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

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B. Natural and Legitimate Meanings


a) Preparatory Character


This part of the study is preparatory in scope.

For the reader to thoroughly understand the precise analysis of the talismanic process which we will make later on, it would be helpful to:

clearly distinguish, in light of the natural and legitimate meanings of "dialogue," the difference between that in which the first talismanic distortion occurs, and the others;

keep clearly in mind the components of the legitimate meaning in which the first distortion occurs to better understand the transformations these elements undergo in each stage of the talismanic radicalization.


b) The Multiplicity of Legitimate Meanings


Analyzing the current meanings of the word "dialogue" and others connected with it, such as "dialectic ... .. argument," "polemics," etc., we can see that they are often very different and, from a certain point of view, sometimes contradictory. This occurs in all circles, regardless of the degree of education. As the years pass, the emotional burden associated with some of these words changes their meaning, with the result that persons from different generations understand them in different ways. From one region to another, and more justifiably, from one country to another, perceptible variations of meaning at times occur.

Incidentally, this phenomenon is not confined to common usage, since in philosophical language the word "dialectic," for example, has so many meanings that it is impossible to use it without determining precisely which meaning it is to have (see "Dialectique," Vocabulaire Technique et Critique de la Philosophie by A. Lalande).


c) How to Study These Meanings


It seems that the best way to study the various legitimate meanings of "dialogue" would be to list, study and compare each of them with the others.

However, since the nature of this work is not preponderantly linguistic, we will proceed quickly and clearly by showing a basic element in the etymology of "dialogue" that appears in all its accepted meanings, then classifying these latter according to the twofold criterion that we will indicate later.

This method gives us a picture of the word's meanings and allows us to put in the right perspective and with the necessary precision the legitimate meanings that will be distorted by the talismanic process.


d) Criteria for Classification


Classification of the different meanings of the word "dialogue" is made:

‑ according to the objective of dialogue;

‑ in light of the consequences to dialogue arising from the emotional attitude of those who dialogue.

With this it will be easy to see how a different meaning corresponds to each of these modalities.


e) Terminology


It will be easier for the reader to follow our study when each of these classified meanings is accompanied by a complementary explicative word, a kind of terminology for greater clarity.


f) Selection of Meanings


It is possible that some legitimate meanings of "dialogue" are not included in this classification. It was not our intention to consider all of them, but only those that are more pertinent to the criteria of classification, that is, to the very nature of dialogue.


g) An Important Reservation


It is easy to see that it matters little in understanding our thesis if the reader prefers different classification criteria or is disappointed at the lack of some other meaning of dialogue in ours.

Indeed, the classification we propose has a merely propaedeutic character. Our exposition can be easily understood and followed once the reader has in mind the several accepted meanings of "dialogue" here made explicit with the help of the unvarying complementary words of our terminology.


h) Etymology of "Dialogue"


The Greek word dialogos is composed of dia, meaning "separation" or "disjunction," and logos, meaning "word." Thus "dialogue" is used in Socrates and Plato to designate the form of intellectual elaboration that two or more speakers, proceeding by questions and answers, use to distinguish things according to their genus.12


Based on this etymology, it is easy to see how in all the languages of the West the word "dialogue" (according to the dictionaries) has come to broadly apply to any kind of conversation.13


i) Modalities of Dialogue According to its Objective


A distinction should first be made about dialogue in the broad sense, the value of which will become apparent as the exposition proceeds. According to its objective, dialogue:


1. is either such that the speakers do not intend to change each other's persuasion, which can occur:

‑ ‑ when it merely seeks the exchange of information or to entertain the parties (dialogueentertainment);

‑ when it seeks the collaboration of the parties for the investigation or analysis of a matter that both understand insufficiently (dialogueinvestigation);


2. Or, that the speakers differ on a certain subject and each one seeks, by argument, to persuade the other to change his conviction (argument).14


j) Corresponding Differences of Emotional Attitude


To these different intentions and objectives correspond respectively diverse emotional attitudes in the persons who dialogue:


1. When the speakers do not aim to change each other's opinions, the emotional attitude is one of relaxation.

This relaxation is complete and continuous in "dialogueentertainment."

It is also complete in the case of "dialogueinvestigation;" but as some accidental and transitory differences can arise during the investigation, some passing tension might appear.15


2. In the case of "argument," the emotional attitude of the speakers generally has a different character: differences of conviction create a heterogeneity between the two that is in itself an obstacle to their linking with one another; the argumentation which each one uses to convince the other can easily provoke a tone of relations more or less like a fight, depending on the case.

Thus, dialogue has two fundamental modalities: one distinguished by its objective; the other by the emotional aspect of the relationship of one speaker to the other.


k) Dialogue in the Broad Sense, the Strict Sense, and Argument


The word "argument" is entirely suited to the mode of dialogue described above in point 2 of items (i) and (j).

But how does one designate the form of dialogue in number (1) of those items? It is also called "dialogue" and there is no word to distinguish it.

Along with the broad and etymological meaning already analyzed, let a strict meaning of the word thus be formed to designate mode no. (1) (which includes "dialogue-entertainment" and "dialogueinvestigation").

What is the position of the word "argument" in view of these two meanings of "dialogue"? "Argument" designates one of the modalities of dialogue in the broad sense. "Argument" is the contrary of "dialogue" in the strict sense of the word, just as the species within the genus are distinguished and opposed.


l) Argumentdialogue, Argument Pure and Simple and Polemics


There are also distinctions to make regarding argument, which has three degrees of intensity:


1. Argument can have an extremely serene and cordial character, so that, while fully keeping the content of an argument, it has the amenable appearance of dialogue in the strict sense. But since each speaker is seeking to change the persuasion of the other, we should keep in mind that we are witnessing a true argument and not a dialogue in the strict sense. This mode of "argument" resembles dialogue in the strict sense only in something accidental, that is, in its form and suavity. Thus, it is not only in the broad sense that the term "dialogue" is applied to this type of argument; it is also applied in a specific and particular way derived, as if by osmosis or assimilation, from the mere accidental likeness of dialogue in the strict sense to this mode of argument. We therefore call this argumentdialogue."


2. In the second degree, argument has the normal emotional warmth inherent to the interlocution in which each party wants to change the persuasion of the other. To this mode ‑‑ which corresponds to the ordinary meaning of the word "argument" ‑‑ we will give the name "argument pure and simple;"


3. Finally, argument can become very heated emotionally, and in this case is called "polemics" (from the Greek polemos, war). Because of its particular vehemence, polemics generally has a boisterous, noisy character and easily falls into personal attack when dealing with doctrine.16


m) Schematic Diagram of the Legitimate Meanings of "Dialogue"


These notions of the different meanings of "dialogue" are outlined below.


Dialogue in the strict senseInterlocution in which each party does not aim to change the persuasion of the other. Relaxed emotional attitude.


Dialogue in the broad and etymological sense Indicates any type of interlocution.


Argument Interlocution in which each party tries to change the persuasion of the other. Emotional attitude can easily be that of a fight.


Dialogueentertainment Aims to inform, entertain, etc. Emotional attitude of total and continuous relaxation.


Dialogueinvestigation Aims to investigate, study, analyze. Habitually, the emotional attitude is of relaxation. Nevertheless, accidental and transitory tension is possible.


Argumentdialogue Emotional warmth less than usual. The content is truly an argument since it aims to change the persuasion of the interlocutor. It is only called "dialogue" because of its accidental similarity to dialogue in the strict sense.


Argument Pure and Simple Emotional warmth common to the pugnacity inherent to the interlocution in which each party desires to change the persuasion of the other.


ArgumentPolemics (or merely "polemics")Uncommonly heated emotionally, that is, particularly vehement and boisterous.


n) Characteristic common to the many meanings of "dialogue".*


Except when taken in the broad sense, "dialogue" obviously carries a note of harmony, concord and peace in its various applications.

This note of harmony is inherent to dialogue strictosensu that is, to dialogue-entertainment and dialogueinvestigation, to which an emotional attitude of complete relaxation is proper.

As we have seen, argument can only be called "dialogue" by analogy, when it has this note of harmony to an outstanding degree, thus becoming argumentdialogue. However mild it may be, an argument-dialogue will never be a dialogue in the strict sense, a note of pugnacity being inherent to all and any argument.


12 To us, dialectic as conceived by Aristotle, though inspired by Plato, does not appear to be closely related to our theme (cf. A. Lalande, op. cit., ibid.).

13 In treating "dialogue" in the encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, Paul VI uses the Latin word "colloquium" (loqui cum). The Portuguese equivalent, "colóquio," also serves to designate any interlocution in the broad sense of the term.

14 Contrary to argument and especially argumentinvestigation, dialogueentertainment has only a distant relationship with the platonic notion of dialogue.

15 If dialogueinvestigation includes occasional disagreements, what is the basis of its distinction from argument? Dialogueinvestigation does not examine a subject about which the interlocutors disagree, but rather one about which both are at least partially ignorant. Here disagreement is merely an occasional and sporadic episode relative to some aspect of investigation. The object of argument is a subject about which there is disagreement, and it includes fundamentally and continuously the use of argumentation.

16 A comparison between the terminology adopted here and that used by Paul VI in the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (AAS, LVI, 10, pp60959) is helpful.

The theme of that document is very different from that of this work. Paul VI is basically teaching what he calls the dialogue of salvation, the apostolic dialogue of the Church, principally showing its characteristics, modes and its immense ambit, which encompasses all mankind.

Consequently, the encyclical is concerned only collaterally with certain negative aspects of dialogue, as the hypothesis of a dialogue with the communists, which it classifies as "very difficult, if not impossible, " or the inviability of dialogue when nonCatholics "refuse it completely, or pretend to want to accept it."

Paul VI also refers collaterally to the danger of irenicism and syncretism in dialogue.

Now in this study, the dialogue that we propose to analyse and bring to the attention of public opinion is precisely the opposite. It is not the dialogue desired by the Church to attract souls, but the dialogue cunningly distorted by communism to deviate or keep people from the Church. It is only in a preparatory and explicative sense that we concern ourselves with good dialogue.

Likewise in the context of the Encyclical all the forms of interlocution between Catholics and nonCatholics including pugnacious argument and even polemics, are only rejected when "offensive" and "violent" as "frequently" happens. Therefore, Paul VI does not exclude good debate or good polemic.

Thus, in the spirit of the encyclical, interlocution, which we here call dialogue in the broad sense (lato sensu), comprises as morally legitimate forms (besides dialogueentertainment and dialogueinvestigation) the three modes of argument which we call argumentdialogue, argument pure and simple, and polemics.

But it is easy to see that Paul VI dwells longer on argumentdialogue, notable for its cordiality, and that he even considers it to be the one form that "most genuinely has the nature of dialogue." In this perspective, argument pure and simple and polemics are authentic and legitimate forms of dialogue, albeit less complete.

All this is to show the harmony between what we affirm about legitimate dialogue and what the encyclical about the dialogue of salvation teaches.

Several of the censures we make of bad dialogue differentiate it fundamentally from the apostolic dialogue of the Church taught by Ecclesiam Suam.

The latter dialogue contains nothing relativistic: it aims essentially at the conversion of non-Catholics.

In addition, Catholic apostolic dialogue does not share in the irenistic illusion that the non-Catholic interlocutor is always in good faith. When speaking of the possible insincerity of certain interlocutors, the hardness of those who close their ears to the Church's efforts at dialogue, and the dangers of irenicism and syncretism as elements of falsification of the dialogue of salvation, the Encyclical does not ignore the fact that original sin has left effects in men.

Finally, though Ecclesiam Suam treats irenicism merely in passing, it nevertheless explicitly rejects irenicism and shows the apprehensions of Paul VI regarding it. Moreover, no one who had read the exhortation to the Lenten Preachers and Pastors of Rome, of February 12, 1964 ‑ even before the encyclical ‑ could have doubted his apprehensions. There Paul VI energetically affirms: "The sword of the spirit seems (at the moment) to rest in the scabbard of doubt and irenicism. But it is precisely for this reason that the message of religious truth ought to resound with greater strength. Men need to believe in him who shows certainty in what he teaches" (L'Osservalore Romano, French edition, February 21, 1964).

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