Number 6 had commented:
"We've forgotten about dialectic in this day and age.
'Debate' today means 'getting the other guy to shut up' "
and he had a link to the wikipedia article on dialectic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic
De Gondi responded very harshly regarding dialectics:
"I am partial to mere rhetoric and find dialectics an intellectual sham, if not imposture."
I think this is too extreme, so, ironically, I find myself defending dialectic, while I had ended my diary by encouraging dialogue (de Gondi's preferred alternative to dialectic):
But it is up to us, if we're really philosophically inclined, to continue the dialogue after the event, as a few of us did in a nearby restaurant, and as I am doing in contributing this and as anybody reading this is invited to do by commenting.
So I replied:
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.
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.
I referred to the positive aspects of dialectic referred to in the wikipedia article e.g.:
The purpose of the dialectic method of reasoning is resolution of disagreement through rational discussion, and, ultimately, the search for truth ...
De Gondi passed over this quickly and then returned to the attack, saying that he was against dialectics because of the various connotations (or "qualifications") now attached to it:
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.
I think his use of the term "wanker", like the previous use of "intellectual sham", expresses a strong prejudice, rather than a reasoned criticism and this causes him to distort the facts somewhat (see below on recent work on dialectics).
Words and cultural context
This point about "qualifications" acquired over time is like attacking the term "intellectual" because of the connotations it has acquired, particularly in Anglo-Saxon culture, where it is often used as an insult and something to be avoided as a politician. The term has a more neutral general sense and is not used as a negative label in France, for example, and French politicians can be admired for their intellectual accomplishments and interests.
The UK minister of education, Michael Gove, was a Murdoch journalist (Times):
... there is something properly unsettling about the Education Secretary's spurious attack on Leveson for creating "a chilling atmosphere" which menaces freedom of expression.
Mr Gove, the former Times journalist whose talent for making fancy friends renders him the Cabinet's Sadie Frost, remains close mates with his erstwhile proprietor.
His contribution to political thought includes this comment on the widely respected marxist historian E. J. Hobsbawm:
"only when Hobsbawm weeps hot tears for a life spent serving an ideology of wickedness will he ever be worth listening to."
Then there was this:
In June 2011 his "ignorance of science" was criticised after he called for students to have "a rooting in the basic scientific principles" and by way of example assigned Lord Kelvin's laws of thermodynamics to Sir Isaac Newton.
In emblematic contrast, the French minister of education, Vincent Peillon is a philosopher:
Peillon at a forum for innovative teachers.
He also obtained a doctorate in 1992 in philosophy from the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne with a thesis on Merleau-Ponty . ... Specialist pre-Marxist socialism and authors such as Jean Jaurès ,Edgar Quinet, and Pierre Leroux, he has published several books on the history of socialist and republican thought.
De Villepin is another example, biographer of Napoleon, poet and politician:
Poetry has always mixed with politics in this unusual life.
His political writings are peppered with poetic references and, while a cabinet minister, he published a dense volume of verse, The Shark and the Seagull.
It was taken as a hymn of praise to the French social model. The seagull symbolises the subtle, praiseworthy values of France. And the shark stands for - what else? - the hungry, ruthless United States.
Fittingly, it was on the world stage that Mr de Villepin first truly seduced his compatriots.
As French foreign minister, he led the opposition to the war on Iraq, making the most stirring speech of his life at the UN in February 2003.
He eloquently stood up for France against the might of the US superpower and its Anglo-Saxon ally Britain. It not only won him the rare distinction of applause at the UN but widespread admiration, even adoration, back at home.
Cf. a similar cultural divide with regard to dialectics (from the wikipedia article):
Many philosophers have offered critiques of dialectic, and it can even be said that hostility or receptivity to dialectics is one of the things that divides twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy from the so-called "continental" tradition, a divide that only a few contemporary philosophers (among them, G.H. von Wright, Paul Ricoeur, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Richard Rorty, Charles Taylor) have ventured to bridge.
... A prime example of the European tradition is Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason, which is very different from the works of Popper, whose philosophy was for a time highly influential in the UK where he resided (see below).
Plato's use of dialectic
It also seems that de Gondi focuses unduly on Plato, and so identifying this dialectic now as a "pretence" because Plato also used rhetoric, e.g.
The argument against this Platonic pretence is not new.
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:
As it happens I agree with this critical view of Plato. I am influenced by I.F. Stone who, when he retired from being a very independent journalist, taught himself ancient Greek and wrote "The Trial of Socrates". There's an excellent summary in his self-interview about the book:
I.F. Stone Breaks the Socrates Story: An old muckraker sheds fresh light on the 2,500-year-old mystery and reveals some Athenian political realities that Plato did his best to hide.
Plato made Socrates the secular martyred saint of the struggle against democracy. He stigmatized it as "mobocracy." Yet this was the very same "mob" which applauded the anti-war plays of Aristophanes when Athens was fighting for its life against Sparta. (No such antiwar plays were allowed, by either side, during our last two World Wars). This was the same "mob" whose eagerness for new ideas, and its readiness to hear them, drew philosophers from all over the ancient world. It made Athens - in the proud words of Pericles - "the school of Hellas," the university of the Greek world. It is the high repute of Athens that makes the trial of Socrates so puzzling.
But Plato is just one example of the use of dialectic, if a very influential one.
De Gondi then claimed that:
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."
At first I was impressed. I knew about Toulmin's The Uses of Argument, but not the others he referred to. So I've learned from this exchange. However he doesn't quote from these recent works; when I looked at what some of these authors say and other references to them (in line with the motto: "Even if your mother says she loves you, check it out"), a rather different picture emerged, one which did NOT support the idea that dialectics is ignored or condemned even in recent work about argumentation.
