Monday, February 14, 2005

In "Communications and the Rise of the Individual" in Views on Individualism: Presentations by Israel m. Kirzner, Walter J. Ong, Mancur Olson, Kurt Baier. (ed. Donna Card Charron. St. Louis: St. Louis Humanities Forum, 1986. 29-43), Ong is asked "what do you mean by writing?" His response:

"You can count as writing any semiotic mark, scratch on a stick, etc. However, I prefer a tighter definition. Writing is a codeded system of visible marks which enables the one who inscribes it to predict exactly the words that will be read off in the exact order. All writing systems are somewhat deficient in meeting this definition perfectly. For example, Egyptian hieroglyphics are not that clear. Chinese is pretty clear, but the encoding system is beyond belief in its complexity. The alphabet, and there is but one alphabet in the world, namely the Semitic one, from which all other alphabets derive, is the least aesthetic, but the most effective writing system that there is" (42).

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