The Art of Discourse II

Do you have a conversation topic that doesn't seem to fit any of the other conversations? Here is where we discuss ANYTHING about Joseph Campbell, comparative mythology, and more!

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The Art of Discourse II

Post by Clemsy » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:12 am

Dear Associates,

Occasionally the question of what constitutes a 'higher order' conversation arises. The purpose of this thread will be to examine conventions peculiar to this medium, style, tone, etc., which encourage or discourage the intention of the Joseph Campbell Foundation to create a space where the level of discourse is above what can be found in many other discussion forums.

In order to keep this thread productive, it may be a good idea to keep it objective. In other words, it might be easy to point out the style and behavior of a particular associate as a case in point, whether positive or negative, but this could potentially sidetrack the discussion.

What defines a higher order conversation?
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Post by jonsjourney » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:26 am

I am going short, but sweet...

Having an open mind.
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Post by Neoplato » Thu Jun 04, 2009 11:46 am

Sometimes disagreements are purely definitional in nature. Each person may be using a different word to try to describe the same concept, but each word may mean something different to the individuals.

So I would suggest that every effort should be made to clearify definitions before disagreeing with a statement.
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Post by Clemsy » Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:57 pm

Having an open mind.
Foundational, that one. It assumes being interested, not only a desire to be interesting.
...every effort should be made to clarify definitions before disagreeing with a statement.
Yes, but let me add to it. Every effort should be made to clarify meaning before hitting the submit button. When done mindfully, there's liable to be less chance of there being a definitional problem in the reader.

So, imagining how your own post will be processed by another may reveal semantic 'holes' that your own brain has filled in. Know what I mean? Do you use the preview function to proof your work? Do you reread after posting and make further edits?

This demonstrates that you care about your own words enough to maximize understanding in the reader.

This also shows respect.
Last edited by Clemsy on Fri Jun 05, 2009 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Neoplato » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:32 pm

This demonstrates that you care about your own words enough to maximize understanding in the reader
Could this be considered Meta-Posting? :D
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Post by noman » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:38 pm

Hello, Clemsy, JJ, and Neo,

Great question.

The words ‘higher order’ used in association with Joseph Campbell’s work has a very special meaning to me. I relate it to my own ideas about what ‘higher’ should mean when used in phrase ‘higher education’. (Which - BTW, should have nothing to do with getting high. :? )

But first, it’s easier to define what ‘higher’ doesn’t refer to this case. It doesn’t refer to economic class. Money and social position has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t have anything to do with political affiliation. It shouldn’t matter whether a person leans Left or Right. And the word ‘higher’ shouldn’t have anything to do with a particular religion, or collection of religions, or rejection of some or all of those religions.

When higher education began in the West way back in the 12th century, it was in harmony with religious concerns and spirituality. Primary attention was given to Platonic form of 'the good' which they called God. But over the centuries the university lost that sense of soul. The modern university is extremely secular. I’m not saying the university was better back then. But there has been this transition.

What was once a synthesis of faith and reason is now a choice. There’s a tacit rule in the modern age that a person can have spirit or intellect – but not both. Joseph Campbell points the way to a harmony. I agree with JJ. Open-mindedness is the key. But it isn’t open-mindedness alone. A Joe six-pack, in theory, could be very open-minded, peace-loving and accepting, yet uninterested in pursuing anything spiritually or intellectually challenging. It is in accepting that challenge, the difficult task of pursuing both Truth through reason, and Goodness through faith, with an open mind, that puts the ‘higher’ in higher order conversations.

But there’s a problem with my definition. If I say that this is the definition of ‘higher’ I am being narrow-minded in a way. Who says the university, higher education, (or higher order conversations) should be an ‘ivory tower’, to promote dead white boys values, as an elitist institution. Who says that politics shouldn’t be part of the game? Who says that the so-called ‘high-minded’ works of Dante, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach, Hume, Jung, and Einstein, should be valued any more than common practical concerns of an old peasant farmer, or a modern laborer’s thoughts and ideas and song. These are the questions that helped lead to the collapse of the ‘higher’ (by my definition) in higher education forty years ago when postmodernism took hold.

For instance, in the colleges the liberal arts are – sinking, and everyone’s going in for the professional specialization which does not tell you how to be a human being. Does not give you the rich information that comes from reading the classics; Plato, Goethe, Shakespeare, oh, what do we want with that? What’s the relevance? You know the term – and all of this came in the sixties – as far as my experience goes.

- Campbell, Myth as Metaphor, Lost Teachings, with Michael Toms
What Campbell was describing was most famously stated by Professor Allan Bloom his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind. But I think it could as well be described as a complete and unlimited opening of the mind to the extent that all values are rendered useless and the words ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ in this context are reduced to some one’s or some group’s parochial meaning. It’s all relative. When I read Neo's mythblog Kids in the Cave , I was reminded of something Professor Bloom wrote. He said the shadows of Plato's cave have been replaced by MTV, and that we professors have only four years to 'reach' these kids.

