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Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Unperceived Ideol. Transship. and Dial.

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D. Indirect and Reflexive Effects of the Talismanic Word

 

We now turn to the second group of effects, in which the psychological fermentation produced by the talismanic word has an effect on the word itself.

Actually a process of mutual radicalization, this interaction then affects the very manner of conducting the dialogue.

If we imagine two "dialoguers" in which this interaction occurs, we see that they will gradually change not only the successive ways of dialoguing but the very content of the dialogue.

This process takes the "dialoguers" through several phases, from irenicism all the way to Hegelian relativism.

 

a) First Effect ‑ The Radicalization of the Word "Dialogue": New and more Radical Talismanic Meanings

 

How does the influence of this psychological fermentation operate in the word?

Whoever strives to mount the heights of celebrity on the wings of the word "dialogue" will soon realize that the different applications of this word bring an unequalled yield in popularity.

Sometimes, the word yields very little, and it seems opaque to the public. But under different conditions the talisman shines before all with its full brilliance.

As a rule, the exploiter of the talismanic word ‑ and of the public ‑ will feel this without being able to explain it, and consequently begin to prefer some applications over others. If he is a bit talented, he will force the natural flexibility of the word by giving it a growing number of fascinating and profitable uses.

Why is the talisman more radiant in some applications than in others? Manipulated thus by the experts of this linguistics, what is the refulgent pole with which it tends to identify itself?

What we could call the radiant force immanent in the talismanic word "dialogue" makes itself felt more when used to insinuate that the myth of a regenerative, collectivist, and sentimental love, imagined as the directive force of a new world, is true, desirable, and viable. This myth is the pole towards which the talismanic word tends. Dialogue, in its ultimate and most hidden magical meanings, is the language of this love.

In the different stages of this quest for the ultimate meaning, "dialogue" evolves to become increasingly identified with this myth.

 

b) Second Effect ‑ the Four Phases of the Process Toward Hegelian Relativism

 

Having described in a general way the interaction between the irenistic emotion and the talismanic word, we will now consider the various phases in which the forms and contents of the interlocution between persons of opposite convictions are processively modified, correspondingly modifying also the meaning of the talismanic word.

Before beginning the process, the speakers desire to convince each other through arguments.

The basic objective of each party is therefore to conquer the other for truth. They will thus achieve a precious good between themselves: unity, presented legitimately as the fruit of truth and which therefore cannot be conceived or aimed at except through possession of truth.

 

First PhaseHypertrophy of Cordiality in ArgumentDialogue: the Talismanic Word is Born

 

Let us imagine that an irenistic emotional fermentation can be observed in speakers disposed to argue. This fermentation, which preludes the appearance of the talismanic word "dialogue," consists in an ardent emotional desire for universal concord of minds and for peace in all areas of human relations.

This desire is such that it will only be satisfied when the speakers have finally reached a completely irenical and relativistic conception of man, life and the cosmos.

From the emotional point of view, the speakers are thus already potentially conquered by irenicism in favor of relativism, and, as we shall see, for its most radical form, Hegelian relativism.

Though true from the emotional point of view, this is not true with regard to ideas.

The speakers still admit the existence of an objective truth which each supposes himself to possess, while imputing objective error to the other.

Logically, the tenor of their relationship regarding the debated theme can only be argument.

This argument, even while still amiable, is imbued with a note of pugnacity. Now, this note of pugnacity is in severe conflict with the emotional state of the two speakers.

There is a conflict, then, between the logically necessary procedureargument ‑ and the type of relations that the persons in question would like to maintain between themselves. From this conflict results the first change in this type of relations.

Without realizing it, the parties desire unity more than truth.

As a consequence of these emotional dispositions, each one of them is led to believe that the other is always in good faith. Each believes that the outcome of his effort of persuasion depends only on the elimination of the other's resentments.

Therefore, both reject argument pure and simple as well as polemics, and only conceive argument as a refined, smooth form of argumentdialogue. But this form still has an element of pugnacity which displeases the irenistic emotionality.

As a consequence, this irenistic emotionality distorts the meaning of argument-dialogue by over‑emphasizing the note of cordiality and under‑emphasizing the note of pugnacity. The initial distortion in the type of relations between the two parties is thus accentuated.

The argumentdialogue does not aim principally to obtain truth, and through that, unity; now it seeks mainly unity through cordiality in relations between the speakers. The conquest of truth through argument is only secondary.

In this way the word "dialogue" undergoes the first distortion. It comes to mean argumentdialogue conceived irenistically and takes on an irenotalismanic sense that glows with all the appeal of the irenistic myth.

The talismanic dialogue (the distorted argumentdialogue) is now dialogue only by antonomasia.

Here we give a concrete example to make it easier for the reader to study the process of talismanic distortion of the word "dialogue" considered in the abstract. The enunciation of each phase of the process in abstracto will be followed by the description of its corresponding phase in concreto.

