In one of those weird little epiphanies last semester, it dawned on me that the only difference between dialogic and dialectic was the presence of an implied hierarchy, and an implied resolution in dialectic. Dialogism is messy, and refuses to be any other way.

Dialectic is one means of damping the oscillation (or osculation) of dialogue. Who’s your daddy? Dialectic is coercive, and more often than not presents a false security of pretended resolution. Reading deeply in Plato these last few years, I’m struck with how unresolved and unsynthesized things really are. Centuries have declared Plato and his apologist Aristotle the victor, effectively squelching the other voices in the dialogic oscillation. Aristotle became the “Daddy.” Rewriting (his)tory with the silenced voices back in becomes a sort of fetish game of dominance and submission.

I’m not sure this is all that productive. However, recognizing the swinging pendulum itself surely is. With each stroke, the opposing voices are driven to clarify their positions, and recognize the value-laden nature of the discourse. Each time that I write something here, since I seem to have attracted a crowd of astute readers, I anticipate a certain amount of pressure on problematic assumptions. This is a good thing. I try to return the favor from time to time. This blog has transformed lately into a reading journal which compares concepts in books I’m reading with conversations already in progress, with an occasional expressive flourish. It helps me, a lot.

I am glad that Tom spoke up about my problematic lines regarding skepticism. I wrote and erased them a dozen times. Eventually, I settled on leaving them in as a sort of aporia. Statements of that type beg for a defense, which then (or now) I lack the energy to pursue. It was the one part of the essay that I was least happy with; but rather than expend a great deal of time with that (relatively minor) conceptual part of the equation, I simply let it stand and moved on. I’m happy that someone noticed; it’s the sort of thing that could easily be expanded into an essay all its own. Reduction always invites challenge, as AKMA parenthetically noted in his wrap-up of some of the conversation going on.

Thankfully, his clarification need not be answered in a response of my own. When I expressed a sympathy for his questioning of the flight from accountability that pseudonymous writing can represent, it was for all the reasons that Ed noted in response to another conversational thread:

But failing to convey feelings or at least the inability to properly resolve them, whether in person, privately or through the act of writing, has got to be the ultimate stab against self-respect. And anyone who stops at midpoint because of this, anyone who fails to put their name upon a piece, is ultimately disrespecting the full nature of their talent, or owning up to their own inadequacies or, for that matter, who they really are.

The problems involved are complex. As I said, this is my “first response,” but not my only response. Learning to construct multiple identities through writing is a key skill. People try on different voices, though I think it is necessary in the end to be accountable for those voices. But even in sum, all these voices do not entirely construct a person. There are always silences, gaps, and ums and uhs. Life itself is often seems a “dark, deep Ravine— / Thou many-colour’d, many-voiced vale” where things are only discovered through the relationships implied between them.

There are large areas at play in writing instruction regarding which voice should be emphasized in teaching. The oscillation swings between privileging disclosure (expressivism) and privileging silence (neo-traditional and some aspects of social-constructivist praxis). Power always enters into the problem. There are no easy answers, as Rory’s reply to that splinter thread implies. It is indeed about the definitions of public and private, and it is also about the economics of the exchange. And economics are only possible when one thing is valued more highly than another.

Jill unveiled an interesting paper on the economics of links. This approach certainly has merit, regarding one important aspect of link behaviors. People are the currency of the web that interests me, and it seems pertinent to note one more definition of rhetoric from Richard A. Lanham:

Rhetoric is the economics of attention.

Disclosure and non-disclosure are in some ways the personal currency of the web. While it is tempting to view them as positive and negative values, which is which depends entirely on your perspective. Perhaps the fun is in the friction, which dialogic rather than dialectic exchange implies.