Revisiting Dialogues and Monologues

In educational discourse dialogue tends to be viewed as being (morally) superior to monologue. When we look at them as basic forms of communication, we find that dialogue is a two-way, one-to-one form and monologue is a one-way, one-to-many form. In this paper I revisit the alleged (moral) superiority of dialogue. First, I problematize certain normative features of dialogue, most notably reciprocity. Here I use Socrates as my example (the Phaedrus). Second, I discuss monologue, using Jesus as my example (St. Luke’s gospel). I argue that there are values in the monological form that tend to be overlooked and unrecognized, for example the freedom of the audience not to respond.

I should like to point out that I have not argued that as of now we should stop dialoguing, stop discussing or stop using question-answer sequences. Nor have I argued that as of now we should use monologues as sole form of communication. What I have done, is to problematize certain features of the normative dialogue model, and to argue that monologues have values we should not overlook. Dialogues are two-way and monologues are one-way, and in education as well as in everyday life we employ both forms of communication.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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