Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ideal Dialogue

Corradi Fiumara writes, "As a result of an attention restricted to symbolic levels of discourse one can let listening to a 'concrete' language slide away an thus risk losing the chance for an authentic dialogic confrontation" (The Other Side of Language, p. 178). On the theme of confrontation, she is echoing Canetti and also Buber. What she means by "concrete" is a little difficult to pin down. She seems to be talking about an emotional relation to language, but she offers the following definition of concrete expression: that it's "intent upon eliminating inner events which can not be contained" (p. 169). Further:

Concrete language might be characterized as an 'acting out' intended to alleviate inner tensions which can no longer be handled in a purely symbolic form. The negation of reality and the projection into the interlocutor of aspects of one's own ratiocination predominate in this type of 'language' in which, evidently, the tendency to transform discourse into an emotional discharge tends to prevail.

(p. 170, Corradi Fiumara's emphasis)

That's a funny a way of talking about emotions, though Corradi Fiumara apparently means to describe a more specific psychological process. However I want to talk about emotions more broadly, and for that reason I would object to putting "language" in quotes. Language is emotional as well as symbolic and false, and frequently all of these things at once. Dialogue is risky, but it doesn't merely risk thought; it risks the whole person. That I think is at least implied in what Corradi Fiumara is saying here (elsewhere she is more explicit). Inasmuch as language is its medium, dialogue also puts at risk whole communities.

Dialogue considered as a means to truth, whether conceptual or emotional, would be anything but ideal. The ideal dialogue is pure phatic communion, or, rather, a phatic adventure. Such truths as are found in dialogue are aleatory, perhaps transitory. The endurance of concepts is paltry compared to the spirit of phatic adventure.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:17 AM.


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