Augustine on the Non-rivalrous Consumption of Ideas

From Lawrence Lessig’s blog:

The words I am uttering penetrate your senses, so that every hearer holds them, yet withholds them from no other. Not held, the words could not inform. Withheld, no other could share them. Though my talk is, admittedly, broken up into words and syllables, yet you do not take in this portion or that, as when picking at your food. All of you hear all of it, though each takes all individually. I have no worry that, by giving all to one, the others are deprived. I hope, instead, that everyone will consume everything; so that, denying no other ear or mind, you take all to yourselves, yet leave all to all others. But for individual failures of memory, everyone who came to hear what I say can take it all off, each on one’s separate way.

What’s the context for this quote?

That the Word did not depart from the Father through its arrival in the flesh is demonstrated by an analogy. Why should we marvel at this concerning the Word of God, when this speech which we produce so freely enters the senses that the listener receives it but does not confine it? For unless it had been received, it would not have instructed anyone: if it had been confined, it would not have reached the others. And in any case this speech is divided into words and syllables: but nonetheless you do not take from it as though little pieces of food into your bellies; but all of you all hear all of it and each of you takes all of it. Nor are we afraid when we are speaking that one person will, by listening, consume the whole so that another can’t have what he consumes: but we want you to pay attention in this way, cheating nobody’s ear or mind, so that you each both both hear everything and leave everything for the others to hear. And this does not happen one at a time, so that when the speech which is spoken first has first entered you, it must then exit you, so that it can enter someone else: but it comes to everyone at the same time, and the whole of it reaches each person. And if the whole has been worth keeping in your memory, just as you all came to hear the whole, you each go away with the whole. How much more the Word of God, by which all things were created, and which abiding in itself renews all things; which is not proven by quotations nor distorted by time nor changed by long or brief delays, nor constructed by voices, nor ended by silence; how much more could such and so great a Word fertilize a mother’s womb by taking on a body, and not leave the Father’s breast? how much more could it come here to human sight, and there illumine angels’ minds? here come to earth, and there stretch out the heavens? here be made man, and there make men?

Technology like the Internet is only a substrate for the more fundamental networks that govern our society — the social networks that bring order to our day to day lives.

See also Mike Gibson’s post on Rules as Technology.

Explore posts in the same categories: Civil Authority, Cooperation

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