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A guide to our dialogs

(To be revised)

It's best to start with a sample...

  • Hello — An introductory dialog about A Place to Study.
  • For its own sake — V and R try to make sense of what it means to do something for its own sake.
  • Persons, not individuals — Why don't we speak of individuals on A Place to Study?
  • Verbs — Reflecting on how verbs work in communicating meaning (draft in progress).

Study and dialog go together. As persons study, they motivate, initiate, direct, modulate, conclude, and assess their own activities. Our inner dialogs form a key part of all that. They manifest the interactivity of our inner voices, the locus of our intentional lives. Those inner voices do not speak with the authority of certain knowledge or absolute command. We preface what they say with qualifiers, tacit or inwardly spoken: "I think...." "I wonder...." "I might...." "People say...." "She told Jim... but I heard...." and so on. These inward dialogs do not direct us; they spur, caution, alert, suggest; they calm, assure, anger, or frighten us; they inform us, leading up to our forming our intention, our actually venturing the purposeful action. And as that unfolds in the face contingencies, the inner voices often keep going, informing how we might possibly modulate our effort.

We are not alone with our inner voices, having to make up our minds in splendid isolation. Each of us, insofar as it concerns what we try to do intentionally, sits at the controls of decision at that present point — now, the present — that moves along with us on the vector of time. Our intention snaps our informing anticipation into our contingent action. But cultural resources greatly expand and deepen our dialog of inner voices informing our exercise of judgment at that point. We study to sample, select, and internalize resources of the culture to integrate them into our inner voices and the dialogs we generate to inform our decisions and actions.

Here a problem of cultural prodigality arises. The external culture has become so extensive, multisided, authoritative, and obtuse that we face difficulties acquiring elements of it as contingent resources that we sample and select, making them a useful part of our inner lives. The culture seems to stand over and against us with imperative requirements that we must acquiesce to, like it or not. We all tune it out to greater or lesser degree. A large part of what we mean when we speak of feeling alienated comes about when those external voices commandeer our own inner dialog and expropriate our power of decision with commands, prohibitions, and subtle subversions.

In the face of this cultural abundance, our abilities to integrate external resources into our inner dialogs weakens. Partly, we find the integration daunting and we tend to give up on various types of resources. "I don't have an ear for music...." "I'm not good at math...." "Who am I to have an opinion...?" "Who cares...?" And partly we accept various forms of double consciousness, acting in accord with convention, the rules, smart money, what's in, our crowd, and on while limiting our sense of judgment to a few areas close to home. At times,Everyone uses both tactics, withdrawal and conformity, to circumscribe the exercise of judgment.

Hey R! Aren't you getting a little stuck in your own head. I thought dialog involved a couple persons — Socrates and Gorgias, or people like them.

True. But in life, the inner and the outer occur as two sides of a vital actuality. With a dialog between two persons, at least two dialogs are taking place, assuming the two participants are the only ones present.

You're leaping. What's inner and outer got to do with it. It's just two persons, looking at each other talking together.

Maybe. But think of Jiminy Cricket. Do you always have only one voice in your head?

Let's recognize these limitations as facts of life here on A Place to Study and everywhere. But let's further recognize that both in life and here, on a place to study, we can and should work explicitly to strengthen our capacities to grasp complexities through inward dialog. In doing that, short written dialogs that model the process of integrating engagement with different forms of cultural resources into our inner pursuit of understanding can have a special value. Generally, these dialogs have two interlocutors who share mutual respect while spanning differences in age and experience, with both engaging together in an open-ended inquiry. They aim to inform a sense of what may be at stake in the matter at hand, not to determine opinions or intentions about it.

Each dialog has a distinctive topic, but after the fact we've started to group some around a common concern, for instance, Thinking about the Place, Motivating study, Making study work, and On learning liberally. Since groupings aren't boxes bounding the dialogs in them. One dialog may appear in several groups, some in none, and as the list of dialogs grows, so may the set of groups.

For the most part, the different dialogs result from reflexive study of A Place to Study itself as it is emerging from our efforts. We do not have a list of planned topics, and with particular dialogs, composition may lag between initiating the idea for it and actually getting started writing it and bringing it to a conclusion. Consequently, some dialogs appear to be merely a paragraph or two stating its topic. And since we list dialogs in various states of progress with drafts becoming visible to readers well before they are complete, some dialogs will seem garbled internally and abrupt where they stop, which simply means that further work on them is in process or still pending.