I do believe a degree of narrow-mindedness is a necessary requirement in the university or here in these conversations of a higher order. There is a certain dogmatism required, a dedication to the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual ideals, a belief in Truth and Good as objective realities in the Platonic sense. I’m old fashion in this way. But I think Campbell would agree. There is always a limit, even to open-mindedness.
Poets are simply those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss. Most people are concerned with other things. They get themselves involved in economic and political activities, or get drafted into a war that isn’t the one they’re interested in, and it may be difficult to hold to this umbilical under those circumstances. That is a technique each one has to work out for himself somehow.

- POM p148 (small book)
I find these conversations as a way of ‘holding on to the umbilical’ as Campbell uses the expression, and a refreshing break from pure intellectualism devoid of spirit, or from jejune spirituality devoid of rational thought, or from the tyranny of common discourse about practical concerns, such as the weather, the latest diet craze, or the price of a barrel of light sweet crude oil.

Come to think of it, those last three adjectives I used could be used to describe ‘lower order’ conversations: ‘light, sweet, and crude’. 8)

aum shanti

- NoMan
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Post by Neoplato » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:49 pm

Nice Noman. Very Nice. 8)
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Jun 05, 2009 10:18 am

Could this be considered Meta-Posting?
Meta-posting does have a nice ring to it, Neo! The idea contains a certain self-awareness and inspection which are requisite in order to assume the role of objective reader. Imagination and empathy fit in there somewhere also, no?

Can't think of a better way to define the 'higher' in higher order.
I do believe a degree of narrow-mindedness is a necessary requirement in the university or here in these conversations of a higher order. There is a certain dogmatism required, a dedication to the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual ideals, a belief in Truth and Good as objective realities in the Platonic sense. I’m old fashion in this way. But I think Campbell would agree. There is always a limit, even to open-mindedness.
Noman, this doesn't quite resonate with me....
narrow-minded:

1. having or showing a prejudiced mind, as persons or opinions; biased.
2. not receptive to new ideas; having a closed mind.
3. extremely conservative and morally self-righteous.

Synonyms:
1. bigoted, partial, intolerant, illiberal.

Antonyms:
1. tolerant.
If by this you mean the bias that comes with being one's self and not another, that's fine and self-evident :wink: . However, 'narrow minded' contains certain flavors that would be directly antithetical to maintaining a higher order conversation.

Can one be open minded and narrow minded at the same time? The idea of open mindedness presumes that one is willing to at least examine territory beyond one's own conceptual parameters. How else can new ideas find there way over the border?

Yes, there is always a limit to open-mindedness, and there should be. However, as far as this one is concerned, there's a threshold at which the open mind becomes a narrow mind.

We do have our own dogmas, but in terms, one hopes, of definition three:
a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.
I like to think that part of what we do here is assist each other in the task of refining our opinions, beliefs and principles. If occasionally such become 'unsettled', why, that can be a good thing also.

As long as it isn't the intention of one to purposefully unsettle another out of a sense of one's own dogma in terms of definition two:
a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down
That won't do. Not at all.

I find words powerful things to be handled with care.
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Post by Neoplato » Fri Jun 05, 2009 4:54 pm

I do believe a degree of narrow-mindedness is a necessary requirement in the university or here in these conversations of a higher order. There is a certain dogmatism required, a dedication to the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual ideals, a belief in Truth and Good as objective realities in the Platonic sense. I’m old fashion in this way. But I think Campbell would agree. There is always a limit, even to open-mindedness.
I interpreted this differently then Clemsy because I can see how someone new to the Forum would think that we have our own Dogma. Although, we can't see that ourselves. I think we may sometimes display this when we feel "that passion thing".

However, I think that by these types of discussions we can recognize the inherent narrow-mindedness in ourselves and overcome it by seeing other people's positions.

I've been labeled a leftist atheist in the past because I'm perceived to subsribe to the established dogma for these labels. This is my concern when new people enter the forum.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:23 pm

I'm perceived to subsribe to the established dogma
Perceived based on.....? Thing about such perceptions is that one can land in a pigeon hole based on 'perceptions' that tend to lead to other 'perceptions' based on nothing more than labels.
I can see how someone new to the Forum would think that we have our own Dogma.
Even so, the 'higher order' in the discourse comes in at the point of engagement. I would be less than impressed with a new associate coming in with assumptions blazing and no questions. Does one validate those assumptions? Or just run with them?

I've been here long enough to have experienced being the target of some who have already decided who I am regardless of evidence and explanation to the contrary.

That's where narrow-mindedness comes to play. Labels are deceiving and, by definition, limiting. If you are this, than you can't be that. These do impact the order of discussion.

