I write this essay equally for myself and the reader.
We write to meander through our thoughts, not to put down fully formed ideas in our heads.
Magic occurs when you endeavor to document ideas. Setting down the stuff knocking about your brain and massaging that stuff into a more solid, permanent form.
But why do I insist that what we write comes from within? To say that words flow from our head, down an arm, and into the writing instrument is simply the representation of a process I need help understanding.
It may also be that literacy itself precludes this, that literacy and the written mode of thought are fundamentally conversations with oneself. There's something about the written word that lends itself to being thought of as coming from within.
I am trying to understand the claim that we must still write.
Did you not know this was up for debate? If not, you haven't been paying attention.
When learning French in college in the eaerly 2000s, it was understood by most students that translating essays with websites like Google Translate was futile. The technology at that time would translate word for word from English. So your French would end up following English grammar rules while featuring French vocabulary you could not know.
It was clunky, it often made little sense, and the teacher immediately knew it had been computer-translated. This is no longer the case.
Translation software now understands how to group words together. Thanks to Artificial In telligence (AI), translation software can create a natural-sounding language that is more fluent than most intermediate and advanced language students can produce. So now a teacher knows that a student has translated their writing because it is simply too good.
Now we have paraphrasing software that will take a sentence from an article and spit out a brand-new one, complete with different vocabulary and grammar, while maintaining the meaning of the original.
The new sentence can then be adjusted to meet the user's taste: more or fewer synonyms, increased creativity, and less formality. Someone may use this software to paraphrase an argument from an article they're using as research in an essay. A more likely use may be to pass off the work of others as one's own while avoiding plagiarism detection software.
As technology progresses, students and teachers enter into an ever-escalating race where each new advance in software responds to the limits of previous iterations.
Consider the experiment run by Ethan Mollick, wherein he prompted GPT-3, an AI built to model human language, to create an essay question and the rubric for the essay, write the essay, then give feedback on the essay. The AI gave itself an 80. The illuminating aspect of this exercise is just how high quality the work is, not just the essay but the rubric and feedback.
In a university writing course, the emphasis is improving your writing "skill." A skill said to be necessary for careers where you will correspond with colleagues, clients, and customers. However, this justification for writing is questionable when computers can write better than us inferior humans.
The proponents of writing as an isolated skill are fighting a losing battle in the same way as people who try to defend studying the humanities by saying it will help students be more desirable job candidates.
In making this argument, defeat has already been conceded. The marketplace and the study of the humanities are antithetical. In fact, the marketplace and the university are antithetical to one another if we consider that the original purpose of the university, with humanistic study at its core, was the cultivation of one's ability to think and reason, not to build marketable skills.
The university should function as a bulwark against capitalism and the idea that the defining value of something is the monetary gain it creates. It still does, to a certain extent. Deep in the recesses of an old hall, a crusty professor may be found, toiling away at something whose utility may not be translatable into dollar signs, but which serves the goals of wisdom and knowledge.
But to return to writing: when writing becomes a skill, we are no longer able to justify its inclusion in the university classroom, as technology can write better and more quickly. If writing can be outsourced to the internet, why write?
Writing is not simply a tool to express ourselves but a mode of expression that shapes our consciousness. That's why I implore people to write as much as possible.
To write is to think in a certain way that is not possible when communicating orally. To lose the ability to write, or to never cultivate it in the first place, is to be a lesser version of the person you hope to be.
Most of the advancements of the modern world would not have been possible without writing. Writing allowed humanity to move beyond unreflective, formulaic thought in favor of abstract, logical reasoning. This is not to say that orality does not have its benefits, or even its advantages over literacy in some aspects, but that to stop cultivating literacy and encouraging writing would be a significant loss.
In order to keep writing, we must remember why we write—not to communicate, but to think in a way that is otherwise impossible.
Michel Eyquem, Sieur de Montaigne (/mɒnˈteɪn/ mon-TAYN; French: [miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ]; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592), also known as the Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. He is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight. Montaigne had a direct influence on numerous Western writers; his massive volume Essais contains some of the most influential essays ever written.
At the foundation, Montaigne believed that the selection of a good tutor was important for the student to become well educated.: 66 Education by a tutor was to be conducted at the pace of the student.: 67 He believed that a tutor should be in dialogue with the student, letting the student speak first. The tutor also should allow for discussions and debates to be had. Such a dialogue was intended to create an environment in which students would teach themselves. They would be able to realize their mistakes and make corrections to them as necessary.
Individualized learning was integral to his theory of child education. He argued that the student combines information already known with what is learned and forms a unique perspective on the newly learned information.: 356 Montaigne also thought that tutors should encourage the natural curiosity of students and allow them to question things.: 68 He postulated that successful students were those who were encouraged to question new information and study it for themselves, rather than simply accepting what they had heard from the authorities on any given topic. Montaigne believed that a child's curiosity could serve as an important teaching tool when the child is allowed to explore the things that the child is curious about.