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Re: [xmca] Frameworks for Dialogic Perspectives

I'll confess to having difficulty keeping up with your post (lots of
unfamiliar territory for me), so I'll just pick up here and there.

I had seen Paul Prior come up before (maybe in a *prior* post? - ouch
that was painful), and he seemed very relevant. But the context that
you provide for his book with Hengst sounds particularly compelling
for me. I'll check it out.

I don't know Gadamer at all (other than hearing others mention), but I
certainly think that there is a lot to be said for the value of
dialogue. The difficulty I have with your description of Gadamer is
that it sounds like there is a particular *kind* of dialogue that is
being prescribed (for the patient? And maybe that is where it is most
useful - pace Freud). And as a prescriptive form, it seems like such
dialogue will, in many cases, fail simply because people have no
interest in participating. And even when people may be interested
enough to participate, there are those who will simply reject these
prescriptions. And others who will enact them in counterproductive
ways. And so on.

I'm certain that the Gadamerian approach has its uses and utility. But
it seems like many of the troubles that face the U.S. have to do with
a much simpler problem that is prior to a Gadamerian approach to
dialogue: people aren't talking to each other.

I may be imagining things, but it seems like there was once a time
when communities contained rich and poor folk, sick (physically and
'mentally') and healthy folk, old and young, (one might even say
"black and white" in a sense that is hardly true today - but more on
that in a minute) and so on. Nowadays, supposedly because the
capitalist system in the U.S. is becoming streamlined to meet the
needs of the particularities of its citizens, persons are increasingly
engaging in talk only with folks who are similar to them. Old folks
into old folks' homes. Rich folks into rich folks' homes. Poor folks
into poor folks' homes. Mentally ill into homes for the mentally ill.
And so on. The result is that people increasingly only talk to their
own kind, and because they don't talk with those who are different,
they don't have any understanding of those Others.

And certainly in the halcyon days of yore there were misunderstandings
and disputes and general trouble that happened between "different"
people. But at least there was face-to-face conversation. And this
often led to strange and unexpected things. I've been thinking about
issues of race lately and so I'll take that as an example.

Consider the example of KKK members in the south providing college
scholarships for black children in the community. These weren't
scholarships to top tier colleges, but they were something. They
generally followed the distinction that many African-Americans draw
between racism in the south and in the north. In the south, white
people will let you get "close but not too high." That is to say,
whites are okay living close to blacks (and even helping them go to
modest colleges), but they begin to get concerned if blacks start to
get too much power. In the North, white people will let you get "high
but not too close" - meaning that blacks can compete in the free
market system but they are generally not wanted in neighborhoods and
communities. It seems that racism in the US today has really taken a
"Northern" turn, with meaningful conversations across racial lines
becoming increasingly rare.

Today, although there is certainly more racial integration than in the
past, with much fewer exclusively white communities (although this
development is by no means a straight line development - and white
supremacist communities remain - it's just that they are now in
Montana rather than in Chicago). And so, on one hand, it is true that
whites and blacks are talking more to each other. Yet if instead of
"race" you consider something like African-American English speakers
vs. "standard" English speakers, then, I suspect that you would start
to see a different picture emerge, and there would be a lot less
"talk" across these lines of dialect - so much less that people often
claim to be unable to understand the Other person in these contexts.
These conversations tend to be had across check out counters rather
than at weddings, funerals, PTA meetings, etc.

