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Communal Philosophical Dialogue and the Intersubject

David Kennedy
Montclair State University

ABSTRACT: The self is a historical and cultural phenomenon in the sense of a dialectically evolving narrative construct about who we are, what our borders and limits and capacities are, what is pathology, and what is normality, and so on. These ontological and epistemological narratives are usually linked to grand explanatory narratives like science and religion, and are intimately linked to cosmological pictures. The “intersubject” is an emergent form of subjectivity in our time which reconstructs its borders to include the other, and which understands itself as always building and being built through a combination of internal and external dialogue. The shift from monological to dialogical discourse is both a product and a producer of the intersubject, and is in turn made possible by a shift—underway for the last one hundred years or so—in the human information environment. The major educational innovation which reconstructs theory and practice for the intersubject—community of philosophical inquiry (CPI)—assumes, following field and systems theory, that any group gathered together is an interactive system. It also assumes that the fundamental forms of growth and development both of the individual and of the collective take place through a process of communal deliberative inquiry into meaning, resulting in the reconstruction of beliefs, values, and discourses on both an individual and a collective level. CPI is a process in which subject and object are both active and passive, shaping and being shaped, determining and determined, in and through their transaction. It assumes that its interlocutors are in a relation of both mutual and self-interrogation. As the phenomenon of the intersubject gains credence in human culture, philosophy is gaining power as an educational idea in the elementary and high school classroom. Communal philosophical dialogue is the discursive space where the subject’s fundamental assumptions about self, world, knowledge, belief, beauty, right action and normative ideals enter a dialectical process of confrontation, mediation, and reconstruction.


y “intersubject” I mean a form of subjectivity which recognizes that it does not or cannot (the difference between the two is ambiguous) recognize any

©2004. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 18:2. ISSN 0738-098X.

pp. 201–216



final distinction between self and other, and acts and feels and thinks accordingly with that recognition and the sorts of understanding that follow from it. To understand myself as an intersubject means assuming that at any given moment I am only half what I feel and think I am and half how I actually behave; only half what I tell myself about who or what I am and half what the culture and the historical moment tells me; and half of what I am and half of what I want to be. For the intersubject, self is an emergent whole which includes the other and which is always building and being built—both an ontological and an ethical and normative project, both unconscious and intentional. There are aspects of subjectivity which are beyond our individual control, aspects we control, and ambiguous zones. Sometimes we think we control our selves but are in fact acting completely according to other’s expectations, and sometimes visa versa. What we think to be genetic, fundamental to ourselves, given at birth, may very well be completely a product of parental or social introjection. But whatever selfhood’s structure, character, or origins—whether narrative or some other sort of discursive construct, a function of memory, or mere cortical mirror-image—and whatever the relations between its conscious and unconscious dimensions, it is always the case that the moment we are in the presence of an other—whether total stranger or closest relation—we are one system—a mutual or multiple being—a hydra. Slow motion video has revealed to us the synchronization of the mother-infant dance, which establishes the fundamental structure for the interhuman dance in general.1 Every gesture, every look, every posture, every whole-body kinesthetic state is felt by the other and entrains and is entrained by the other. I and the other are one system—even beyond the dyad, whatever the numbers involved. This holds true for relations of violence, torture, rejection, indifference and repudiation as much as for loving, positive, or engaged forms of relation. It is just because of this fact that violence, torture, rejection, and repudiation are such terrible wounds to the order of humanity. And it is on this fundamental lived experience of subjective boundary ambiguity and transgression that my argument for the ontological possibility of the intersubject is based. The self, or subject, is also a historical and cultural phenomenon, in the sense of an ongoing, changing—and I will argue, dialectically evolving—narrative construct about who “we” humans are, what are our borders and limits and capacities, what’s good for us and what’s not, what is pathology and what is normality, and so on. These ontological and epistemological narratives are usually linked to grand explanatory narratives like science and religion, and are intimately linked to cosmological pictures. But as Marxist theory has effectively argued, these “superstructural” aspects of culture—grand narratives about who we are and what a good or normal life is, about our proper place in life, about acceptable differences between people and groups and about any given “one best system”—i.e., ideologies—are in a direct relationship with “infrastructural” aspects, i.e., the “means of production,” the material basis of life and its organization, which in turn are in direct relationship with the kind and complexity of our technologies. I would argue that any given historical narrative of subjectivity is the key element in any given superstructure—that it is a construction of subjectivity and intersubjectivity which most directly informs and is informed by any given ideology. If this is the



