Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (1):3 - 40 (1974)

Abstract
The subject of this study is the relation between dialectic and dialogue. First an attempt is made to delineate a universe of discourse 'communication'. Mutual acknowledgement as a subject ('intersubjectivity') is proposed as a distinctive characteristic of the concept of dialogue, and a distinction is made between several classes of dialogue (see the diagram). Then the concept of dialectic is examined. Special attention is paid to the question what is to be understood by the term 'modern dialectical thinking' (from Fichte onwards). Because it seems impossible to describe dialectic as a method in a methodical way, or to find some one characteristic common to such divergent dialectical philosophies as those of Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Engels, Marxism-Leninism and various forms of Neo-Marxism (L. Goldmann, Th. Adorno, E. Bloch), the proposal is made to stipulate that the terms dialectic, dialectical method and dialectical thinking in the modern sense should only be used when negation and/or contrast (in a specific sense, peculiar to the thinkers mentioned) characterize a mode of thinking in a more or less systematic way. After these preliminaries the relation between dialogue and dialectic is examined as it presents itself from an historical point of view. As regards Plato, it is contended that his dialektikê technê neither constitutes a dialogal philosophy, nor a dialogic (theory of the dialogue). His 'dialogues' rather are an instance of the 'literary dialogue' (with agogic intentions). Hegel's way of thinking is characterized as monological and speculative. Though his conception of thought as a process, as well historical as collective, does not logically exclude a dialogue, his attitude towards it seems to be rather cool (or at least ambiguous). With Marx the concept of the class struggle enters the dialectic and this concept is essentially inimical to the concept of the dialogue as a peaceful means of solving conflicts. In Marxism-Leninism the distinction between antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions (necessitated by the universalization of the dialectic by Engels and the Russian pretension of having founded the socialist state) implies the view that only in socialist and communist societies fundamental contradictions are absent and that consequently only within these societies there is no need for non-peaceful means of solving conflicts. In the thought of Th. Adorno, M. Horkheimer and H. Marcuse there seems to be no room for a dialogue, as a consequence of the Utopian implications of their concept of negation. Only in J. Habermas we meet with a positive attitude towards the (social-practical) dialogue. For him the dialogue even is 'the normative foundation' of his 'critical theory' of society. Dialectic is seen by him as a consequence of a repression of the dialogue (and so the dialogue as an antidote against the dialectic of ‘Verdinglichung’). The main conclusion drawn from this historical survey is that, as far as modern dialectical thinking is concerned, dialectic exhibits an antithetic relation towards the concept of dialogue generally, and more specifically towards the 'social-practical dialogue'. With all these thinkers a positive attitude towards dialectical thinking de facto implies a negative evaluation of the dialogue (or at least coolness towards it), or conversely (Habermas). Finally the author presents some considerations of a more general nature: that dialectic and dialogue are not to be considered correlative concepts, because contrasting opinion (not dialectic) is a sufficient condition for the dialogue; that the startingpoint for a social-practical dialogue may be found in the concept of 'problematic situations related to generally accepted ends' (such as e.g. well-being); that the socialpractical dialogue is directed at a consensus indeed, at least directly, but that this does not prevent it from being directed indirectly at the truth; that the concept of synthesis constitutes the normative foundation of the dialogue, because the ideal consensus consists in a synthesis of contrasting points of view
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