Rationality and the Literate Mind

By Roy Harris

© 2009 – Routledge

190 pages

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Paperback: 9780415850230
pub: 2013-05-23
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Hardback: 9780415999014
pub: 2009-01-09
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About the Book

This book re-examines the old debate about the relationship between rationality and literacy. Does writing "restructure consciousness?" Do preliterate societies have a different "mind-set" from literate societies? Is reason "built in" to the way we think? How is literacy related to numeracy? Is the "logical form" that Western philosophers recognize anything more than an extrapolation from the structure of the written sentence? Is logic, as developed formally in Western education, intrinsically beyond the reach of the preliterate mind? What light, if any, do the findings of contemporary neuroscience throw on such issues? Roy Harris challenges the received mainstream opinion that reason is an intrinsic property of the human mind, and argues that the whole Western conception of rational thought, from Classical Greece down to modern symbolic logic, is a by-product of the way literacy developed in European cultures.

Table of Contents

1. Rationality, the mind and Scriptism 2.The Primitive Mind Revisited 3. Logicality and Prelogicality 4. Reason and Primitive Languages 5. The Great Divide 6. Aristotle’s Language Myth 7. Logic and the Tyranny of the Alphabet 8. Literacy and Numeracy 9. Interlude: Constructing a Language-Game 10. The Literate Revolution and Its Consequences 11. The Fallout from Literacy 12. Epilogue: Rethinking Rationality

About the Author

Roy Harris is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics in the University of Oxford and an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund Hall.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Communication and Linguistic Theory

Routledge Advances in Communication and Linguistic Theory presents an integrationist approach to problems of language and communication. Integrationism has emerged in recent years as a radically innovative theoretical position. It challenges the most basic assumptions underlying orthodox twentieth-century linguistics, including those taken for granted by leading structuralists, post-structuralists and generativists. According to integrationists, human communication is an essentially creative enterprise: it relies very little on the 'codes', 'systems', 'habits' and 'rules' postulated by orthodox theorists. Instead, integrationists see the communicative life of each individual as part of a continuous attempt to integrate the present with the past and the future. The success of this attempt depends crucially on the ability to contextualise on-going events rather than on any mastery of established conventions.
The books in this series are aimed at a multidisciplinary readership comprising those engaged in study, teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences, including anthropology, the arts, education, linguistics, literary studies, philosophy and psychology.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAN000000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / General
LAN009000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
LAN010000
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Literacy