I hear you Neo... and NoMan brings an interesting dimension to the idea of higher order discourse which can be examined as long as it doesn't devolve into some dualistic left-right political argument . That's not the purpose of this discussion.

The title of the thread is The Art of Discourse.
Discourse:
1. Verbal expression in speech or writing.
2. Verbal exchange; conversation.
3. A formal, lengthy discussion of a subject, either written or spoken.
The focus is how, not what.
The purpose of this thread will be to examine conventions peculiar to this medium, style, tone, etc., which encourage or discourage the intention of the Joseph Campbell Foundation to create a space where the level of discourse is above what can be found in many other discussion forums.
So, while NoMan's post expresses some valuable thoughts, it's not quite the direction I intend for this thread.
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Post by Cindy B. » Fri Jun 05, 2009 6:42 pm

For what it's worth, Clemsy, for me it comes down to "It's not what one says but how one says it." (I've moderated a couple times, too, and considered using this as my signature given how many times I found myself redirecting folks. :wink: ) Respect and manners go a long way, whether online or off and whether in agreement or not; otherwise, of course, discussions degenerate into conversations of a lower order. Just so you know, though, I find this board to be one of most welcoming and civil I've yet run across. You moderators do a fine job, I think.

Cindy
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Post by Neoplato » Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:48 pm

I hear you Neo... and NoMan brings an interesting dimension to the idea of higher order discourse which can be examined as long as it doesn't devolve into some dualistic left-right political argument . That's not the purpose of this discussion.
I was in a different mindset when I read noman's post. I was thinking more along the lines of "tone". What is the "tone" of the forum based on the posts people read.

Here is my concern. When I first showed up here I encounted a person who thought the forum was bias. Having no clue at the time, I decided to find out for myself. Obviously my views were in line with the forum so I stuck around. Does this mean I just subscribe to a certain viewpoint?

Now for me, tone leads to perception which leads to a label. Sometimes I use a "harsh" tone and think about going back to delete my posts. Where does my harsh tone come from? Passion arising from my belief structure, probably.

So this goes back to being conscious of "communicating tone" while meta-posting. I didn't "hear" anything scornful in noman's post, so this lack of "tone" for me changed my perception of the post.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:14 pm

I encounted a person who thought the forum was bias.
I believe I recall that situation. I also recall not having a clue as to what he was talking about, and quite confused as to how that perception developed. I think it may have had something to do with an accidentally deleted post... but I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that this person was forming assumptions based on limited information. Perhaps some past experience was invoked. Who knows?

Here's something I posted in the first discourse thread:
Online forums are very much "places". Virtual places perhaps, but places nonetheless, and participant behavior parallels the physical behavior of any group of people, whether it be a salon, classroom, the corner bar or a steambath(!).

Really, one has to determine which of these apply in order to decide which code to use. (You know, one code for the beach, another for church, etc.)

I've been to forums, and many blogs, that are very much like the corner bar: cliques forming, epithets flying, leading to broken furniture and people flying through windows.

I know of a forum lorded over by a self-styled Internet Deity who bans people at will, receives participants by invitation only and whose posts are received as if from On High. This forum is a clubhouse: allowed mindsets only.

Another forum I know is presided over loosely by the administrator, who has a special 'Flames and Spam' section where threads that get out of hand are moved. She rarely bans anyone, but does lock threads that continue to cross the line she defines. This forum is like an ivy league ratskeller. Heady, intellectual, a bit cantankerous and at times pompous. Occasionally someone overindulges in the local brew.

I would posit these forums, as envisioned by the Foundation Administration, are as a kind of 'loose' salon. Salon in that the expectations of a 'higher order conversation' require the etiquette of civility. 'Loose' in that it doesn't require the stiff refinement of some higher society and allows one to 'dress casually', as it were.

As such, it is only fair to expect that those forms of expression that would otherwise compromise an atmosphere designed to nurture such higher order conversation would be excised.

We all bring with us a personal bias which may define what manner of 'space' this is or what a 'higher order conversation' may be. However, as a member of a community of equal individuals, one compromises. This is not censorship. It's community where no ego is more equal than another.

....Beware the text only medium. We are creatures evolved to respond to the meaning of sound symbols and nonverbal cues. Reading and writing are learned behaviors which we all do with varying degrees of skill. Given that the associates participating here probably represent a highly educated group with, no doubt, an above average collective verbal IQ, but we still complete our mental pictures of each other on limited data... brains tend to fill in the blanks to create a whole image. Any given image may be well off the mark.

Don't discount the importance of the lack of nonverbal cues within this medium. It becomes almost impossible to know when an 'inferred inflection' becomes a sign symbol resulting in another's taking offense. Such, in my experience, has been rare, and this speaks to the high level of discourse that occurs here. However, the chance should be acknowledged.

