The Importance of Philosophical Dialogue

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This isn’t so much a well, drawn-out thought piece, as it is a reflection on the kind of writing that I do. For starters, I don’t consider myself an analytical philosopher. Sure, my past couple of editorials have focused on that modern style of breaking down logical arguments in the works of Descartes, Peano, or Mill, who were figures of the analytical style. But the lessons they teach are boring to me, frankly because they just don’t feel alive, unless I give them context.

I suppose I would talk a little more about continental philosophy in the future, and give my thoughts on the works of Hegel, Marx, or any and all of the Existentialists. I’ve been told countless times that my life is more like Sartre’s right now, and Lugones is my go-to philosopher/literary critic for a lot of my own worldview at the moment. But there’s always been something that bugged me about this strange differentiation between what is philosophy and what is philosophy proper: why is it that we don’t talk to each other?

Sure, I can name-drop the works of Plato, quote from Hume, or satirize Camus, but what would be the point? One thing that bothers me about philosophy today (and much of life in general) is that none of these topics we talk about seem to be alive anymore. There’s this underlying assumption that we have to talk about the abstract in order to understand reality, and theory –as dense as it may be– is the only way to really understand our miserable lives.

And just when you thought that only philosophy works this way, think again. I find this same, surface-level crap about anime as well, with critics and fans alike breaking down their favorites or least favorites by plot, animation style, sound, music, who’s hot and who’s not characters, small bits here and there that reference other things, and “dere” types. I mean, it’s nice that you know what all of those are and when to see them, but why does that matter? I’ve actually had to leave fan circles for the lack of meaning attached to conversation, and I find that this isn’t the only area of interest where this is missing.

But just as Lugones would have probably told me, if I were to run away from these communities, I would have gained nothing, and they would continue to go on as they are without me. I would have chosen to be silent, forget about my own roots, and nothing would have changed.

In other words, there would be no dialogue.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of my subscribers who have seen my work as an anime reviewer may never even bother looking at this article, as it does depart from my usual blogging style. But to me, every post that I have ever written here, from older, analytical style anime reviews to fan fictions, from these philosophical editorials to poetry that I tried to do a long time ago, all of them have been fragments of my own, unadulterated thoughts, and at least in my head, they’ve always been in dialogue with each other.

The other day, I was looking back at a review I had done on the anime series Charlotte, and how I chronicled the fear that comes with growing up. Reading that side by side with my thoughts on Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I came to realize that it was almost too late for me, that I had become the adult that I feared becoming, all within such a short amount of time!

I suppose if you were to attempt to analyze how my brain works, you will find plenty of traces of multiple consciousnesses going on at once, with writing that practically attacks itself, from beginning to end. It’s probably why I’m not exactly trusted as a blogger, let alone a friend. A lot of these ideas that come out of here are simply that– ideas that have come into consciousness, that I have had to sort out myself in creative ways that only I can understand; and to the rest of you, a jumbled mess of personal experiences that come from anime and philosophy, or something.

But still, I continue to write this way. Why? Because every time I write, I am playing a dialogue in my head. And given the kinds of philosophical writings I have seen, this is nothing new.

Take anyone who has ever dealt with institutional philosophy in the Western world, and Plato will probably be referenced at least once. While Plato was definitely not the first and only philosopher to matter (though there are some philosophers who believe things like “everyone is a footnote to Plato”), his style of writing is blatantly told in dialogues. With characters such as children, politicians, religious leaders, women, and Socrates himself, Plato never seemed to have one voice in his works, but many. Although there is still plenty of dispute as to why that is, I think that Plato really understood –as many philosophers do– that a lot of these discussions that we have with other people are issues that everyone faces across all time periods, and no one person has a definitive answer on how things are or are not. Plato’s dialogues preserve the questions and mistakes that friends and colleagues of his made back in his time through these dialogues, even if he would ultimately draw upon his own conclusion later. Perhaps one of these “mistakes” in his time would have different meaning in our time, or any time or place, past, present, or future. And we would then have to reexamine what the entire dialogue meant to us or to our community once more.

And this is where I think philosophers like Plato are arguably one of the most prominent figures of philosophy today: their dialogues come to life.

But simply reading a philosophical text and writing about it isn’t what makes them come to life. The discourse as such comes from talking about it, too. Carefully considering what an other has to say, and listening for what might be true, as well as what’s ultimately fallible garbage (because let’s face it: no one ever gets everything right). I admit that I’m not always the easiest person to talk to, but I do like a good dialogue every now and then that’s not just in my head!

I try to keep the topics I talk about on my blog perennial and not so much related to hot-button issues, as nearly every other blogger, anime critic, or philosopher does. I don’t get paid well for this if at all, so it’s not like there’s any pressure for me to do so anyway!

Besides, even if one of these issues I bring up don’t sound like issues brought up in current events or temporary truths, believe me, they eventually will.

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