a diversion into Bohmian Dialogue

by o0o0o0o0o0o0o

 (through wikipedia of course)

 

Bohm has introduced the concept of a dialogue stating that[1]

dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks.

These “banks” are understood as representing the various points of view of the participants.

In practical terms, a Bohm dialogue, twenty to forty participants sit in a circle for a few hours during regular meetings, or for a few days in a workshop environment. This is done with no predefined purpose, no agenda, other than that of inquiring into the movement of thought, and exploring the process of “thinking together” collectively. This activity can allow group participants to examine their preconceptions and prejudices, as well as to explore the more general movement of thought. Bohm’s intention regarding the suggested minimum number of participants was to replicate a social/cultural dynamic (rather than a family dynamic). This form of dialogue seeks to enable an awareness of why communicating in the verbal sphere is so much more difficult and conflict-ridden than in all other areas of human activity and endeavor.

Participants in the Bohmian form of dialogue “suspend” their beliefs, opinions, impulses, and judgments while speaking together, in order to see the movement of the group’s thought processes and what their effects may be. According to Dialogue a Proposal [Bohm, Factor, Garrett], this kind of dialogue should not be confused with discussion or debate, both of which, says Bohm, suggest working towards a goal or reaching a decision, rather than simply exploring and learning. Meeting without an agenda or fixed objective is done to create a “free space” for something new to happen.

“…it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.” David Bohm

David Bohm:

Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have ENGAGED in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process. Why does thought require attention? Everything requires attention, really. If we ran machines without paying attention to them, they would break down. Our thought, too, is a process, and it requires attention, otherwise it’s going to go wrong.

In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not, in general, respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the 2nd person replies, the 1st person sees a Difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering this difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together. (from On Dialogue)

It seems then that the main trouble is that the other person is the one who is prejudiced and not listening. After all, it is easy for each one of us to see that other people are ‘blocked’ about certain questions, so that without being aware of it, they are avoiding the confrontation of contradictions in certain ideas that may be extremely dear to them. The very nature of such a ‘block’ is, however, that it is a kind of insensitivity or ‘anesthesia’ about one’s own contradictions. Evidently then, what is crucial is to be aware of the nature of one’s own ‘blocks’. If one is alert and attentive, he can see for example that whenever certain questions arise, there are fleeting sensations of fear, which push him away from consideration of those questions, and of pleasure, which attract his thoughts and cause them to be occupied with other questions. So, one is able to keep away from whatever it is that he thinks may disturb him. And as a result, he can be subtle at defending his own ideas, when he supposes that he is really listening to what other people have to say. When we come together to talk, or otherwise to act in common, can each one of us be aware of the subtle fear and pleasure sensations that ‘block’ the ability to listen freely?

Taking reference to the work of Bohm and Peat Science, Order and Creativity, Arleta Griffor – noted by Paavo Pylkkänen for her “deep and extensive knowledge of Bohm’s philosophy”[2] and member of the research group of Bohm’s co-worker Basil Hiley – underlines the importance of the kind of listening involved in the Bohm dialogue and points to Bohm’s statement that

“a thoroughgoing suspension of tacit individual and cultural infrastructures, in the context of full attention to their contents, frees the mind to move in new ways … The mind is then able to respond to creative new perceptions going beyond the particular points of view that have been suspended.”[3]

Griffor emphasizes that in conventional discussion “the self-defensive activity of each participant’s idiosyncracy […] prevents listening”[4] and that, in contrast, giving full attention to what the other participants mean can free the mind from socio-cultural accumulation, allow a free flow of meaning between people in a dialogue and give rise to shared perception and the creation of shared meaning in the sense of shared significance, intention, purpose and value.[5]

Advertisements