Let us imagine a Thomist and an existentialist who are colleagues in a university, and so have many opportunities to discuss their philosophical differences. Also, the two professors frequently have arguments for the sake of entertainment while maintaining all the social relations customary between colleagues.

As for their differences, the Thomist identifies himself with truth and reason. The existentialist disagrees with the Thomist position. Each wants to persuade the other, and they consider argument as the normal way to do this.

Let us imagine further that the Thomist, desiring to convince the other party, is motivated not only by a legitimate apostolic intention but also an ardent irenistic desire for union.

At a certain point this desire overcomes his zeal, and our Thomist begins to desire unity more than truth in his argument with the existentialist.

This inversion of aims has an immediate effect on the way he views his colleague. He will naively convince himself that his colleague is attached to existentialism because of a simple mistake and certain resentments against Thomism and ultimately against the Church. For the speaker bitten by the fly of irenicism, the other party always behaves in the argument as if he were conceived without original sin and incapable of a disorderly and vicious attachment to error.

This results in a repercussion of the irenic tendency over the procedure followed by the Thomist. If the existentialist's main obstacle to accepting the truth is resentment, the main thing in the argument is to prevent this resentment from remaining or becoming aggravated. The Thomist then presumes that his interlocutor will repudiate as always dangerous or unjust both argument pure and simple and polemic and that he will only accept argumentdialogue when dealing with controversial issues.

In argumentdialogue our Thomist, because of irenicism, will aim principally at unity, and only secondarily at truth.

He will call this type of argument, "dialogue," to insinuate that it is just as free from pugnacity as dialogueinvestigation and dialogueentertainment.

Thus the talismanic word "dialogue" comes forth overflowing with pacifist cordiality. "Dialogue" represents the first form of the irenistic relations between the two professors, and it glitters with the many seductions of the pacifist myth, accentuating our Thomist's irenic ardor and drawing him towards new variations in the way he considers talismanic dialogue and puts it into practice.

 

Second PhaseIrenistic Cordiality Invades DialogueEntertainment and Dialogueinvestigation: Meaning of the Talismanic Word Is Broadened

 

Undergoing changes in the first phase, the talismanic word affects the irenistic emotional fermentation, and this increased fermentation begins to impress a new and broadened meaning on the talismanic word. This is the essence of the second phase.

The irenistic interlocutor, gripped by the hidden content of the talismanic word ‑the irenic mythuses the talismanic word for everything like a toy whose enchantment grows as he plays with it.

The relationship between persons separated by a point of difference is not reduced to that difference. This relationship can legitimately include dialogues of investigation about other matters, and dialogues of entertainment about still others. These forms of relations can also legitimately have a favorable repercussion over argumentdialogue to the degree they contribute to preventing it from being jeopardized by the resentments and personal antipathies that so often unfortunately arise.

So the irenistic interlocutors are led to make their dialogues of investigation and entertainment more irenist, giving them the same talismanic meaning incubated in argumentdialogue during the previous phase.

What is the irenistic distortion of dialogues of entertainment and investigation? In these types of dialogue, the irenistic speakers come to underestimate the natural purpose of entertainment and investigation and to irenistically overestimate the factor of cordiality. Thus the speakers conduct dialogue to produce an intense warming of affections, and entertainment and investigation come to serve as mere pretexts.

This warming up ‑ which they hope will help persuasion ‑ will work over the point of difference a unifying and syncretistic action more useful than exchanging arguments in a smooth irenistic dialogue, which still conserves remnants of pugnacity.

As the irenicist increasingly exaggerates the importance of the cordiality factor in persuasion, he is led to confide more and more in dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation, while considering argumentdialogue entirely secondary or even dangerous and disturbing.

This change in the structure of relations between the irenical speakers corresponds to a new stage in the evolution of the talismanic word "dialogue."

Because the most dynamic element of this talismanic word is irenistic, it extends itself from irenistic argumentdialogue to the two other "irenicized" forms of interlocution.

The talismanic word thus gradually encompasses all the types of relations between speakers susceptible to irenistic impregnation.

In other words, besides the irenistic influence, dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation can be forms of relations instrumental to argumentdialogue and help to assure its continuation. But under the influence of irenicism, this order of values is inverted. Dialogueentertainment and dialogue-investigation begin to be seen as propulsory elements of the "persuasive" action, and argumentdialogue comes to have a secondary role that is instrumental, but uncomfortably so.

In this new hierarchy of values the talismanic word "dialogue" encompasses the three forms of interlocution mentioned above (argumentdialogue, dialogues of investigation and entertainment) and begins to incite the irenistic desires still further, giving rise to the third phase.

