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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2004

David Kennedy
Pages 203-218

Communal Philosophical Dialogue and the Intersubject

The self is a historical and cultural phenomenon in the sense of a dialectically evolving narrative construct about who we are, what our borders and limits and capacities are, what is pathology, and what is normality, and so on. These ontological and epistemological narratives are usually linked to grand explanatory narratives like science and religion, and are intimately linked to cosmological pictures. The “intersubject” is an emergent form of subjectivity in our time which reconstructs its borders to include the other, and which understands itself as always building and being built through a combination of internal and external dialogue. The shift from monological to dialogical discourse is both a product and a producer of the intersubject, and is in turn made possible by a shift—underway for the last one hundred years or so—in the human information environment. The major educational innovation which reconstructs theory and practice for the intersubject—community of philosophical inquiry (CPI)—assumes, following field and systems theory, that any group gathered together is an interactive system. It also assumes that the fundamental forms of growth and development both of the individual and of the collective take place through a process of communal deliberative inquiry into meaning, resulting in the reconstruction of beliefs, values, and discourses on both an individual and a collective level. CPI is a process in which subject and object are both active and passive, shaping and being shaped, determining and determined, in and through their transaction. It assumes that its interlocutors are in a relation of both mutual and self-interrogation. As the phenomenon of the intersubject gains credence in human culture, philosophy is gaining power as an educational idea in the elementary and high school classroom. Communal philosophical dialogue is the discursive space where the subject’s fundamental assumptions about self, world, knowledge, belief, beauty, right action and normative ideals enter a dialectical process of confrontation, mediation, and reconstruction.