Towards improved diaglogue at CM.com

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
ltlredwagon's picture
ltlredwagon
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 23 2008
Posts: 87
Towards improved diaglogue at CM.com

In light of the Chris’ recent “Message to the CM.com Community”, I wanted to share this with others.  It is from “Notes on Dialogue”, by Stringfellow Barr, a former President of St. John’s College who initiated the Great Books program at the college.

“To model [our] dialogues on those that Socrates incited and took part in is a dangerous counsel of something precious close to perfection. But I would merely urge that Socrates' behavior "in dialogue" is a good star to hitch one's wagon to. At the minimum, it is a good guide to the reefs on which most really good dialogues are wrecked. All these reefs welcome hungrily those who substitute the kind of discussion Socrates called "eristic" as a substitute for the kind he called "dialectic." In Book I of Plato's Republic Thrasymachus uses eristic;  Socrates, dialectic. Thrasymachus' purpose is to win points and to win applause. The purpose of Socrates is to try, through dialectical discussion with Thrasymachus and others, to understand better the essential nature of justice.  Each of the two men makes a choice of weapons appropriate to his purpose. The rising voice, the personal accusation, the withering scorn, the crushing sarcasm, the panic at the possibility of being out-maneuvered, the sweating, the unaccustomed blush of a normally unblushing champion sophist; the volubility that tries to shore up a crumbling argument and to ward off the disgrace of refutation, the love of one's own opinions precisely because they are one's own, the vanity that replaces love of truth with love for victory are all exemplified by Thrasymachus.

What Socrates displays towards Thrasymachus is courtesy. He treats him not as an enemy, but was a valued colleague in the mutual search for understanding. Socrates is, as it were, the personification for purposes of discourse of the love for one's neighbor that Judaism and Christianity prescribe. And the same love sometimes infuses his courteous questions with irony, because such irony helpfully invited Thrasymachus to rid himself of the false opinions he harbored.  So he is never fearful that he will "lose," precisely because he is-not trying to “win” and does not meet these flat opinions with other flat opinion, but with the ironical question.  Just as we are taught to hate not the sinner but the sin, especially if it is our own, so Socrates never attacks Thrasymachus.  Indeed, he never attacks his ignorance and presumptuousness.  He merely dissolves the opinions Thrasymachus spouts so loudly, so rapidly, and so volubly.”

I think this applies to all who post here, or anywhere else for that matter, if your purpose is “love of truth” and not “love of victory”.   We all love to be “right”, but it’s always a good idea before one posts to consider whether one’s post is eristic, or dialectic.  A glance at any of the controversial threads at this site shows how hard this is to do.

Finally, this from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis:

Rat:  Pig, you and I have been arguing a lot lately.  I think it’s time we try to reach a fair consensus.

Pig:  What’s a consensus?

Rat:  It’s where we get together and I state my opinion and you state your opinion and then we agree to my opinion.

Pig:  That doesn’t seem fair.

Rat:  Believe me…I listen carefully to your opinion before I mock it.

ltlredwagon's picture
ltlredwagon
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 23 2008
Posts: 87
Re: Towards improved diaglogue at CM.com

Glogically, we should probabgly glimit this discussion to dialogue.  The difficuglt subject of diaglogue can be taken up glater.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments