On Dialogue: An Essay in Free Thought

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9780395864951: On Dialogue: An Essay in Free Thought

Edward Abbey once said that to read Robert Grudin is to experience "the rare and amazing spectacle of man thinking, of mind at work." Part do-it-yourself guide to freer thinking and part playful philosophical inquiry into liberty and creativity, On Dialogue holds forth the model of the mind that "rejects the tyranny of a single system or dogma, refuses to censor ‘dangerous' ideas, and guards as something precious its own access to joy and laughter."

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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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