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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Conversation and animation

I've been thinking about what is at stake in conversations. Conversations are frictions of perspectives - they could involve many or just two parts, but not one. They are very different from simple apprehensions of information - something like a mirror image of what is being conveyed. In fact, conversations are not really about conveying anything, monologues get a message through, conversations have a different geometry. Grice's implicatures show that in a conversation interaction there are expectations built both from the conversation history and from the very structure of what a relevant, cooperative, well-mannered, qualitative and quantitative contributive dialogue is supposed to be. What is said in a conversation wouldn't mean the same or even make sense outside the frame of that conversation - contexts are part of the message. It seems further that there is no message without context (and no capture without coordination) for often the only way to find out is to go and have a chat.

As part of the project of a linguistic turn of 360 degree, I was thinking of replacing the model of access (to the external world, to things, to the great outdoors) with one of conversation. Granted, conversations are types of relations (and correlations). Yet they have different features. In a conversation (like in alliances or negotiations), both parts are expecting, assuming, coordinating - they are both experimenting. Conversation is an image of animation - and not one of extracting data from a corpse (from what Whitehead calls "nature" in Modes of Thought - what is devoid of impulse). If we consider bits of a conversation, we can consider them in the age of the correlate and therefore either hostages to one part's spontaneity or escaping from it imagining a correlation that is absolute. But if we somehow exorcise this temptation to isolate parts of the ongoing conversation with the world, we can stop thinking knowledge and aboutness in terms of access and start thinking in terms of conversations. We could exorcise the temptation to isolate bits of the conversation because that would be a perverse way to fall prey of the Whiiteheadian myth of the finite facts according to which a fact could be just a fact. Facts appear only in conversations. Our partner in a conversation can be somehow absolute, but only as much as we are absolute in our engagement in the talking. To know (or to think through) something would be then something closer to talking than to viewing (or contemplating).

Now, if this model could be worked out, it would be a model not only of our knowledge and thinking about the world, but maybe also an image of how things end up being the way they are. If each thing has a perspective on all the rest, each one is arguably in engaged in conversation with the rest where renegotiation is always taking place. They are all in a multifaceted, ongoing, perhaps an entretien infini.

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