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Dialogue/Cooperation as Debate/Conflict

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Dialogue/Cooperation as Debate/Conflict


Dialogue is to cooperation as debate is to conflict. Dialogue utilizes communication to facilitate harmony with the other while debate utilizes argumentation power to facilitate victory over the other.


Internet discussion forums advance the human aggressive desire (verbal video games); we have no such forum to advance the human need for harmonious cooperation. Dialogue is designed for the sophisticated intellect while debate is designed for the sophisticated sportsman. Debate has gotten our world into the mess we are now in: only dialogue can turn the stampeding herd from the cliffs ahead.


I think that our first step is for a significant percentage of our population to become intellectually sophisticated sufficiently so as to make many citizens capable of engaging in dialogical reasoning. To do this I think that many citizens must become self-actualizing self-learners when their school daze are over.


Under our normal cultural situation communication means to discourse, to exchange opinions with one another. It seems to me that there are opinions, considered opinions, and judgments. Opinions are a dime-a-dozen. Considered opinions, however, are opinions that have received a considerable degree of thought but have not received special study. A considered opinion starts out perhaps as tacit knowledge but receives sufficient intellectual attention to have become consciously organized in some fashion. Judgments are made within a process of study.


In dialogue, person ‘A’ may state a thesis and in return person ‘B’ does not respond with exactly the same meaning as does ‘A’. The meanings are generally similar but not identical; thus ‘A’ listening to ‘B’ perceives a disconnect between what she said and what ‘B’ replies. ‘A’ then has the opportunity to respond with this disconnect in mind, thereby creating a response that takes these matters into consideration; ‘A’ performs an operation known as a dialectic (a juxtaposition of opposed or contradictory ideas). And so the dialogical process proceeds.


A dialogical process is not one wherein individuals reason together in an attempt to make common ideas that are already known to each individual. “Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.” Dialogical reasoning together is an act of creation, of mutual understanding, of meaning.


Dialogic can happen only if both individuals wish to reason together in truth, in coherence, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each must be prepared to “drop his old ideas and intentions. And be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for…Thus, if people are to cooperate (i.e., literally to ‘work together’) they have to be able to create something in common, something that takes shape in their mutual discussions and actions, rather than something that is conveyed from one person who acts as an authority to the others, who act as passive instruments of this authority.”


“On Dialogue” written by “The late David Bohm, one of the greatest physicists and foremost thinkers this century, was Fellow of the Royal Society and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London.


Bohm is convinced that communication is breaking down as a result of the crude and insensitive manner in which it is transpiring. Communication is a concept with a common meaning that does not fit well with the concepts of dialogue, dialectic, and dialogic.


I claim that if we citizens do not learn to dialogue we cannot learn to live together in harmony sufficient to save the species.


Do you have any interest in taking that first step required (intellectual sophistication) to dialogue?


Quotes from Critical Thinking by Richard Paul

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Here is the Executive Summary: conflict is not always a bad thing. It can expose differences and lead to resolutions.


Your argument (a structured case promoting an idea) is based upon a selection of specific meanings for dialogue and debate. The consequence of this deliberate selection is to make your entire piece tautological and therfore of limited value.


However, I shall assume (in the sense of taking on the trappings of) your definitions and still find cause for dialogue.

Debate in your presentation is, it seems greatly undervalued. Debate is a means of highlighting key points of apparently contrary positions, so that those key points may be assessed more readily. Often in debate the difference between minor and major points is not at first recognised, but the very act of debating clarifies these.

Moreover, when the parties involved in the deabte have arrived at their positions over years, perhaps decades, it is unlikely that they will be able to change them dramatically. What can be sought is an accomodation that can follow on from the debate.


Is this the best way of proceeding? Not always, but it is certainly an effective method in many instances. Many more than you suggest in your rejection of it.


You have gone to some lengths to describe the credentials of David Bohm, whose ideas you have shared. I know you value the ideas of the thinkers, the astute observers of human behaviour, the authorities on such matters. I prefer to value the idea itself, or not if it does not deserve it.


I am not a physicist. I am not, nor do I expect to be, a professor. I am not a member of the Royal Society. I am someone who has spent four decades in various roles where conflict resolution was essential. I know from personal experience that debate has its place in that, just as dialogue does.

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“The critical habit of thought, if usual in society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded by stump orators ... They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence, uninfluenced by the emphasis or confidence with which assertions are made on one side or the other. They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices and all kinds of cajolery. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens.” ~ William Graham Sumner, Folkways, 1906



There are no paradigms for multilogical problems. Perhaps we might use the phrase ’frame of reference’ instead. A jury trial might be a useful example of a problem engaged by many reflective agents with a multiplicity of frames of reference. In such a situation the jury must utilize communicative techniques to enter into a dialogue wherein there is a constant dialectic until a unanimous solution is reached or deadlock prevails. The example of jury trial is useful but is a snapshot of experience and details agents in a one-time sort of experience.