case, then narrative constructs of selfhood will change as infrastructure changes, and visa versa. Another basic assumption of this paper is that narratives of the self turn on at least one major binary construction—individual/collective. The extent to which the self understands itself as ontologically separated from and/or connected with other selves has fundamental implications for how the self understands its internal and external structure, function, and capacities. Each epochal shift in a narrative of subjectivity will be based to a great extent on the reconstruction of the subjective-intersubjective continuum, which in turn will be based on notions of the ontological boundaries of the self in relation to others. These historical shifts, considered retrospectively, can be interpreted as dialectical in structure and process. The solitary, unitary, separated, “discrete” self of European modernism2—the notion of self which Westerners of one sort or another have more or less grown up with, and which in fact is at least one fundamental dimension of anyone’s lived experience of self—may, now that it’s changing, be seen as an evolutionary construct necessary for the dialectical movement of the subjectivity-intersubjectivity continuum in the history of human culture. The discrete Western subject emerged as an antithesis to the collective self of pre-modern cultures, which suppressed the individualistic dimension of subjectivity. As it reached its historical term, the premodern self was over-embedded in the collective. The project of modernism, triggered and articulated and played out through the rise of the modernist infrastructure—dislocation and urbanization, the rise of the middle classes and the nuclear family, capitalism, the printed word, and the acceleration of technological innovation—as well as superstructure—the Copernican cosmological revolution, Protestant religious individualism, philosophical and scientific empiricism, and democracy in whatever rudimentary forms—accomplished the historical separation of self from other and from the intersubjective field.3 Now the modern subjective construct has reached full term in European and North American (and anywhere else the culture of modernism spreads through globalism) radical individualism. A new synthesis is emerging, fueled in turn by infra- and superstructural changes incubating throughout the twentieth century: increasing personal and cultural intervisibility and alocalism through dramatic innovations in electronic communications and transportation, global economies, massive interdependent systems (food, water, power, transportation, etc), global media, birth control and sexual revolution, psychoanalysis, religious syncretism, the decline of patriarchy, evolutionary theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity and the Whiteheadean metaphysical revolution, field and systems theory in both the natural and the human sciences, and universal education. The logic of transition is Hegelian rather than Aristotelean. It assumes negation and reconstruction and continual change and transformation, and can defy the law of the excluded middle. The intersubject is the “subject-in-process,” the self in continual transition/transformation, the self understood as transition, i.e., the self as process rather than substance. As in all transitional moments, utopia and dystopia, breakdown and reorganization, decline and transformation, good and evil interplay ambiguously. The discrete subject cracks, splits, expands, and multiplies across its own frontiers. In such epochal moments the constructivist



question becomes more insistent. It becomes a question of boundaries—which are natural, which are constructed?—and a question of parts and wholes—when and how am I myself and the other, myself with the other, just myself, just the other?—and a question of a balance of power—the elements of the self-other system, because the system is in time, are in dynamic, shifting tension—and a question of ethics—how do I intend relation and act relation in such a way that the system remains fluid, emergent, seeking an optimal balance of power between myself and the other-who-is-myself? The modernist form of subjectivity enthroned by Enlightenment in Cartesian ontology and Kantian epistemology—the two philosophical mainstays of Western superstructure—never mentions an other, except perhaps as a putative being. The relationship between this strongly boundaried self, this homo clausus, and Descartes’s alienation of the body as res extensa has become so obvious as to be a commonplace. The discrete self distances, not just the other, but the body in which, or with which, it finds itself, which it sees as an intruder on pure consciousness—a disruption of the pleroma of pure presence which the cogito’s selfawareness obscurely promises. But, in fact, the sundered mind/body of Cartesian subjectivity, whatever its reification in a dualistic theory, represents a necessary developmental moment in the dialectical evolution of subjectivity, for it expresses the lived intuition that indeed, the body is an other to “me.” Even the “wisdom of the body” is the wisdom of an other. The anonymity of the flesh applies to my flesh as much as to the other’s. Therefore, to affirm embodiment, which is the tendency of the postCartesian philosophy of the subject, is to welcome otherness or alterity. To include the body as to some extent an other within or with my subjectivity is to recognize that I am plural—not just across boundaries with the other with whom I form “one unique body” in what Merleau-Ponty, perhaps the first European philosopher of the intersubject, called the “chiasm,” whereby, as he says, “my body and the other person’s are one whole, two sides of one and the same phenomenon,”4 but across this more or less (but not really) internal divide of body and mind. This is a first step toward the intersubject—the recognition and acceptance of the plural nature of the discrete elements of subjectivity, and the resistance to polarizing, excluding, compartmentalizing, or hierarchizing these plural elements—and strictly analogically, the resistance to polarizing, excluding, etc. others. Because the intersubject assumes the metaphor for the process of the subject-inprocess to be dialogue, the elements of the self and the way they develop, which classical object-relations theorists5 tend to identify as genetic—splitting, identification, introjection and projection—are understood as, not just constitutionally given, but individually and politically and culturally and historically given as well. This is to say that there is more latitude in the way the elements of the self are constructed/understood than any genetic theory would assume. In fact any working narrative of subjectivity, whether my own or a cultural-historical one, is as much a constructed normative ideal as a found empirical object, and those who understand themselves as describing the self are often to a certain incalculable degree prescribing it as well. This is the weightlessness or “lightness” of being. And the normative ideal of the intersubject is that the parts of the self constituted



by splitting, identification, introjection, and projection are arranged—or are capable of being rearranged—laterally and dialogically, rather than vertically and hierarchically—that they are in relations of negotiation and shifting internal power balances rather than in rigid organizational patterns based on binaries. Although binaries may be “in” nature, the subject-in-process is nature-in-reconstruction. The classical discrete subject recognizes its plural nature, but as a condition to be overcome. First stated with admirable clarity in Plato’s Republic and operationalized in the Stoic “technologies of the self” and the corresponding Pauline mistrust of sarx (flesh) in Christian ideology,6 the project of Western subjectivity, historically understood, has so far been to forcibly organize and unite what is understood as an inherently chaotic plurality through a process of domination of body by mind, or reason, or spirit. The ideal citizen of Plato’s Republic identifies himself with logikos or “reason,” through which he brings epithumos or appetite under control by wielding thumos or “spirited element.” The successful Platonic tripartite self is a vertical hierarchy in which the parts are in relationships of a harmony which is described in the language of domination and subordination. This is mirrored in Indo-European social structure, in which each of the dimensions of self is embodied in a social class—the philosopher kings, the warriors, and the farmers and craftsmen and merchants.7 So the philosopher kings enforce their will on the people through the army, just as a reified “reason” enforces its will on a polarized desire in the psychological economy of the individual. What results is, in the words of Julia Kristeva, an “organization constituted by exclusions and hierarchies.”8 The first succinctly stated signs of the unraveling of this subjective organization in the superstructure appears in Freud’s revision of subjectivity at the end of the nineteenth century. Freud’s model more or less retains Plato’s tripartite structure of reason, will or the “spirited element,” and desire, but undertakes an archeological rather than a normative analysis. What he lays bare is, not three discrete dimensions of subjectivity, but overlapping, interactive, mutually entraining zones. In Freud, desire is not the rebellious slave of reason but the ground from which it emerges, and its continual interlocutor in the form of dreams, fantasy, art, eroticism and human striving. Will—as the internalized voice of the parental other—is also grounded in desire, and more often than not masks itself as reason. And reason is as often as not a defense mechanism against the reasons of desire—that is, mere “reasoning” or rationalization—i.e., devious desire. The Freudian economy reveals the Platonic hierarchy, not as nature, but as a cultural imposition based on an internal and external politics of the part-whole structure of subjectivity, and functioning as the legitimating myth of the ruling classes. In Freud, the plural elements of subjectivity are de-hierarchized and enter into dialogue. Reason, the transcendent and over riding element in Plato, becomes a phantom shape-shifter in Freud, and is never free of its origins in desire—its voice is as often as not one of desire’s masquerades. The Freudian deconstruction of the Platonic tripartite self is the first statement of a postmodern subjectivity. The second statement was initiated by him in object relations theory, but developed in the work of Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and the British School of psychoanalysis. It is in object relations theory that the



boundaries of subjectivity are crossed, through an archeology of the mechanisms of projection and introjection. Just as phenomenologically I am one system with the other when in his presence, I both project my own unconscious psychic contents onto the other (in object-relations parlance, the “object”) and internalize and adapt to her projections. The psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg describes the process as “an ongoing reshaping of the experiences with external objects in the light of internal object-representations, and of these object representations in the light of real experiences with others.”9 Norman Brown puts it more vividly:
Projection and introjection, the process whereby the self as distinct from the other is constituted, is not past history, an event in childhood, but a present process of continuous creation. The dualism of self and external world is built up by a constant process of reciprocal exchange between the two. The self as a stable substance enduring through time, an identity, is maintained by constantly absorbing good parts (or people) from the outside world and expelling bad parts from the inner world. “There is a continual ‘unconscious’ wandering of other personalities into ourselves.”10