We can be as aware as possible that there is always some, even if slight, risk in this mode of discourse. One shouldn't shy from taking that risk, but one should be willing to share such information required to enhance understanding. Those mental images we have of each other, which David (Kudler) referred to as 'homunculi' some time ago, can always better represent those to which they refer.

In this, the transfer of the truest image of ourselves to each other, do we find discourse as true Art.
Tone is tricky: it can only be inferred. The tone you think you hear may be a reflection of your current mood, or the result of an accent placed on a word. This is where, as you say, 'meta-posting' comes in.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:26 pm

Hi Cindy!
For what it's worth, Clemsy, for me it comes down to "It's not what one says but how one says it."
That is the bottom line. I would add that as we get to know each others style and acquire more information, we're more likely to assume the tone we usually read.
Respect and manners go a long way, whether online or off and whether in agreement or not; otherwise, of course, discussions degenerate into conversations of a lower order.
Yes, and this deserves some discussion itself. How is respect communicated through text? But rather than manners, I would say civility. I like this definition of civil in this context:
Sufficiently observing or befitting accepted social usages; not rude
Sufficiency can be read to mean there's some elbow room here. Civil doesn't necessarily mean nice or even kind.

As you say, it's all in how it's said. The line can be very fine indeed, and we moderators will tend toward the benefit of the doubt in any given situation. Larger patterns determine whether or not 'moderation' should occur.
I find this board to be one of most welcoming and civil I've yet run across. You moderators do a fine job, I think.
Thanks! Glad you're here!

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Clemsy
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Post by noman » Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:29 am

Respect and manners go a long way…

I find this board to be one of most welcoming and civil I've yet run across. You moderators do a fine job.

- Cindy B.
Hello Cin-B,

On target. Politeness should come first. But even among professional scholars, who discuss and debate ideas as a livelihood, clashing personalities and emotion sometimes enter into it. Sometimes there is a fine line between arguing a position passionately and a fruitless personality clash.

I can’t agree more with the second statement. The moderators do an awesome job. Not just in keeping the peace, but generating ‘higher order’ discussions, by directing them toward academic topics, such as myth, art, anthropology, religion, science, philosophy, literature, and the like.

I encountered a person who thought the forum was bias.

- Neo


* * * * * * *

But first, it’s easier to define what ‘higher’ doesn’t refer to this case. ... It doesn’t have anything to do with political affiliation. It shouldn’t matter whether a person leans Left or Right. And the word ‘higher’ shouldn’t have anything to do with a particular religion, or collection of religions, or rejection of some or all of those religions.

- NoMan
To me Neo, that bias (if such a bias exists) shouldn’t matter. As far as ‘higher order’ goes, it shouldn’t matter whether the forum is bias in a political sense. A while ago I commented on how predominantly Left this forum was. And I compared it to NPR. I think NPR is a national treasure. I just think they lean way Left. There are private conservative Colleges. But they can still be quality ‘higher’ education if it’s done right. It shouldn’t matter. Political affiliation shouldn’t matter one way or another. But some people might think they deserve some political center of gravity or something.

I remember Fox News got in trouble with a segment of the public for leaning too far Right. They’re a private organization. They can do whatever they want. But people got angry and protested because FOX used the slogan ‘Fair and Balanced’. If I were Rupert Murdoch I would have just changed the slogan to ‘Unfair and Biased’ and made them even angrier.
'narrow minded' contains certain flavors that would be directly antithetical to maintaining a higher order conversation.

- Clemsy
Well, ya, alright – maybe ‘narrow-minded’ wasn’t the absolute bestest word to use. But you knew what I meant. As soon as we use the word ‘higher’ we are narrowing our focus of attention. We tend to stay away from shallow talk. We go for depth. It’s a metaphorical intrigue. The word ‘depth’ refers to the same narrowed focus as the word ‘higher’?

It’s the idea of traveling vertically instead of horizontally, like climbing to the top of Mt Denali, or scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. Either of these adventures would require special training, special equipment, and most importantly, a particular mind-set. And although the moderators don’t screen people at the door of this forum, we expect, even with all of our different backgrounds, ages, and occupations, to have certain commonalities, to have read or be interested in the work of Joseph Campbell and/or related subjects. It’s a narrowed focus. But narrow-minded may not have been best word to use. (I thought I was going to be called on the word ‘faith’.)

Many moons ago we had a thread about dreams. People were relating their dreams. I made the observation of the vertical dimension in most of our dreams; of going down or going up in some way. I think our minds operate here in these forums on a conscious level in the same way that they operate naturally in dream on the unconscious level. So it's not just about intelligence or education. It's about respect for the vertical dimension.

So maybe we should change the JCF slogan from ‘Follow Your Bliss’ to ‘Let’s Get Vertical’. 8)

- NoMan
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