Thus one of the authors de Gondi refers to is Walton; however (in an article written with Godden) Walton, far from condemning dialectic, notes how it became increasingly important in the work of two leading authorities on informal logic and he has some sympathy with this, while arguing that the addition of a study of dialogue provides a better over-all approach:
Undoubtedly, Ralph H. Johnson and J. Anthony Blair are two of the patriarchs of informal logic (IL) ... As it developed, IL began to adopt a dialectical conception of its subject matter, and started to utilize the theoretical and methodological tools associated with this approach
Having sketched out Blair and Johnson's conception of the dialectical, and its influence on their respective approaches to the study of argument, we now proceed to place those views in relation to those of Walton, specifically pertaining to a dialogic approach to the dialectical. In broad terms, the four characteristics of a dialectical approach specified by Blair and Johnson (above) agree with our own conception.
By and large, we are deeply sympathetic with the conception of the dialectical presented by Johnson and Blair.
Regarding Olbrechts-Tyteca and their supposed rejection of dialectics, others see it as more of an extension to or "rapprochement" with it, cf.:
If reason is the heart of the project, then as Mieczyslaw Maneli noted, "dialectics is the foundation and the nervous system of the New Rhetoric. The New Rhetoric is the long sought fulcrum which can add new vitality to traditional dialectics and push it to new phases of creativity and development".
THE DIALECTIC OF THE NEW RHETORIC
... Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca saw their work as a "rapprochement" of a theory of argumentation with dialectic" (5). In affecting this rapprochement, the authors sought to expand the reach of dialectic beyond formal logic's laws of identity, non-contradiction and the excluded middle to include the realm of probable opinions and common sense.
"Dance of the Dialectic": Marxist dialectics
It seems that one of the reasons Olbrechts-Tyteca chose "rhetoric" rather than "dialectics" was because, at that time, during the Cold War, the latter term was associated with Marxism. Since then there has been less of a problem with Marxism (indeed, due to the latest financial crisis, it's enjoyed something of a revival) and Bertell Ollman in particular has developed the marxist conception of dialectics. While one might disagree with them, I don't think either Marx or Ollman can be dismissed as "wankers", nor are they engaged in "intellectual sham", but rather with an attempt to understand the complexity of the world and the interactions of forces within it:
The existing breakdown of knowledge into mutually indifferent and often hostile academic disciplines, each with its own range of problematics and methods, has replaced the harmonious enlightenment we had been promised with a raucous cacophony of discordant sounds. In the confusion, the age-old link between knowledge and action has been severed, so that scholars can deny all responsibility for their wares while taking pride in knowing more and more about less and less. It is as a way of criticizing this state of affairs and developing an integrated body of knowledge that a growing number of researchers are turning to Marxian dialectics.
What is philosophy ? Where ?
This leads us on to ATinNM''s comment:
"Can education remedy/fight violence?" isn't a philosophical question. It states a research area in the fields of Sociology, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Anthropology.
This reminds me of a meeting of radical philosophy years ago when one guy said that when he'd asked if they would be studying Marx he was told: "That isn't philosophy it's sociology". However when he'd asked the sociologists they'd said it wasn't sociology, it was history, while the historians said it wasn't how they approached history - and somehow Marxism got lost in the gap between disciplines.
I am tempted to agree with ATinNM, but then I studied philosophy in a British university. However I think that the continental approach is better in being more open and inclusive. In the US and UK philosophy is now often a quite narrow academic discipline. It's a rather sad retreat from the days of Bertrand Russell, who, like Sartre, was a public intellectual, engaged in discussing a wide range of general issues which involved politics, history, sociology, etc. In France when one has discussions on TV of a wide range of issues the panel often includes one or more philosophers, who do not confine themselves to narrowly philosophical issues.
Simon Glendinning has suggested that the term ("continental philosophy") was originally more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers.
... continental philosophy tends toward historicism. Where analytic philosophy tends to treat philosophy in terms of discrete problems, capable of being analyzed apart from their historical origins (much as scientists consider the history of science inessential to scientific inquiry), continental philosophy typically suggests that "philosophical argument cannot be divorced from the textual and contextual conditions of its historical emergence".
Of course things aren't perfect, even in France (where all pupils study some philosophy); there can be an undue reverence for philosophers and intellectuals. Chomsky has been particularly scathing about the Parisian intellectual elite:
Some of the people in these cults (which is what they look like to me) I've met
... I've dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish.
Onfray (centre) in Nice
The French philosopher Michel Onfray is also quite critical of the Parisian intellectual elite, and, like Chomsky, tries to address a wider audience and encourage a critical engagement with a broad range of issues, as happens in cafe-philos:
The People's University in the northern French town of Caen is no ivory tower for the elite. Radical philosopher Michel Onfray set it up for those who were "programmed" to let education pass them by.
The lectures regularly attract about 1,000 students, among them the jobless and employed, youngsters just getting started in life and those already retired.
Social pressures conspire to discourage certain people from tapping into their intellectual potential, Onfray argues.
"At the moment everything is done to say to people 'You are not intelligent. Let the experts handle it'," he says.
"Here, we say 'The experts, most of the time, are talking out of the back of their head. Tackle these questions and you will be saying things that are a lot more interesting'."
Maurice, a retired rail worker, also finds the courses liberating, in part because a regular feature of the lectures is that they make frequent references to current affairs.
"It allows us to reflect, to have an opinion on a number of problems that currently confront us," he says.
Cafe-philos reflect this spirit, rather than limiting themselves to some current, rather narrow views of what constitutes philosophy, and, and despite some reservations, I am in favour this more general approach.