Reflections on Dialogue

Posted by Wolfgang Somary on Dezember 26, 2011

A dialogue can be the most pleasant and least expensive way to learn something new and to knit good friendship in the process. But it can also be the quickest and stupidest way to make enemies. It all depends on the willingness to share in knowledge and wisdom or on the urge to impose ones views.

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Reflect. Dialogue

5 Comments to Reflections on Dialogue

  • Wolfgang, I couldn’t agree with you more. Dialogue at its most meaningful is a transformative journey of discovery on individual and collective scales, it seems to me. It can be perplexing and exhilarating and frustrating and murky and insightful all at once. For instance, the fruitfulness of the type of Socratic inquiry I typically practice hinges in large measure on the willingness and even enthusiasm of all participants to consider a wide range of objections and alternatives to their own way of seeing things; this in turn requires imagination wedded to reasonableness and ’sympathetic immersion,‘ in which participants make a heartfelt attempt to put themselves in others‘ shoes so they can understand more genuinely where they’re coming from.

    Nietzsche said something to the effect that we must not only have the courage of our convictions, but the courage to have our convictions challenged. I do agree with this, but would add that one must still strive to find those ways to have our convictions challenged, via an interrogative, imaginative and reason-laced approach that incorporates a gentle honesty and curiosity so that those whose views are being examined do not feel threatened but instead are inspired to develop and articulate their perspectives and indeed to discover more about what their views amount to.

    just some morning thoughts! all best wishes, Chris

  • Chris, Good dialogue is like making music together, where singers or instrumentalists compensate for each other’s mistakes and rejoice at each other’s skills. If the intent of a transformative journey is foremost, all will gain. Conviction can be a virtue but „being right“ should not be an issue because I may be right for the wrong reason or wrong for a valid one. Questions raised ought to serve as signposts.

    Verbal dialogue is sensitive because the word is a knife that can kill or heal. But imagine a dialogue where a dancer says to a singer she has recently met: „Sing for us, and whatever you sing I shall dance“. Then the singer spontaneously sings what he intuits she’ll dance while her soul embodies his tune. Here’s the conviviality we want to engender.

    • When I engage in Socrates Cafe-type dialogue, Wolfgang, I often describe it, when it is at its most wondrous, as ‚philosophical riffing,‘ like jazz musicians inspired by one another’s innovative and soulful give-and-take to discover — indeed to create out of their own music-making dance — new horizons, new possibilities.

  • Wolfgang Somary Wolfgang Somary sagt:

    This works in a wonderous way with amateur jazz musicians who meet for the first time and jointly improvise without prior practice. Apparently the most secure brass player takes the lead and his companions fall into step. You sometimes get to experience this unity in conversation; but when one embarks on a theme of conflict, the image that comes to mind is kindling fire in a night of overwhelming darkness and huddling together near the hearth to share its unforgettable light and warmth.

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