Dialogic vs. Dialectic

My use of the term “dialogic” is idiosyncratic and a synthesis of many sources, but essentially it is in contrast to dialectic, an ontology, epistemology, ethics and metaphysics that is twofold, open, everlastingly expansively inclusive, a conception of our whole humane being in two separate but entangled and interwoven whole underlying realities, and that evolution, history and progress is better understood, more robustly described and more promising of our social, humane, spiritual and democratic possibilities in terms of primary social goods of truth, justice, freedom, community, solidarity, and so on, if we are two underlying and ultimate cosmic, enduring, creative, rational, moral, ordering and sustaining foundations, not one. It is as easy as imagining our eternal God (for theists and faith-based peoples) and our illimitable Humanity (for non-theists and science-based peoples) as two lovers who are extraordinary participatory partners as “relational” peers among equals who compose the cosmos, creation and humanity together. Though unlike many I can’t speak with authority on their intent and wisdom, but I infer in looking at the history and contemporary scene of our world that they understood that a world of only one linear path and one way of complete communion of finite humanity with the infinite (the deep resonance of synecdoche or dialectic that we feel as a small part of the whole grandeur without and within us) would lead to unbound hubris, a will to power anointed with their own supreme authority, whether one, many of a vast dynamic equipoise of infinite differing inner lights, beloved communities, and thus: our Anthropocene intensifying and accelerating self-annihilating trajectory at worst; and the ongoing patterns of tearing each other to pieces not in spite of our faiths and sciences but because of them, for the patterns of the world reveal the more we cherish them, the more we need, desire and rationalize a full spectrum of dehumanizing cruelties, hatreds, violence and vanishing of one another.

Thus, as if two lovers in love not with themselves but with and in their creation and humanity and to ensure it comes to everlasting flourishing, they gave us a dialogic of “We Are” to give us two worlds, realities and via modernas, not one. For the dialectic of one great “I Am” or cosmic consciousness, absolute truth, one eternal God or illimitable Humanity (meaning infinite possibilities for human freedom and social flourishing) as the only right path, the only right way, truth and life, the one mind, one world, then greatness thesis that is hegemonic in our total modern world is clearly insufficient of the eternal germinal infinitude of their inspiring gracelove and divinehumanity. They thus gave us two inspired creations and humanities, two beautiful minds, not one. (This fact of two different kind of minds, which I argue is true of our evolutionary anthropology is being rediscovered on the frontiers of neuroscience and other disciplines; and please know I do not mean the popular “science” of left and right brain hemispheres.

And thus, as with Utopia and Four Major Tropes, the dialogic is a lyric key of two historical social, political, cultural, economic, linguistic, intellectual and artistic movements, worlds and via modernas, each exemplifying the doubling pattern of God and Humanity together.

This dialogic and dialectic framework enables us to apply it to every divide and opposition in a completely new and imaginative and fruitful way. We can now think of ways in time and space to accommodate what is irrational, transgressive, excluded and impossible in just one unitive and dialectic reality. We can bring together a great variety of old wine pairings and, in a matter of speaking, let both varietals flourish in their respective vineyards, even nourishing, challenging and astonishing one another with what both vineyards can do on their own but learning form the other and both can do together: Hegel and Marx, Buber and Barth, liberals and conservatives, Protestants and Catholics, those of unitive consciousness and those binary, and most importantly, cosmologies or ideologies centered on individuality, autonomy, sovereignty, universality, diversity, pluralism, native possessive ownership of the living earth and those of social intimacy and mutuality, “jolly relativity,” participatory partnering twofold democracy where all members are extraordinary differing equals among peers, and they are thundering, resonating, lyrically, poetic composers of the divine comedy, the realized utopian principles of hope, charity and perfect inclusion. Dialogic refers to the use of conversation or shared dialogue to explore the meaning of something. (This is as opposed to monologic which refers to one entity with all the information simply giving it to others without exploration and clarification of meaning through discussion.) The word dialogic relates to or is characterized by dialogue and its use. A dialogic is communication presented in the form of dialogue. Dialogic processes refer to implied meaning in words uttered by a speaker and interpreted by a listener. Dialogic works carry on a continual dialogue that includes interaction with previous information presented. The term is used to describe concepts in literary theory and analysis as well as in philosophy.

Along with dialogism, the term can refer to concepts used in the work of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, especially the texts Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics and The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin.

A dialogic process stands in contrast to a dialectic process (proposed by G. W. F. Hegel):

  • In a dialectic process describing the interaction and resolution between multiple paradigms or ideologies, one putative solution establishes primacy over the others. The goal of a dialectic process is to merge point and counterpoint (thesis and antithesis) into a compromise or other state of agreement via conflict and tension (synthesis). “Synthesis that evolves from the opposition between thesis and antithesis.”[2] Examples of dialectic process can be found in Plato’s Republic.
  • In a dialogic process, various approaches coexist and are comparatively existential and relativistic in their interaction. Here, each ideology can hold more salience in particular circumstances. Changes can be made within these ideologies if a strategy does not have the desired effect.

These two distinctions are observed in studies of personal identity, national identity, and group identity. Sociologist Richard Sennett has stated that the distinction between dialogic and dialectic is fundamental to understanding human communication. Sennett says that dialectic deals with the explicit meaning of statements, and tends to lead to closure and resolution. Whereas dialogic processes, especially those involved with regular spoken conversation, involve a type of listening that attends to the implicit intentions behind the speaker’s actual words. Unlike a dialectic process, dialogics often do not lead to closure and remain unresolved. Compared to dialectics, a dialogic exchange can be less competitive, and more suitable for facilitating cooperation.[3]

My theology of “dialogical” Christology of “differance,” which in part flows from Russian literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Derrida, offers hope for current and future generations who desire, no, demand, a compelling call to overcome this Anthropocene Beast consuming our world. My dialogic Christology is for me my “common sense” and beautiful way of being, seeing and relating in the world. I have always been both intrigued and confounded by the promise and problem of duality; my Cross is a Christian sufferingly joyous sense of liminality between finite man and infinite God as experience in two independent but entangled opposing worlds. I write and believe, therefore, out of a different frame of history and reality than those above, one of dialogical imagination and democratic hermeneutic.

Thus, I embrace “dialogic” as a literary criticism and interpretive way of seeing “in Christ” for its balm of generous and loving openness to the often-searing certitudes and realist politics of the “dialectical method.” I embrace its treasures of multivocal and carnivalesque voices in the past, as well as the present and future, in contrast to authoritative and insistent ones of dialectical narratives. I find it altogether more joyously anticipatory and corresponding with bold humility of sciences who see the limit of their reach “the beginning of infinity.” And so, my influence also includes the evolving ferment in quantum physics and quantum computing, its own conceptual understanding of the objective universe as having two “ontological realities” that are independent and complementary (e.g. particle/wave theory of matter). We too then should acknowledge our being and consciousness in this world and find that is emerging revolutionary language of breaking the code of the binary system and robust framework as revelatory of our own desire and resonance for describing God’s activity and presence in the world as fully as possible!!

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