So one of the hobby projects that I have been trying to articulate is
to find ways to make these kinds of conversations happen. Frankly I've
gotten about nowhere with it because it is difficult to try to figure
out how to institutionally create these kinds of possibilities. What
kinds of projects would pull rich and poor into shared projects? How
could we encourage "flows" of people and of discourse between these
highly polarized communities? How could the current infrastructure
which keeps moving towards differentiation of people be harnessed in
order to make these kinds of shared projects, and thus "talk," happen
between these different people? Mike and lots of 5th D folks have
created a kind of infrastructure (and this approach is hugely
advantageous in forcing reflection by the more privileged party), but
it seems like these folks are always fighting off institutional
obsolescence. But maybe that is precisely the kind of fight that is
needed. I guess what I am suggesting is that 5th D-like programs, in
most cases, are conceived of as programs to serve some population of
students in need. But it would seem that they provide an absolutely
critical service to the people who are supposedly doing the serving,
that of helping them to be more humane, if not human (see Thurgood
Marshall quote below). Deborah Downing-Wilson, with Mike as co-author,
has a paper coming out that begins to demonstrate this side of things
- and I think this is really critical.

So to your point about compassion, I like it as an ethical stance (and
probably very good as an orientation for those in counseling), but I
think that it can be difficult to get it to catch on with others. The
same could be said for a normative stance on recognition. This is why
I have generally avoided pushing a normative stance and instead have
looked at recognition as a social scientific analytic and as a tool
for thinking about sociogenesis of subjectivity, and motivation and
human action. The long-range goal is to demonstrate our essentially
imbricated natures, one with another - that is to say that we are, by
definition, bound up with one another - an "I that is We". I assume
that this at least encourages certain ethical orientations, but
there's no guarantee on that count.

I'll close with a few favorite quotes with regard to race that make
this point much better than I:

"In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves
the highest tribute." Thurgood Marshall.

“In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to
see that the black man needs the white man and the white man needs the
black man. However much we may try to romanticize the slogan, there is
no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not
intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path to power
and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share that
power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity We are
bound together in a single garment of destiny.” MLK, jr.

'nuff said.

On Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 11:40 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Greg [and everyone else contributing to the recent posts.]
> I want to thank you for your encouraging comments.  As I mentioned It felt
> risky to open up this topic that I personally feel is meaningful but may
> not resonate with others. It continues my personal quest to understand what
> I call the "encapsulated self" and all the various frameworks that may add
> insight to this quest.  The cultural historical framework is a perspective
> which offers deep insight  when inquiring into the "nature" or "truth" or
> "trap" of this way of being/becoming a person.
>  I went off topic [of Lentiev] in my previous post, taking my personal
> response to the "style" of Leontiev's writing & posted a response but
> did not link my personal reflections to the topic of Leontiev's historical
> contribution to the CHAT framework. Therefore I'm starting a new thread on
> the multiple frameworks or perspectives loosely assembled as a "family
> resemblance" the frameworks circling around the topic of "semiotic
> remediation as DISCOURSE practice"  How central are the concepts "agency"
> Identity" and "recognition" to this new constellation of perspectives
> called "semiotic remediation" and what are the links to cultural-historical
> theory and sociogenesis?  I want to explore if Gadamer can be included
> within this new constellation and his way of inviting us to become
> hermeneuts.
> Greg you wrote
> Larry,
> IMHO, you're hitting the heart of the matter with recognition and
> agency - self-assertion vs. self-emptying seems a nice way to think
> about the central problematic (and I agree with your preference for
> the latter). If you are interested in developing a more more
> self-emptying Kyoto-like notion of recognition, I've got a couple of
> suggestions (and I'm sure I've made these suggestions in a different
> context before, so apologies for redundancy).
> First, I'd strongly encourage a read of Robert Williams' Ethics of
> Recognition. In Williams' read of Hegel, you find an articulation of
> recognition that is much more like the Kyoto understanding of
> recognition and which is against the crass version you get from the
> existentialists where recognition always about a fight or struggle for
> recognition. As evidence of the cultural tendency toward
> self-assertion, it is very telling that one small paragraph in Hegel's
> oeuvre would get picked up as the thing that most people for most of
> the 20th century would equate with Hegel's notion of "recognition."
> But that approach is shortsighted and Williams really nails this
> point. (although I am persuaded by Willaims' interpretation, I don't
> have any skin in the game of whether or not this is a more or less
> "authentic" interpretation of Hegel - I just happen to believe that
> the position Williams articulates is far more productive than the
> struggle-for-recognition model that has been on offer from the
> existentialists).
> Second, to provide some further support for this claim, I'd also
> suggest checking out Johann Georg Hamann, who is said to have been a
> significant influence on Hegel (but don't read Isaiah Berlin's stuff
> on Hamann, he misses the point). Hamann didn't really publish much. He
> was most noted for his letters to his friend, Immanuel Kant and in
> which he repeatedly tells Kant that he's got it all wrong (and does it
> in a style that makes the point through medium as well as, if not more
> than, message - a point which itself speaks to one of his central
> points about the importance of poetics). In these letters, Hamann has
> a wonderful sense of the intractability of human life, and the
> fundamental wrong-headedness of the desire for sovereign agency. I'd
> be happy to share more if there is any interest.
> Oh, and I forgot there is a third author of interest in this regard,
> Patchen Markell's Bound by Recognition gives a compelling portrait of
> what he calls "the impropriety of action" - the sense in which our
> actions are not our property alone. Markell's book argues that tragedy
> (and its twin, comedy) derives from this very human problem. Also
> great stuff.
> All three of these readings I suggest as a way of pointing out that
> within Western traditions there is a trope that is closer to
> self-emptying than self-asserting. Unfortunately it doesn't articulate
> as well with Enlightenment perspectives because it is often, as with
> Hamann, articulated through Christianity. This presents something of a
> marketing problem since the Enlightenment put Christianity as a thing
> of the past and as the kind of believing that small minded people do
> (the kind that tote guns and don't believe in evolution), and thus a
> not very appealing thing for most Westerner's "natural" (i.e.
> "cultural") inclination to self-assertion. So I think that as a matter
> of packaging, Buddhism, with its stripped down religious ideology,
> probably has more appeal to most post-Enlightenment Western thinkers.
> And I wanted to add that I feel like your posts are speaking directly
> to me and maybe we can carry on this conversation in more detail
> somewhere down the road (in a different thread, I suspect). So many
> thanks for your words (even if they weren't "intended" for me - a
> fortuitous impropriety to be sure!).
> Anyway, hope all is well,
> greg
> Greg, I've copied your statement in its entirety as I want to invite
