On Dialogue: An Essay in Free Thought

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9780395771877: On Dialogue: An Essay in Free Thought
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In this pathbreaking and insightful book, Robert Grudin reveals how the use of dialogue can open the door to greater creativity. Ranging across a wide spectrum of examples, from Renaissance art to modern science, from the feedback loops of the natural world to the ordinary human interactions of daily life, the author provides new ideas and makes new connections for readers seeking to liberate themselves from the constraints of conventional thought. Of intense interest to academic specialists in philosophy and cognitive studies, the book is also of immediate practical use to general readers. On Dialogue represents the third in the trilogy of philosophical essays that began with Time and the Art of Living and continued with The Grace of Great Things, both of which are available in Houghton Mifflin paperback editions.

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Review:

Grudin's third book-length philosophical essay, On Dialogue, tackles no lesser subject than how the free mind thinks--in art, science, ethics, and politics. But the title is misleading: Grudin thinks that "being dialogic" is a characteristic of creative free thought even in many cases where no "dialogue," in the literal sense, is going on. For example, he defines the writing of a journal as a typically dialogic process, on the grounds that part of the pleasure and intellectual value of the exercise is to "externalize" ones own thoughts and then have them reflect back on more recent thoughts.

One obvious criticism is that Grudin, while ranging over a wide variety of subjects, including Plato, diversity in education, and political reform in the old Eastern bloc, doesn't explain what "undialogic" thought, if it exists, would be like. Some readers may find that the book tries too hard to be about everything, and would likely prefer his earlier book, Time and the Art of Living. --Richard Farr

About the Author:

ROBERT GRUDIN is a professor of English at the University of Oregon.

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