Towards a dialectic of tolerance

I was in Bucharest for a few days, not long before the fall of Ceaucescu’s regime. The fear, both of the authorities and of the people, which reigned in the city was vividly felt everywhere. To be sure, the communist regime was based on a doctrine that called itself ‘dialectic’. Unfortunately, it was a ‘dialectic’ that had nothing to do with dialogue, with listening to the other, respecting the other, and learning from the other. It assumed that ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ were the absolute monopoly of one side – the side which enforced its monopoly by the sheer force of power. The atmosphere couldn’t but be of repression, since there was no room for alternative ideas, which for the dominant ‘dialectic’ were necessarily wrong. There was no room for argument, debate and persuasion other than brainwashing and the passive acceptance of the ideas in power. The reigning doctrine was the nemesis of dialectic, for it denied its sine qua non: tolerance. Sorin grew up in this atmosphere, where in spite of its oppressive character, he developed a concern for truth, a tolerant and gentle character, and a sense for the fundamental value of rational persuasion. No wonder that he was attracted by dialogue and argumentation, and devoted his research to them – not merely as an object of study, but also as a method of research and a form of life. It is an honor for me, as a member of IADA, the association devoted to the study of dialogue founded by Sorin, of ISSA, the society whose object of study is argumentation, of IASC, the association that recognizes and investigates the essential role of controversy in the growth of knowledge and in the improvement of society, and as a friend, to pay a well deserved tribute to Sorin Stati’s memory and to his achievements. He was one of the pioneers in the contemporary study of argumentation. Although his research in this field focused on the linguistic analysis of argumentative discourse, he did not neglect other approaches. His role in leading to the organization, in July 2002 in Lugano, of a memorable conference where the above mentioned three international associations joined forces with the Università della Svizzera Italiana in an interdisciplinary, cooperative as well as contrastive drive for increasing our understanding of the multi-faceted phenomenon of argumentation, was decisive..
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