Welcome to the third post of Journey in Dialog. I plan to post on 36 Thursdays what I think it means for people and groups to relate in dialog. Initially, I define dialog as: An exchange between people and groups in which meaning is shared and change occurs with each party of the dialog.
Dialog has been advocated and practiced for centuries. Even in ancient Greece before Socrates,who died around 400 BC, there were those engaged in dialog. Maybe dialog is a mark of our evolving humanity.
We know about Socrates from his colleague, Plato. Socrates used dialog to encourage people to think. He challenged assumptions and forced people to dig deeper for the truth that they held. He helped people to surface understandings they didn’t know were there. He felt called to help his fellow citizens discover their “ignorance” and to be morally better. He found that admonition, persuasion, and advice failed to achieve these goals.
In essays by a group of scholars, Socrates is noted for his irony “combined with a serious, lofty and for the first time truly free investigation of the world, of man and of human thought.” Socrates is seen viewing living people and their opinions through personal experience and investigation.
In Socrates’ midwife analogy, the job of the midwife is to develop potential knowledge located in the soul. The “child” being delivered is an undeveloped thought, which has not yet become knowledge. This process is internal, and one can only aid in the delivery of those already “pregnant,” or in match-making of those who “do not seem … to be pregnant.”
Socrates saw dialog as a path to learning and knowledge. There is an internal dialog in which we sort out our thinking and an external dialog that engages different points of view that lead to good judgment. The language we use helps to clarify thought. Learning is the development of thoughts into “fertile truth.”
The implication seems to be that propositional accounts of knowledge need to be refined with dialog. In my experience with fellow students and professors noted in post ONE, when our dialog took us beyond what we found in the textbook, we stretched to a greater understanding of what we read.
Socrates didn’t write anything. As soon as something was written, it begged other thoughts that would yield yet another level of insight on the way to knowledge.
Socrates relied heavily on reason to drive transformational dialog, but he also acknowledged his reliance on a divine inspiration that repeatedly directed him towards the right course of action.
Footnote: Socrates’ search for truth got him put in prison where he drank a fatal dose of hemlock. Dialog can require some risk-taking.
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“The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays” by M. M. Bakhtin, Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson