Monday, October 09, 2006


Really, I don't intend to talk only about communication in this blog, but it keeps coming up (probably has to do with the impending elections). Today, I am listening to the radio. Dennis Prager has a guest on from Berkeley, and they are talking about the guest's new book on freedom. I listen as Dennis talks to the guy for about 15 minutes, and I find it the most frustrating experience I have had lately. I turn off the radio and think about the interchange when it hits me - the two men were using the same words, but with subtly different meanings. Dennis is using words like "freedom" and "logic" with their traditional meanings. The professor from Berkeley has adopted slightly different meanings for these words. But he denies that he is doing so. Rather, he contends that it is Dennis, who is insisting that the words mean what they have always meant, who is not understanding.

As I understood it, the professor's point is that concepts must be understood within the framework utilized by the speaker. This allows me to use the same words with different meanings. Only if you enter my framework you can understand what I mean.

But such a notion, rather than aiding communication, is guaranteed to prevent it. It is true that we all see the world from different perspectives, with different filters, but we must make an effort at communication within a common framework. I cannot abandon the effort and attempt to impose my frame of reference on the rest of society. Such cultural shifts must of necessity take place slowly, in an evolutionary manner, so that communication can continue while the shift takes place. To insist that all men can speak from their own personal framework, ignoring the shared cultural experience, is to demand that no communication take place.

That may be the goal.

1 comment:

the-unintentional-blogger said...

This is a tough issue. How can you communicate with eachother if we can't even agree on the definitions of the words we use to debate? I think your right...we can't. I love Prager's thinking on his show that he values "clarity over agreement". I think that you can have some clarity if you can identify the differences in the definitions. In Prager's example, you can discuss freedom with two different perspectives on freedom, as long as each person in the debate is clear as to what the other means when they use the word "freedom". It muddies the waters a bit, but at least its a start. I'm not sure we'll ever get to the place where freedom means the same to everybody everwhere. I do think it's important that we don't abandon the effort. I heard a wise pastor this weekend talk about the importance of relationships, and communication is key to maintaining and establishing relationships. Perhaps you know who that was...