Appendix B: What is Dialogue?

Communication between people is formally always two-sided, but basically it can be both one-sided and two-sided:

1. There is the BASICALLY ONE-SIDED USE OF LANGUAGE, in which, starting from different starting-points, people try to arrive at some common denominator, i.e. they want to understand each other so as to agree about something. This use of language can be divided in the following way according to different starting-points:

a. Teaching: the transmission of knowledge from teacher to pupil, which is determined above all by the natural need for child-rearing.
b. Technical conversation: the transmission of information required for those daily routines in which we have to cooperate with each other.
c. Persuasion: an open or covert (indirect, political, diplomatic) attempt to create in others commitment to something (a fact, an idea, an aim); or its opposite, the attempt to put other people off something.
d. Recounting: what is generally, but mistakenly, thought to be dialogue, in which people describe to each other their experiences and thoughts, with the aim of creating connecting links that build up an illusory sense of community, of acquaintanceship, or, when developed further, friendship – in order to escape a fundamentally pervasive feeling of alienation.
e. Entertainment: the same as recounting, only more one-sided.
f. Idle chatter: routinely maintains acquaintanceship.

2. Then there is the BASICALLY TWO-SIDED USE OF LANGUAGE, the real dia-logue, in which people, definitively agreeing, as a matter of self-evidence, that they have the same common human nature, and thus experiencing each other as having the same starting-point, use language to preserve this idea of fundamental likeness, this same common starting-point, both across the generations and in the differentiated conduct of everyday life.

This use of language can occur only exceptionally as things stand today because of the double identity – that is, an acquired identity superimposed on the natural identity – that we regard as normal and from which we therefore make no effort to escape. Nowadays this double identity only tends to disappear, and then just temporarily, in situations of collective catastrophe, allowing the natural identity alone to operate for that period.

The basic mistake in modern thinking is the theory that we cannot recognize human nature: that we cannot know what we by Nature are. This theory conserves and accelerates insecurity and impotence, as well as feelings of alienation, loneliness, isolation and suspicion in relation to one another.