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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 2, Fall 2002

Ali Paya
Pages 201-222

“Dialogue” In a “Real World”
Quixotic Pursuit or sine qua non?

Can dialogue make real impact on the state of affairs in the real world, or is it a pastime of the polite societies or a lullaby useful for sending gullible grown-ups into “sleep”? In the present paper, following a two-tier analysis of the notion of dialogue, as “shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, or possibility,” and as a product of our “collective intentionality,” I shall develop a bifurcated argument. Against the cynic pundits, who preach that realpolitik and not dialogue is the name of the game in our daily interactions with each other, I shall argue that in an increasingly pluralistic world, dialogue is a powerful and indispensable means for making desirable changes. Similarly, against the over-enthusiastic optimists who believe that dialogue provides us with a magical wand, I shall argue that dialogue is as good as we can make it: dialogue cannot work miracles in a vacuum of collective will. The upshot of my argument is that firstly, dialogue is an indicator of the rationality and maturity of the social actors: the more rational the social actors the more ubiquitous and effective the dialogue and vice versa. And secondly, although, dialogue itself may lead to frustration or even violence, it is the absence of dialogue that poses the greatest danger for the future of mankind.

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