From J C Nyiri’s “The Humanities in the Age of Post-literacy,” excerpts of which were published in Pakistan’s Daily Times [I learned about Nyiri and his work from Ong’s files]:
The precondition of the conventional humanistic disciplines was the fixed text — the written language, language become visible. The first records of the Homeric poems constituted the beginnings of Western scholarship. Grammar came into being as a systematisation of written language. The language of pre-literal orality is entirely situation-bound, inextricably woven into extra-linguistic reality; primary oral cultures (in Walter J. Ong’s sense of the term) are certainly familiar with the concept of a name, not, however, with that of a word.
Plato’s distinctions between nouns and verbs, or between parts of speech on the one hand and sentences on the other, can refer only to a language articulated through writing. The study of history, too, presupposes texts — written documents. But history, to the extent that it is based on documents copied and re-copied manually, that is on documents which become increasingly corrupted, still has the tendency to merge fact and legend. Only with the age of printing does modern historical consciousness emerge, and especially the idea of historical progress. Art history and archaeology are only conceivable against the background of this historical consciousness. It is obvious that classical scholarship in the modern sense of the term could only develop on the basis of printed editions; and no scientific study of literature is possible as long as the identities of works and authors are submerged in manually copied — that is, increasingly unreliable — texts and images. Lastly, the beginnings of philosophy again lead us back to the times of the first emergence of alphabetic writing. There is no philosophy in a purely oral culture; Western philosophy is in the first instance, and remains down to the twentieth century, reflection on conceptual relations whose very emergence is a function of written language. [Read more.]