Discussion and Games

From George MacDonald’s The Curate’s Awakening:

In most discussions, each man has some point to mintain and his object is to justify his own thesis and disprove his neighbor’s. He may have originally adopted his thesis because of some sign of truth in it, but his mode of supporting it is generally to block up every cranny in his soul at which more truth might enter. In the present case, unusual as it is for as many as three truth-loving men to come together on the face of this planet, here were three simply set on uttering truth they had seen, and gaining sight of truth as yet hidden from them

Philosophical discussion so often unravels into the kind of talk MacDonald speaks of. It is rare for true converstaion to take place when philosophical matters are at hand. Though I often have the suspicion that the problem doesn’t lie in the person itself or the material itself, but the person’s orientation to the material. If there is nothing rally at stake in philosophical argument, if it is merely a game to be played, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a game of trumping the other. If, however, the person (or persons) involved actually believed (in) the stance he was taking, games would not be suitable for the task at hand.

If discussion is going to be anything meaningful, if philosophical work is going to be meaningful work, then there must be true dialogue between persons. Without this, what we are left with is a simple game of dodge ball. Such a game can be an exercise in reasoning and logic, but doesn’t come close to the kind of discussion that the game mimics. The temptation is to hold our ground against out opponent, to simply win. We must fight this temptation, it trivializes what philosophy is and does. The game is an exercise in ego worship.

~ by Barky on August 13, 2011.

One Response to “Discussion and Games”

  1. I really enjoyed that book and learnt from it. Choice passage!

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