 

Concrete example: Under the note of irenicism instigated by the talismanic word "dialogue," our Thomist wants to convey the irenistic ferment to his other types of relations with the existentialist. Until now, these other forms (dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation) seemed to him extrinsic to the doctrinal controversy and only capable of helping keep the cordial treatment of matters outside the controversy and maintain the latter in a serene and elevated atmosphere.

But now the irenical Thomist begins to see things differently. To him the opportunities for investigation or entertainment no longer seem to be restricted to their natural end. As he is desirous of producing a coveted emotional neutralization in the existentialist, these opportunities for investigation and entertainment now come to serve as mere pretexts for feeding and increasing the irenic drive and the supreme, unconditional desire for unity existing in the existentialist.

Thus all the forms of interlocution susceptible to irenic impregnation (dialogueentertainment, dialogue-investigation, argumentdialogue) come together under the banner of irenicism.

Meanwhile, argumentdialogue, being less suitable for irenistic warming‑up, and even dangerous because of its pugnacity, loses its principal role. To the degree it dissipates doctrinal errors it comes to have a disturbing and dangerous instrumental function in a network of relations whose main goal is to increase cordiality.

Feeling and seeing things in this way, our Thomist continues to dialogue. But how dialogue is different for him now from what it was in the previous phase! For this labor of calefaction, he avoids controversy as much as possible with the existentialist and puts all his effort into focusing on what is common to both Thomism and existentialism with indefatigable insistence, scrutinizing the most insignificant details ‑ what he calls the "existentialist aspects of Thomism." In this way our Thomist tries to decorate the austere Aquinan habit with a Kierkegaardian flamula and to put Saint Thomas in the cohort of admirers Kierkegaard had even before he was born.

Our inventive, irenic Thomist understands that a common enmity is at times the best cement for a precarious and budding friendship. He will seek to attack any vein of "essentialism" that he might find in one philosopher or another more ardently than the most dedicated existentialist. In this "crusade" without a cross, our Thomist is clearly not an irenicist in relation to "essentialism," whatever form or degree it may take; but he is irenicist when it comes to promote irenicism in relation to existentialism.

Our irenistic Thomist still has one fear. He is afraid that the existentialist might suspect him of connivance with some unlucky Thomist brothers who are fighting existentialism, so he attacks these Thomists as the most dangerous of all essentialists.

These are the wiles of talismanic dialogue in this second phase.

The talismanic word dialogue gradually came to designate the whole panorama of irenistic dialogues, with the predominance of the dialogues of entertainment and investigation over argumentdialogue.

 

Third PhaseIrenistic Cordiality Results in Relativism: The Talismanic Word Takes On an Entirely Relativistic Meaning

 

The two previous phases developed under the banner of irenicism. However, the third phase is clearly relativistic.

Until now, the objective of interlocution under the pressure of irenicism was to increase unity and at the same time diminish the desire for truth. In the third phase, the desire for unity induces the interlocutors to overlook differences in order to obtain truth. To achieve this, the speakers both decide that there is no objective truth or objective error and that everything is relative.

The kind of relationship between the speakers consequently changes.

Once relativism appears, true argument becomes impossible; when the speakers deal with the matter in question, they are no longer involved in a true argument because of the very fact that it is done under the auspices of relativism.

Since the passage from simple irenicism to relativism is often unperceived, the parties could imagine themselves to be arguing and even call their interlocution "argument. " However, argument-dialogue proper has actually ceased to exist; there only remain accidental and transitory differences which are inherent to dialogueinvestigation (Chap. IV, 1, B, j).

This relativist transformation of the speakers' relationship now effects a new distortion of the talismanic word dialogue. From being simply irenistic, the meaning of this word becomes relativistic; thus it ceases to include argumentdialogue in order to encompass only dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation.

As the talismanic word dialogue approaches the myth of the era of good will, it appears to be ever more alluring and brilliant to the irenistic relativists. It increases the intensity of the desire for unity and thus prepares the ground for the next phase.

 

Concrete example: Impelled from one refinement to another along the paths of irenicism by the talismanic word, our Thomist takes another step in his endeavor to dialogue.

He now begins to consider groundless the doctrinal differences that in the previous phase he had so under-emphasized in favor of the points of convergence. He begins to see these differences as having truth and error on both sides and being more a matter of formulation than substance. Ultimately, he sees one global "truth," as completely relative, residually present in the most contrary formulations, and serving as the substractum of a varied and indefinitely mutable reality.

With a magnifying glass our irenicist begins to look for passages of Saint Thomas that appear to justify his relativism when taken out of context. He has already ceased to be a Thomist, except for the fact that he has the hope or illusion of finding presages of Kierkegaard in Saint Thomas. But in reality nothing of the Thomist remains. Perhaps without realizing what has happened in his mind, he has become a dedicated relativist.

