graveyards, playing with bones. But I read mostly nonfiction, and I can’t help but think that for the earnest truthseeker, many contentious topics in that genre would be better illuminated by verbal dialogue than the laborious process of reading the book, searching out critical responses, waiting for the potential rebuttal, etc. It’s like trying to reassemble a vibrant conversation out of dusty fragments. Watching Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton in dialogue, for example, is subtly but powerfully different than reading either in isolation. So many other topics would flourish more as conversations than monographs.