My particular subjective topos of object relations is staked out by the grand projections and introjections of infancy and early childhood. I internalize the voices of the approving and the disapproving parent, and carry a “good” parent and a “bad” parent within me which I project onto the other. On this account, optimal psychological development involves the “withdrawal” of projection—the capacity to separate one’s projections of these internal others from the actual other before me. But what psychoanalysis has revealed is that the outcome of the “withdrawal” of projection is not the revelation of discrete, exclusive, internally unified subjectivities with clear and permanent boundaries, but the revelation that projection and introjection are constitutional dimensions of lived experience, and therefore, that subjectivity is structurally intersubjective. Another way to say this is that when I “withdraw” the specific projections which lock me into an illusion of discrete and polarized individualities—which means simply to be able to distinguish through attaining some distance from them—I recognize the fundamentally projective and introjective structure of lived awareness, and this frees me, not to dispense with them, which is impossible, but to allow for their creative and emergent interplay. Another way to say this is that I am able to see both foreground (the specific projections) and background (the field and ground of projection), rather than just the foreground; or that, once I withdraw personal identification from the specific projective and introjective elements of the intersubjective field, I access its deep field structure, and this is liberatory. It is when this happens that dialogue begins, for I realize that I am creating the other and the other is creating me—or perhaps I should say that I am instrumental in the other’s self-creation and visa versa—and that once we abandon our psychological investment in the past—i.e., the specific thematized and polarized projective and introjective contents acquired in earlier experience—we become co-creators of self and other. The alternative is imposition, misunderstanding, sado-masochism—power struggle. This opening of the field to emergent and creative dialogical relations replaces the Platonic ideal of hierarchical domination as a normative ideal. The intersubject is in dialogue both internally and externally. Internally, Plato’s hierarchy has been deconstructed, and the relations between the plural dimen-



sions of the self are based on negotiation rather than coercion. Culturally, this shift is signaled by the replacement of religion by psychotherapy. Religion measures psychological success as self-unification under a law which comes from outside us—or from so deep within that it is beyond our own powers to do anything but recognize and submit. The psychotherapeutic ideal seeks an idiosyncratic balance among an internal plurality of dimensions, forces, functions, and their loci, and the emergence of a relatively idiosyncratic lawfulness or “requiredness” specific to inner and outer context, with emergent, evolving criteria. Externally, the normative personal power relations of intersubjects are—if there is no pathology in the system—no longer based on class or economic or political distinctions, and thus strive to overcome them. As internally we aspire to an optimal emergent balance of loci, so intersubjectively we aspire to equal social and economic relations. Just as the Platonic ideal of unification in a closed system corresponds with the politics of hierarchy and domination, the dialogical ideal corresponds with the politics of democracy. Democratic discourse is the normative political language of the intersubject. As relations between the internal dimensions and elements of the intersubject are dialogical, so dialogue characterizes intersubjective discourse when the interlocutors understand themselves as field beings rather than discrete, hyper-autonomous subjects. The problem is that, crudely put, there is always depravity in the system—that is, there are forces which distort communication. Therefore, it is as possible that the emergence of the intersubject as a form of modal personality would lead to a regressive and reactionary form of discourse—a language of hysterical field-being, of telepathic magic, and a corresponding savage totalitarianism based on the collapse of individual boundaries. In fact it is likely that this form of communication and control will be at least one of the byproducts of a general cultural deconstruction of subjective boundaries. To assume otherwise would be utopian thinking. But the discourse of development—whether individual or cultural-historical—based as it is on an organismic model, is inherently normative and therefore optimistic; it assumes that dialectical processes have a telos toward wholeness, internal unification, and organismic health or thriving. In the case of the evolution of subjectivity, it assumes that the intersubject represents a sublation of the pathologies both of collectivism and of individualism in a form of relatedness which acts to correct both. The shift from monological to dialogical discourse is both a product and a producer of the intersubject, and is in turn made possible by a shift—underway for the last one hundred years or so—in the human information environment (hereafter “infoenvironment”), which is, as pointed out above, an aspect of infrastructure, or Marx’s “mode of production of material life.”11 Dialogical and democratic discourse is one possible outcome of an infoenvironment so pervasive and saturated that it suggests a trigger for the evolutionary emergence of what Tielhard de Chardin called the “noosphere” (from the Greek nous or mind), a “zone” of collective mind enveloping the biosphere (itself a relatively recent concept).12 More practically, the act and process and possibility of communication itself have in the new infoenvironment become more fundamental than any particular idea or belief which is communicated—or are in fact determinative to some degree of ideas and beliefs. This is what McLuhan meant by “the media is the message.”13