Socratic dialogue is a technique for attempting to solve multilogical problems. Problems that are either not pattern like or that the pattern is too complex to ascertain. Most problems that we face in our daily life are such multilogical in nature. Simple problems that occur daily in family life are examples. Each member of the family has a different point of view with differing needs and desires. Most of the problems we constantly face are not readily solved by mathematics because they are not pattern specific and are multilogical.


Dialogue is a technique for mutual consideration of such problems wherein solutions grow in a dialectical manner. Through dialogue each individual brings his/her point of view to the fore by proposing solutions constructed around their specific view. All participants in the dialogue come at the solution from the logic of their views. The solution builds dialectically i.e. a thesis is developed and from this thesis and a contrasting antithesis is constructed a synthesis that takes into consideration both proposals. From this a new synthesis, a new thesis is developed.


When we are dealing with monological problems well circumscribed by algorithms the personal biases of the subject are of small concern. In multilogical problems, without the advantage of paradigms and algorithms, the biases of the problem solvers become a serious source of error. One important task of dialogue is to illuminate these prejudices which may be quite subtle and often out of consciousness of the participant holding them.


When we engage in a dialogue what happens? The first thing we find is that dialogue is unlike anything in which we have previously been involved. Group discussions generally digress quickly into verbal food fights and nothing positive is accomplished. Discussions become venues for shouting at one another. The most important thing discovered--provided you wished to advance your thinking so as to develop a means for solving intractable problems--is that skills and attitudes not presently possessed must be developed.


In a dialogue one discovers that advancement of the group toward solutions requires that each member be part of a coherent body wherein all agree to certain standards and procedures. It is necessary to form a solid foundation for the house under construction. The foundation must be solid and the structure true to a standard. In a house construction one sees carpenters using plumb-bobs and levels constantly. What are the plumb-bobs and levels of thought? What are the standards and principles of successful dialogue?


Each member of the dialogue discovers that things never thought of before are the first matters that must be resolved. The science of thought is the first and fundamental consideration that dawns on the participants. What are the fundaments of thought that must be examined?


The science of epistemology imposes itself immediately as a first consideration. Epistemology is the theory and craft of knowing. If the members of the group cannot agree on what knowledge is that group can go no further.


What can the group agree upon as to what is knowledge and what is truth? For all those who have never given such matters any thought this sounds a bit silly. Everyone knows what knowledge is and what truth is. That is a problem. Those never engaged in dialogue are likely to have ever questioned such basic concerns. This whole matter of introducing the concept of dialogue faces the bootstrap problem. The bootstrap problem is one of accomplishing an end when the end to be accomplished is necessary for considering the end to be accomplished. Can the dog ever catch it’s tail?


Only after the group agrees on the nature of the plum bobs and levels of thought will the group be ready to move to the next step. The next barrier that it is likely to face is of the distinction between awareness and consciousness.


Before Americans can dialogue there must be preparation. That preparation is not furnished by our educational system. The only way that Americans can prepare themselves for dialogue is through a process of self-actualizing self-learning. It is here that we must begin our effort to dialogue.

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Coberst, I note that your last post is an exact copy of one you posted on the Philosophy Forum at approaximately the same time. Was this intended to be a response to my own observations? If not are you planning to respond to those?

Thank you.


I am confused, please clarify.

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In Post Number 2 above I challenge your contention that debate and conflict are comparable and negative. I argue debate is healthy and productive. I was hoping you would comment on that. I expected your post that follows (Number 3) would be such a response. It did not seem to address my comments in any way. I noticed it was a duplicate of a post you made in the Philosophy forum about the same time, so I am confused. Was it intended as a response to my comments - if so I could not see its relevance. If it was not a response to my contention I wondered if you would be responding to that.


I hope that helps to clarify my meaning.

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In Post Number 2 above I challenge your contention that debate and conflict are comparable and negative. I argue debate is healthy and productive. I was hoping you would comment on that. I expected your post that follows (Number 3) would be such a response. It did not seem to address my comments in any way. I noticed it was a duplicate of a post you made in the Philosophy forum about the same time, so I am confused. Was it intended as a response to my comments - if so I could not see its relevance. If it was not a response to my contention I wondered if you would be responding to that.


I hope that helps to clarify my meaning.



Sometimes my responses appear to be problematic because I must often lay a foundation of comprehension before I can respond with a simple response to the question. When two or more people try to reason together they must share a common pool of knowledge.


Often I must explain the fundamentals of the domain of knowledge from which I draw my conclusions before the reader can comprehend my response to their question.


I can understand the reader’s frustration at this seeming digression but I see no way of taking a short-cut. We can comprehend only that which we are prepared to comprehend.

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