Sometime in the next 24 hours we will be switching European Tribune over to a new layout. This will involve a little downtime and no doubt some teething troubles. Do not adjust your set. - Colman

"I realize of course the gathering was English playing mock-French."

Not really, there was me, the co-chairman and the guy in the photo talking, as he did, about fair play. The others were American, quite a few French (including the guy who proposed the topic) and various other nationalities.

"I am partial to mere rhetoric and find dialectics an intellectual sham, if not imposture."

Well, it's just a tool, a mode of interacting, and can be used in various ways without necessarily being "intellectual sham". At its best it does involve serious engagement with the argument of the other, the attempt to clarify the issues (without resorting to definitions) and actually learning from the experience.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jan 10th, 2013 at 06:07:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see that as a good description of a dialogue. In reference to the Wiki article linked to above on dialectics there is a presumption of truth as the objective or of bettering the other through the dialogue. A good discussion or dialogue may indeed be a mutually satisfying learning process without being co-opted or defined as dialectics. It is the notion that dialectics is something more than a dialogue that is questionable, all the more so as dialectics uses rhetorical devices, as all meaningful communication does, while deploring rhetoric. A dialogue is empathetic in nature and has no pretention of higher order truth.

(Socratic dialectics seem more an interrogation with the victim on the hot seat. Once the victim is thoroughly confused by Socratic rhetorical ploys, he sees the light and embraces the truth.)

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 10th, 2013 at 07:40:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You're a bit selective regarding the wiki article on dialectic, which has some quite positive things to say:

The dialectical method is discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments.[1] The term dialectics is not synonymous with the term debate. Debaters are committed to their points of view and mean to win the debate by a combination of persuading the opponent; proving their argument correct; or proving the opponent's argument incorrect. The winner of the debate is determined by either a judge, jury, or by group consensus. The term dialectics is also not synonymous with the term rhetoric, a method or art of discourse that seeks to persuade, inform, or motivate an audience.[2] Concepts, like "logos" or rational appeal, "pathos" or emotional appeal, and "ethos" or ethical appeal, are intentionally used by rhetoricians to persuade an audience.
The purpose of the dialectic method of reasoning is resolution of disagreement through rational discussion, and, ultimately, the search for truth.
Another way to understand dialectics is to view it as a method of thinking to overcome formal dualism and monistic reductionism.[62] For example, formal dualism regards the opposites as mutually exclusive entities, whilst monism finds each to be an epiphenomenon of the other. Dialectical thinking rejects both views. The dialectical method requires focus on both at the same time. It looks for a transcendence of the opposites entailing a leap of the imagination to a higher level, which (1) provides justification for rejecting both alternatives as false and/or (2) helps elucidate a real but previously veiled integral relationship between apparent opposites that have been kept apart and regarded as distinct. For example, the superposition principle of quantum physics can be explained using the dialectical method of thinking--likewise the example below from dialectical biology. Such examples showing the relationship of the dialectic method of thinking to the scientific method to a large part negates the criticism of Popper (see text below) that the two are mutually exclusive.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Jan 11th, 2013 at 06:44:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a discussion one selects a notion to argue. The other, often referred to as the "ideal listener", may just as well choose another "talking point" to emphasize. Defining dialectics in positive ways is fine with me. However, I am attacking the term and the "hénourme!" (a Sartrian rhetorical tic) number of qualifications it has acquired, especially in the past two centuries. It appears that every wanker who fancies himself a philosopher has to slap out a new brand of dialectics.

The argument against this Platonic pretence is not new. Popper wrote:

Finally, in forming our judgements on Plato's procedure, we must not forget that Plato likes to argue against rhetoric and sophistry, and indeed he is the man who by his attacks on the "Sophists" created the bad associations connected with that word. I believe that we therefore have every reason to censor him when he himself makes use of rhetoric and sophistry in place of argument.

Essentially Plato is in bad faith. Nor is his chatter about truth all that convincing as it is only for the rare few, invariably those in power:

Socrates: I know how to produce one witness to the truth of what I say, the man with whom I'm debating, but the others I ignore. I know how to secure one man's vote, but with the many I will not even enter into discussion.
(Quoted in Brian Vickers, In Defense of Rhetoric)

For the masses there's propaganda, as Plato eloquently argues.

The term does not carry much clout with modern works on argumentation. Stephen Toulmin, who is quoted in the Wiki article, never uses the term in his The Uses of Argument. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric mention it only en passant: In real life dialectics just doesn't happen and is practically indistinguishable from debate. Acknowledged modern authorities on critical reasoning, rhetoric and argumentation, such as Douglas Walton and Christopher Tindale, rarely discuss or ever use the term.

What use is the term with its dangerous Platonic pretensions? I suppose philosophers can play with it all they want. After all, they needn't really concern themselves with messy reality that fetters the masses, much to Nietzsche's consternation.


by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jan 11th, 2013 at 07:47:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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