Vedic Reciters/Wisconsin Card Sorting Test

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Tue May 23 02:58:52 UTC 2000

Stephen Hodge writes (re the mental deficits possibly found in
virtuoso reciters):

> Was this not also one of the earlier criticisms on the "memory place"
> technique even by Ricci's day ?  It often led to the acquisition of
> many facts without true understanding.

Now that you jolt my memory -- making me temporarily forget my plans
to quit this thread -- it was. It's interesting that great reciters in
premodern societies were *often* portrayed as fools lost in their
facts and 'authorities.' In the Platonic dialogue entitled the _Ion_,
the reciter of the same name is portrayed as a fool who knows his
Homer verbatim but is incapable of independent thought. In the 16th
century, Rabelais (cited in Spence, p. 12) satirized a character who
knew his authorities 'backwards by heart,' but was so lost in his
facts that if you wanted anything intelligent of him 'it was no more
possible to draw a word from him than a fart from a dead donkey.'

In respect to Indian reciters, a well-known Sanskritist sent me this
note a few minutes ago:

> I read with interest your comments that rote memorization has deleterious
> effect on...memorizers. You will be pleasantly surprised to
> know that in several Sanskrit plays, the Vedic recitor is the 'stupid fool'
> who is ridiculed for his lack of intelligence.

Can deficits in their abilities to generalize be confirmed by testing
modern Vedic reciters with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test -- finding
frontal-lobe deficits of the same sort found by modern researchers in
other modern memorists? Any such finding would certainly place the
'great traditions' of the human past, guarded by these walking
taperecorders, in a curious light.

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