> further reflections on what you referred to as the "trope" within Western
> perspectives linking recognition and agency with the notion of
> self-emptying I appreciated your suggestions on further readings and I
> will follow up on these 3 suggestions.  I'm also now taking up your offer
> to carry on this conversation, but in a new thread.
> I mentioned "self-emptying" as an attitude, or posture, or stance towards
> dialogical ways of dwelling in the world.  I also read the recent post of
> Lenin's reflections on pragmatism and wonder how he would respond to the
> dialogical "turn" in social studies??
> You mentioned 3 authors who are exploring these themes in a less
> self-assertive style.  Another author I would add to this list is Gadamer
> and his notion of "understanding".  Christine in her thread was calling us
> to be more "playful" in our putting alternative perspectives and discourses
> into conversation with each other. It is in this spirit of approaching
> these themes playfully as an approach to "understanding" that I want to
> bring in Gadamer [and the Kyoto School at a later time].
> To set the stage for this conversation I want to invite in Paul Prior and
> Julie Hengst. These scholars have engaged in exploring dialogical themes in
> their edited book "Exploring Semiotic Remediation as Discourse Practice".
> This book introduces multiple frameworks as supporting what they see as the
> emerging tradition of semiotic remediation. I propose Gadamer's approach to
> hermeneutical understanding may express a "family resemblance" to semiotic
> remediation.
> I need to first introduce Paul Prior an & Julie Hengst  who are
> articulating "semiotic remediation as discourse practice".
> They situate the works of Voloshinov and Bakhtin as producing the key
> dialogic insight:
> {Language and signs need to be UNDERSTOOD as concrete, historical,
> situated, and social phenomena.  Not ABSTRACT depersonalized unsituated
> systems.}
>  Linguistics typically represents sentences as produced using lexical
> resources in accordance with its RULES for combining and ordering. They
> explore the system of language in which sentences are embedded.
> In contrast to this abstract distancing [experience-far] description
> of sentences within languages [as an object] Bakhtin defined an "utterance"
> as the combination of
> - what is historically produced by an EMBODIED interested person in a
> meaningful situation
> - and what is interpreted ACTIVELY AND RESPONSIVELY by those who RECEIVE
> the utterance.
> This second point emphasizes the agentic aspect of language production as
> dialogical using the concepts "responsively" & "receive" and it is these
> concepts that need deepening.
> Paul and Julie, in their edited book, are documenting the far-reaching
> implications for theories of discourse of engaging with BOTH aspects of the
> above listed features of "utterances" - history & intersubjectivity.
> Voloshinov explored the way we constantly take up others' signs, use them,
> and to varying degree make the other's utterances our own. This exploration
> opens up the critical question of "sociogenesis" as a concept that UNITES
> individual learning and social formation as questions of siuated and
> mediated practice.
> Paul and Julie draw our attenton to the insight that Voloshinov and Bakhtin
> not only articulated dialogic activity as the GROUND FOR communication, but
> also as THE site where people BECOME who they are and where sociocultural
> FORMATIONS [church, state, profession] are constantly being made and remade.
> Paul and Julie then introduce their concept of "semiotic remediation" which
> is in line with Voloshinov's call for a dialogic theory of signs.  They
> point out that often this approach is used to explore "elements of language
> practice" as its object.  Paul and Julie's book extends this focus on
> language to explore the concept of "sociogenesis" where people become the
> KIND of people they are
> Where does Gadamr possibly fit into this new emerging "semiotic
> remediation" paradigm or perspective or framework??  I believe it is his
> use of the concept "hermeneutical understanding" in contrast to the
> concepts "explanation" or "construction" for exploring dialogical themes.
> Gadamer's notion of understanding is not an attempt to transpose ourselves
> INTO THE MIND of the other but rather to try to transpose ourselves INTO
> THE PERSPECTIVE of the other within which the other has formed his views.
> The listener or reader tries to understand HOW what the other person is
> saying could be 'right' from within the other's subject matter.  Not to get
> inside and relive the others experiences but to understand the others
> perspective that EMERGES within the play of conversation & dialogue.
> Philosophical hermeneutics, as a practice and method is the ART of
> REACHING an understanding. [COMING TO an understanding]  For Gadamer,
> reading a text, like listening to an utterance,  is another form of
> conversation and coming to an understanding.
> The critique of Gadamer is that his approach is "conservative" and supports
> "tradition" at the expense of emancipation.  I want to summarize Donna
> Orange's answer to this statement of Gadamer as a conservative. [from her
> book "Thinking for Clinicians: Philosophical Resources"]
> She points out that Gadamer's perspective serves a DOUBLE FUNCTION. Though
> oriented towards increased understanding, its dialogic process disquiets,
> disturbs, and unsettles our PREVIOUS points of view.  It is this second
