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The Process Of Deliberation

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That is the only way to get a person to think about what they understand to be a fact: have them re-form the concept.

Great. Two elements here: it occurs to them that there is a need to re-form the concept (Socratic method?) and then they also need to know Objectivist epistemology to have an alternative rather than a feeling of helplessness. The second element is a bit harder to convey.

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Harriman states at the conclusion of chapter 1 that deduction essentially takes the conceptualization process for granted, that the conceptual issues are resolved. Induction, however is the process of concept formation in action.

Asking a person how they formed a particular concept tends to take them off guard. At the same time, instead of offering an explaination, and then being peppered with a series of "well, what about this and what about that" - the challenge to have them tie their concepts back to the perceptual level, perhaps for the first time in their lives, can expose them to Rand's method of concept formation while truncating futile debate over issues that tend to be merely polemical in nature.

Nicely stated Eiuol.


Edited by dream_weaver
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Rand boiled it down to three words: "Check your premises." Go back and look at the things you are presupposing and ask yourself whether and why they are true.

When talking to other people, it's often useful to simply and politely ask them "Why do you think that?" Intellectually honest people will usually give you some kind of reason, which provides a basis for discussion and understanding. Intellectually dishonest people will quickly grow hostile, at which point you can treat them appropriately.

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The Dialectic Today: Critically Interrogating the Socratic Method for Contemporary Use

Generally, the dialectical method requires the following: 1) Participation and the appearance of equal status among those involved, 2) Starting the dialogue with commonly held views and ideas, 3) Dialogue that leads to critical reflection amongst the participants, and 4) Connection of ideas brought up in discussion. After a discussion of each of these points, this paper then explores Plato’s use of the dialectic in The Republic to locate both inconsistency and consistency in his use of it. Concluding remarks will use this analysis to determine how the dialectic can be revived as a practical concept for today.

Added upon edit:

Though transference traditionally falls within the discourse of psychoanalysis, the term is relevant for this discussion. For the purposes of this paper, transference describes a relationship that sees Person X “taking to heart” what Person Y says, even if it represents a challenge to the thinking of Person X. Transference influences the relationship in such a manner because Person X thinks that Person Y has some knowledge, regardless of whether or not this is true, from which Person X can benefit. Therefore, statements made or questions posed by Person Y can pierce through the long-held beliefs and habits of Person X. Sigmund Freud, most famous for his thoughts on psychoanalysis, explained that an analyst’s “interpretation is often only accepted in so far as the transference… has conferred a special authority upon the analyst” (Laplanche and Pontalis 1973, 460). Without this “special authority,” the analyst has little chance of convincing a patient that the Oedipus complex, for example, is an important moment of human development.

The role of transference in relationships like those between teacher-student or political organizer-community member is of utmost importance here. Whether they realize it or not, any successful teacher or organizer must establish transference, on some level, with the people with whom she works. Transference establishes a level of trust that underlies a willingness to listen to one another and learn. Transference impacts all four of the components comprising the dialectic. The establishment of transference, then, can determine whether or not the dialectic will work.

Why is transference crucial for the discussion of the dialectic that is drawn from The Republic? The absence of discussion about transference is what creates difficulties. If the existence of transference is primary to an effective pedagogical approach, then a discussion of how to gain transference is crucial. Although the dialectic, as described in The Republic, offers an element that works to establish transference (the part that encourages active participation and equal status in a discussion), it never addresses the issue of transference. For this reason, the theory of the dialectic is lacking.

Edited by Grames
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Interesting post, Eiuol. It reminds me of the "Unfreeze-Change-Freeze" model. According to that model, when you want to get people to change, it is not enough to show them the benefits of the new thing you're "selling". That stage (i.e. change) comes second and does not work well unless you have first "unfrozen" them. The idea here is that people have some existing alternate mechanism that they have become comfortable with. (In "selling" a philosophy, this would imply that they're they're past the college years of questioning everything). When people have reached this stage one has to first show them problems with the status quo. Show them why their current "product" does not work well, show them the inconsistencies and flaws. Fill them with a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Only once this is done will you have people who are motivated to look for alternatives. One can frame this positively rather than negatively, and say that one must start by motivating people to see the problems with their current assumptions, and to seek out new ones. Like all motivation, the idea is not simply to make a reasonable argument about the status quo, but to evoke strong emotions against it.

Edited by softwareNerd
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That is a big part of what I was thinking about here: what exactly is the method to "unfreeze" thinking? What is the best way to entice a person to think about what has become (at times unknowingly) automatized? Causing dissatisfaction with the status quo may work for some topics, especially when it's something very evident like the state of the US economy in general. But what about those topics where the status quo is seen as "good enough"? Instilling dissatisfaction might not be possible for everything. In a sense, that's a sort of "making people see the light," an idea presented as bad in the link Grames provided. (One quote from it that is interesting: "Citing the lack of critical reflection produced, Socrates stresses, “knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind” ") Of course, motivation is still important, there has to be a reason to even reach for an answer to questions. What I'm getting at is very close if not the same as that article, that is, ways of improving dialectic.

Asking a question like "why do you think that?" is often nice, but that doesn't always produce useful inquiry, even for intellectually honest people. Having a person acknowledge logical conclusions of their beliefs is a lot easier than getting a person to agree with a different idea. That's why I suggest presenting facts that the other person doesn't know anything about. The process has to be participatory, the only way to get a person to reach new conclusions is to get them to deliberate. The other person has to engage in concept formation if you want to get into teaching/persuasion rather than discussion. A person may see a contradiction you point out. Then what? Checking your premises is only the first step.

Deliberation should be seen as a person realizing a need to re-form a concept. The end may vary, whether it be a matter of validation, forming a concept in the first place, argumentation, critical contemplation of existing concepts, or some of all of these. What leads a person to realize they need to re-form a concept, and once they do realize that, how do you also entice them to deliberate with an end of changing premises.

In reference to Grames' first post, I'm not sure to what extent the other person needs to know at least a rudimentary amount of Objectivist epistemology.

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  • 1 month later...

A "brute force" method for reduction and unfreezing:

1) Premises that are further from the perceptual level than the conclusion are explicitly identified and set aside for later discussion. Otherwise you have to fight two fronts simultaneously, which can lead to a lot of tangential issues instead of systematic discussion.

2) The levels of abstraction between the conclusion and the perceptual level cannot be addressed simultaneously. We must start with the level just below and immediately, proximately, required by the conclusion. I think it is unwise to do a complete reduction for them all at once. Rather, one should focus on one level at a time.

3) Apparent disagreement needs to be distinguished from real disagreement. Statements by other should be restated in your own words to distinguish between real and apparent disagreement. Otherwise, parties will be unsure whether they are understood.

4) For each point of agreement, explicitly identify it as such with the caveat that you might agree for different reasons

5) For each point of disagreement, explicitly state there is a disagreement and have them focus on the level of abstraction just below the item of disagreement. Have them list reasons from THAT level ONLY. Else you run into problem mentioned in 2 where the parties wander all over the hierarchy and forget the point of discussing some detail.

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