Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I was having dinner with a friend this evening and it was very fruitful.

One thing we were discussing was, well, the nature of discussion!

Fundamentally, we saw a problem in society that is made very present in every day life and that many people do not realize as being a serious problem.

The serious problem is the culture's unwillingness to enter into dialogue. How true this is in our day to day lives! I blame this on a current of thought that has really permeated modernity in a fierce way. It comes down to the Ockham vs. Aquinas debate of primacy of will vs. primacy of reason. When dialogue is not happening, people are not only unwilling to listen, they are unwilling to engage. When you are unwilling to engage, for whatever reason, you try and figure out a way for your point of view to be engaged. If you are unwilling to engage in an authentic way (that is, through dialogue), then the only other means you have is to impose your will. And thus you cease listening and talking, and instead shout (in a figurative manner, though even then that isn't always the case!) until you impose your will far better then those you are attempting to have a discussion with.

This is, of course, a bit of an oversimplification of the matter, but I think a matter that desperately needs our attention! We see so much the need for engaging, but engagement can only happen in dialogue.

There is a few things that must be recognized in dialogue:

A) That a dialogue means a dual logos, dual reasons, dual logics. Thus, you recognize that there are 2 points of view that do not exactly see eye to eye. But because they are based in the pursuit of truth, then there is always going to be a kernal of truth in both position.

B) A willingness to see the reasonableness of the other position. The desire on both sides, for authentic dialogue, is so that both can come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Truth.

C) Maturity is also needed. Maturity in dialogue is expressed when there is authentic listening and there is no shouting. You cannot simply say "you are wrong" or "you're so stubborn" unless you give a reason!! for that position.

I think all 3 things are lacking in our culture. Relativism is having an especially daunting effect on the nature of dialogue, for if there is no truth, then there is no reason based in truth, and thus no opportunity for dialogue. Instead, relativism brings about the idea of the survival of the fittest.

Anyways, that is just a brief reflection on the nature of dialogue. I would recommend you analyze your day to day life and see if those 3 conditions are being fulfilled in good, authentic conversations. If they're not, then a dialogue will not be flourishing.


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