Thursday, October 18, 2007

Find Me a Find

Corradi Fiumara's maieutics of listening seeks to enhance the creation of language and the growth of the whole person, freeing "humans in the making" from the constraints of using and imitating the languages that have dominant positions in the marketplace of ideas (The Other Side of Language, p. 167). She reminds us that Socrates tells Theatetus that midwives are prouder of their skill in forming unions than they are of their skill in cutting umbilical cords, and he distinguishes proper matchmaking from pandering. Corradi Fiumara skirts around the issue of whether childbirth is actually less painful than philosophical dialogue, as Socrates says. I raise it because I want to question the real consequences of bringing thinkers or concepts together.

The decision to go to war in Iraq was a bad idea with horrible consequences. From its inception to the vote to authorize the use of military force, public institutions of dialogue failed to properly evaluate the idea of going to war against Iraq. Voices of dissent were not properly heard. That is to say, I don't believe the subsitition of good ideas for bad ideas can enduringly protect a polity from making poor decisions. A culture of genuine dialogue provides a defense against making horrible decisions, but, paradoxically, it requires and even encourages the airing of horrible ideas; it requires, among other things, that we have public spaces set aside for the free play of ideas. Although I'd like to remain open to other views, I am taking a position against the proposition that the play of ideas is a waste of time.

Ideas can have horrible consequences without having the force of law behind them. However, it would be detrimental to the culture of dialogue to judge the consequences of a thought before it has been heard, or even before it has been thought. Perhaps we sometimes fear the consquences of ideas instead of directly facing our fear of horrible violence, subverting, along the way, any desire for a peaceful coexistence. If we examine our fears of violence, we may discover that fear is but one of our emotions, and desires are not without contradictions. Learning about our emotions, and assessing the entire range of consequences of thinking, requires that thoughts be heard.

I won't flatter myself that I'm anything like a good Socratic midwife, or that I'm not susceptible to making use of and imitating intellectual discourses that happen to be ready to hand. It would be desirable, though, to free myself for becoming. To that I end I am taking Corradi Fiumara's message to heart.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:40 PM.


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