3.1166 electronic discourse, cont. (91)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 13 Mar 90 23:33:51 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1166. Tuesday, 13 Mar 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 13 Mar 90 15:50:20 EST (52 lines)
From: Geoffrey Rockwell <Geoffrey_Rockwell@poczta.utcs.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Etercourse

(2) Date: Tue, 13 Mar 90 18:18:00 EST (19 lines)
Subject: Re: 3.1163 electronic communication, cont. (73)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 90 15:50:20 EST
From: Geoffrey Rockwell <Geoffrey_Rockwell@poczta.utcs.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Etercourse

It occurs to me that e-discourse has features of the symposium. The
symposium is the classical model for written dialogue that is most often
contrasted to the Socratic crossexamination. Cicero's dialogues are all
collegial discussions in which the speakers, instead of hammering away
at each other, make longer careful speeches. The symposium model as it
was taken up in the Renaissance (and by people like Augustine) was used
to present an issue from more than one side. There is no clear winner
as there is in the Socratic cross-examination. Instead one has a
collection of positions presented often in rural settings by friends.
(The Socratic dialogues are urban - in the Agora - the Ciceronian
dialogues seem to take place between rhetoreticians on vacation at their
villas.) An issue discussed in a symposium is not resolved in as clear
a way as any other academic work. The issues is left on the surface,
unresolved, but other issues are resolved while the primary one is left
open. Often the symposium is used to make arguments of character:
"Even if we do not agree about the existence of God we are all similar
in moral character and can get along." Witness Hume's dialogue where
the real issue seems to be whether scepticism is an acceptable character.

How do these ramblings relate to your interests? Often what takes place
on line has the character of a symposium. Somebody - often a more
experienced e-character, proposes that X subject be discussed. (This is
a role you often play, like Augustine giving his students something to
argue about. There is to both the symposium and e-discourse a feeling
of artifice when a subject is proposed and then discussed.) There then
follow a series of positions on the subject - as opposed to fast
dialogue. These positions are often well formed - rhetorically
polished. They are also in everyday language - as opposed to the
specialized languages fo the disciplines - (the symposium, both because
of its party aspect and its rhetorical nature is committed to everyday
language.) The subject is often left unresolved, but, when the
e-discourse goes well, we all feel we have profited from the
disagreement and that we can disagree in a civil fashion. On one level
what is being reinforced is that we get along despite the distance and

What Grassi is trying to do sounds like the Ciceronian-Renaissance
symposium - without the political character. (Cicero's dialogues have
an Imperial design, which appealed to the Renaissance thinkers.) Your
work lacks the imperial aspect - in fact it is essentially

Geoffrey R

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------190---
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 90 18:18:00 EST
Subject: Re: 3.1163 electronic communication, cont. (73)

One might wish to step back for a moment from e-mail to the keyboard.
It was on ly a couple of years ago that the recently-offed dictator of
Rumania required t hat every TYPEWRITER be registered once a year. I
suppose NC thought that ifn Alger Hiss could be convicted on the basis
of the broken edge of one letter in a typewriter that produced documents
to be hidden in pumpkins, it means that a ny one who wrote at all, those
traitorous clercs! could be caught with such evi dence. Anyone who
wants to control something will do so, and the means of contr ol of a
powerful State, Marxist or...pseudoMarxist (like the DDR), will exert w
arfare against all classes on its own behalf. That is a lesson that was
learned by some at the time of the Kronstadt Rebellion, and still be
learned by far t oo many American would-be dialectical materialists, who
have only their colleau gues &the poor students to hector with their
primitive materialist dogmatics.
Kessler at UCLA.