Almost seven years ago something like a flame war broke out in an online forum which I felt somewhat responsible for – the forum, that is, not the flame war! In an attempt to lower the temperature of the conversation I quoted from Part I, Chapter 1 of Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization, where the author contrasts discussion and dialogue:

The discipline of team learning starts with "dialogue," the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and to enter into a genuine "thinking together." To the Greeks dia-logos meant a free-flowing of meaning through a group, allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually. Interestingly, the practice of dialogue has been preserved in many "primitive" cultures, such as that of the American Indian, but it has been almost completely lost to modern society. Today, the principles and practices of dialogue are being rediscovered and put into a contemporary context. (Dialogue differs from the more common "discussion," which has its roots with "percussion" and "concussion," literally a heaving of ideas back and forth in a winner-takes-all competition.)

Since it was then a Friday, I proposed "a few modest experiments":

I concluded:

Robert Nozick in the intro to his book Philosophical Explanations talks about how philosophers classically enjoy knock-down drag-out arguments, as they try to "demolish" their opponents' positions ... and how, typically, each generation thinks that it has "won" the "battle" and "defeated" its predecessors. In contrast, Nozick proposes only to offer plausible explanations of things (e.g., "why is there something rather than nothing", "what is the nature of the good", etc.) for consideration.

Perhaps that gentle approach is worth a try in many other circumstances. In the long run, it may be far more persuasive than argumentation with big guns drawn up on each side ...

(cf. EducationVersusEduction (30 Apr 1999), LearningFromAdversity (15 Sep 1999), Cardinal Newman (4 Oct 2001), UniversalFlourishing (25 Dec 2001), RobertNozick (2 Feb 2002), StoicStruggles (22 Dec 2002), ...)

TopicThinking - TopicSociety - TopicPhilosophy - 2006-01-07

(correlates: TraditariansVsLibertitionists, FifthDisciplinarians, CrudeMetrics, ...)