Friday, November 03, 2006

Is Thinking Dialogic?

Arendt writes:

Nothing perhaps indicates more strongly that man exists essentially in the plural than that his solitude actualize his merely being conscious of himself, which we probably share with the higher animals, into a duality during the thinking activity. It is this duality of myself with myself that makes thinking a true activity, in which I am both the one who asks and the one who answers. Thinking can become dialectical and critical because it goes through this questioning and answering process, through the dialogue of the dialegesthai, which actually is a "travelling through words," a poreuesthai dia tōn logōn, whereby we constantly raise the basic Socratic question What do you mean when you say . . . ?  except that this legein, saying, is soundless and therefore so swift that its dialogical structure is somewhat difficult to detect.

(Life of the Mind, Vol. 1, p.185, emphasis in original)

So what does she mean when she says solitide actualizes self-awareness into a duality? What does it really mean to be alone with one's thoughts? If we assume that we're talking about thinking in linguistic concepts and this is representative of all thinking, then what sort of phenomenon is this internal dialogue? Can you, for instance, sustain more than one voice simultaneously? Musically I can entertain more than one voice at a time, linguistically I'm not sure that I can. Well, I can, but it's pretty muddled. Can you think in different languages at the same time? Again, for me it's pretty muddled.

I might say that every thought, because it is personal, implies an adressee, a respondent if you will. In internal dialogue, what we are doing is riffing on the addressivity of personhood. Duality does not belong to thought except insofar as thought takes place, as it must, as the activity of a person. Thought may thus be implicitly a correspondence. However, can we or do we typically ignore this implication? It would not be typical of critical thinking to not ask questions of its own thinking, but I am not sure that critical thinking represents the all of what thinking is. So is it possible to conduct a monologue? I couldn't tell you. I'm just saying.

posted by Fido the Yak at 1:11 PM.


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