> feature of disturbing and unsettling that is can be seen as functioning as
> a critique of received knowledge.  Donna identifies 3 critical features of
> a Gadamerian approach.
> 1) The refusal of all forms of authoritarian communication [while
> recognizing the legitimate authority of tradition]
> 2) An unmasking of the pretensions of interpretive expertise, as having a
> god's eye view of the mind of the other
> 3) A theory of EMERGENT and self-correcting understanding. He
> differentiates a less rigourous hermeneutic based on an assumption that we
> can come to an understanding and a more rigourous lifework based on the
> assumption that misunderstanding WILL OCCUR as a matter of course and so
> understanding must be willed and sought at every point.  [human nature as
> inherently ambivalent]
> These 3 features of a Gadamerian approach are the elements that allows
> Donna to refute the charge that his methodology is too conservative and not
> "troubling" Cadamer's dialogic challenges all received historical
> perspectives which must be "put in play" within generative conversations.
> Gadamer would not ask us to "imagine ourselves INTO the mind of the other"
> through the means of empathy. That is not how Gadamer understands
> understanding. A Gadamerian approach occurs in an ACTUAL and HISTORICALLY
> SITUATED engagement with the other to whom we listen and converse. And what
> we hear often constitutes a challenge to our preconceived prejudgements.
> This can be very unsettling and upsetting but from a Gadamerian perspective
> this "troubling" is not turned away from.
> Gadamers "fusion of horizons" ONLY occurs if both persons in the
> conversation are willing to risk their prejudices, organizing principles,
> emotional convictions, or what Gadamer calls our BINDING EXPECTATIONS.
> Gadamer's method is a method of "trust" and "hope" and is prepared to
> WELCOME the other into conversation.  We enter into these generative
> conversations KNOWING our ideologies and emotional convictions will not
> survive a dialogical encounter intact.  Dialogue CREATES DISRUPTIONS.
> Donna Orange calls this form of dialogue working from a hermeneutical
> SPIRIT [attitude or stance] of living emancipatory critique. Gadamer wrote,
> "The task of bringing people to a self-understanding of themselves may help
> US to gain our FREEDOM in RELATION TO everything that has taken us in
> unquestioningly".  To take this attitude to dialogue is to enter into
> dialogue as SERIOUS PLAY but actually be playful and light hearted in our
> approach to dialogue.
> Greg, I hope this exploration of Gadamer as inviting us into a
> hermeneutical "perspective" can add to our conversation on "self-emptying"
> as a possible stance [attitude] that will help unsettle [playfully] some
> more certain and received perspectives.
> in the spirit of the season I also want to bring in one further concept to
> this thread. The concept of "compassion" and its relation to perspectives
> and a hermeneutical attitude. Greg you mention since the Enlightenment we
> have an ambivalent relation to religious sentiments but the themes that
> they grappled with [though possibly suspect epistemologically] still speak
> to the reality of human suffeing that I believe must be addressed in ANY
> perspective aout social theory and socigenesis.  Why is "compassion" a
> theme at the heart of religious perspectives?  Charles Taylor argues we
> must bring recognition into view as a human good. Talor's argument is that
> we are PROFOUNDLY VULNERABLE to the ways in which we are perceived [or
> misperceived] and characterized by others. He argues that receiving
> recognition from another is a "vital human need" a PRECONDITION of
> effective agency.
> If suffering is a central aspect of our being/becoming what is the place of
> compassion.
> [Note passion and patient both share the root which means "suffering" and
> therefore compassion means "suffering with"]
> now in counselling [my role description] there is a struggle to distance
> from the "medical model" of responding to patients [suffering persons] that
> sees them through an analytical lens in contrast to an approach of "being
> with".  This difference in "attitude" or stance [3rd person observing
> versus 1st person compassion is I believe an ambivalence being played out
>  in all aspects of modernity.  When reading within the framework of
> "semiotic remediation" how central are the multiple frameworks within this
> family assemblage  to embracing "compassion" as central to their projects.
> I would propose that Gadamer's embracing of "perspectives" and "fusion of
> horizons" has the room and space to help us develop "compassionate
> hermeneuts" as "a practice" within semiotic remediation frameworks that
> does offer a way through functionalist notions towards Christines focus on
> "transformations".  How central to transformations [as sociogeneis] is the
> dialogic conversation within semiotic remediation?  How central is the
> notion of "compassion" [suffering with] as a corrective to "analyis" that
> is distancing rather than analysis that is compassionate?  To be
> compassionate does it require "self-emptying as a practice to develop a
> certain KIND of disposition.
> In the spirit of the season a continuing hermeneutical conversation.
> To everyone on the site have a wonderful holiday
> Larry
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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