This inner transformation is followed by a change in his relations with the existentialist. In this phase in which irenicism becomes relativism, he eliminates argumentdialogue, which in the former phase he regarded as the ball and chain on a prisoner's foot. The relations with the existentialist are thus reduced to irenistic dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation.

Further, this Thomist who is no longer a Thomist may still call the types of interlocution "argument," but in reality they have nothing in common with this mode of interlocution.

The talismanic word dialogue designating the irenistic relations as they are practiced in each stage, no longer includes argumentdialogue and refers only to the two other types of irenistic dialogue now impregnated with relativistic ideas.

To dialogue talismanically in this phase is thus to practice radical relativism. Further exciting irenistic cravings in our Thomist, the euphoria of dialoging and the talismanic prestige of irenicorelativist dialogue now prepare him for the fourth phase.

 

Fourth PhaseIrenistic Relativism Is Now Structured in Terms of Hegelianism: The Talismanic Word Assumes the Meaning of Hegelian "Play"

 

In this phase relativism, which is the plenitude and not the contrary of irenicism, receives an enrichment that is not contrary to it, but rather gives it plenitude. Avid to take relativism to its final consequences, the speakers are no longer content with a purely negative relativism that merely seeks to wear away and destroy the concepts of objective truth and objective error. This is because what is merely negative is repugnant to human nature. Thus, moving to the positive phase, the interlocutors now desire to structure a complete relativistic vision of man, society, and the universe.

In this phase truth, already accepted as something relative, comes to be seen as a product of an eternal dialectic.

After assuming the character of mere entertainment and investigation, dialogue begins to be practiced as a "ludus" in which both parties admit that decantation of the truth will take place through dialogue, just as the clash of thesis and antithesis produces synthesis. The last stage of the talismanic distortion of the word "dialogue" is thus produced: the Hegelian stage.

One can easily see that the clash of thesis and antithesis, caused by men of "good will" impregnated with the irenistic myth, will essentially be a cordial "ludus," becoming more cordial as it develops into successive stages.

The clash of thesis with antithesis can, at times, assume the form of argument pure and simple, or even of polemics, but it will not have their substance since it does not presuppose an absolute antagonism between truth and error or good and evil. Consequently, irenistic dialogue does not aim to change the persuasion of any of the parties; it seeks to produce the elevation of both to a "truth" on a higher level.25

 

Concrete example: The irenical Thomist in our example cannot, in his ardor, be content with a merely negative relativism. He endeavors to build an internal dynamic to explain the relations between the thousand opposite formulations in which, to him, "truth" appears to reside.

Above all, he hopes to find something in these relations that tends to eliminate opposition to achieve unity.

He cannot conceive of this elimination as he would have before starting the talismanic process: a condemnation, based on reason, of all formulations but one that is proclaimed as the only wholly true one.

Furthermore, he is faced with a palpable fact: these opposite formulations are found to be continually and irremediably clashing.

Irremediable? Or is this clash the remedy? Our Thomist is only too happy to answer yes. From the clash of opposite relative "truths" a superseding synthesis would be produced, and through new frictions with antithetical formulations this synthesis would produce new ones resulting in a grandiose process of universal distillation of "truths" and "truth."

Well understood, contrary to the "antipathetic" and "discriminatory" manner of medieval Thomism, this distillation would neither condemn nor exclude any thing. Everything would be fraternally and lovingly absorbed in the production of successive syntheses.

Our irenical Thomist now sees Thomism itself as one of the formulations of "truth' contributing fragrant doctrinal incense to this process of universal ideological composition.

Perhaps he still considers himself Thomist. Perhaps he also undertakes the task of mutilating the work of Saint Thomas, tearing fragments from it with violent arbitrarity that helps him give the XX Century a "new view" of Saint Thomas: the common doctor seen inside out.

But in reality it is easy to see that fascinated by the irenic myth and soaring on the wings of the talismanic word, our Thomist has been transformed into a real Hegelian with just a smattering of Thomism.

How surprised our Thomist would have been in the beginning of the process if he had been able to imagine that at the end of an unperceived evolution, guided by the talismanic word "dialogue" acting as an evil star, he would have reached Hegelianism, that view of reality which he formerly regarded as the contrary of everything in philosophy that he recognized as true!

 

 




25 Could it be said that, in the Hegelian phase, all forms of interlocution between persons of different ideological positions (therefore, dialogueentertainment, dialogueinvestigation, argumentdialogue, discussion pure and simple, and polemics) continue to exist in appearance but in reality become reduced to mere forms of Hegelian "ludus"?

Strictly speaking to admit this it would be necessary to insist that each one of these modes of interlocution, to the degree it is impregnated with a "Indic" sense has an extrinsic resemblance to the same mode taken in its legitimate sense (cf. Chap. IV, 1, B).

Once this is admitted we see no obstacle to saying "yes" to the question. But an analysis of these extensive perspectives would require another work.






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