This does not necessarily mean a loss of meaning—at least not in the personal and political sense. The act and process of communication, as Habermas has shown us, aspires to an equalization of power relations in the sphere of human interest which he calls “emancipatory,” which is oriented to the reconstruction of the lifeworld such that it is emancipated from “pseudonatural constraints” which “establish the specific viewpoints from which we can apprehend reality in any way whatever,” i.e., “ideologically frozen relations of dependence . . . whose power resides in their nontransparency.”14 The new infoenvironment is a virtual discursive space which, as a medium of putative unlimited communication, is generically configured to the “ideal speech situation,” and as such to emancipatory interest. In distinction from the tendencies of the former monological print infoenvironment, it lends itself to bi- rather than unilateral communicative events. It depends as fully on response as on initiation, and it is so structured that—as in Internet communication for example—each interlocutor is completely alone and yet exists in the virtual space only through communication with others. In virtual space, “I” am an element in a larger system, and also radically alone. As a form of abstraction (which is the chief characteristic of every infoenvironment), virtual reality is co- and collaboratively constructed rather than, like print, individually constructed, or—like the oral—rhetorically constructed by a tradition. As such, it is at least structurally non-impositional. It is a multiple and a collective virtual space. It is a vehicle for the democratic aspirations of the global epoch in which it emerges, in that it lends itself to the articulation of each individual voice, but only in the context of networks, i.e., mutually dependent links and connections. Having said this, it must be acknowledged that any infoenvironment offers its users both uni- and multilogical possibilities, and each infoenvironment, whether the oral, the literate or the post-literate/electronic, has elements which are potentially both impositional and liberatory. The culture of television, for example, as Postman so eloquently argued,15 is in its present state of development monological and authoritarian. Print can be profoundly dialogical to the extent that the reader is engaged alone with the author, with whom he or she becomes a sort of co-author. The oral infoenvironment offers a personalized informational cosmos which reinforces levels of species kinship—which the analogous immediacy of the telephone, including the “picturephone,” and the computer do not re-attain through translocality. But if we consider the evolution of the infoenvironment as in some sort of causal relationship to the evolution of subjectivity, we can read the dialectical relations between the three forms of each in the same way: print represents a reaction to, a retreat from the collectivist traditionalism of the oral into the realm of private experience; and the electronic communications revolution represents a mediation of the individual and the collective in the construction of a planetary virtual space with characteristics of translocality, instantaneity, and the potential both for full disclosure and for new strategies of disinformation by the “normal” sociopathology of politics and economic exploitation and oppression. In the broadest sense of the term “education,” the infoenvironment—the virtual communicative space of the species created by technology—is always the primary educational institution, and the one to which the school acts to adapt multivariate human intelligence. The school as we now experience it is still largely a subset



of the print infoenvironment; it was designed to equip people for it. The sense of anomaly that now haunts educational structures and practices is a product of a dissonance between the emergent interactive, dialogical electronic infoenvironment and the monological, hierarchical, individualistic infoenvironment of print. The urge for reform and innovation which has harassed traditional educational forms with nagging and frustrating insistence for the last century could be understood at least in part as a product of this accelerating sea-change. Community of inquiry (hereafter CI) theory and practice follow on “active learning” as the second major educational innovation produced by the new infoenvironment. Both are forms of curriculum and pedagogy which model themselves on the normative intersubject. The first assumes that the self is inalienably interactive with the environment, and that all experience is a form of transaction, and constructs the classroom experience accordingly. The notion of active learning is still an individualistic one, but its introduction, heralded in the early twentieth century by Dewey and Montessori and their students, and in fact by relatively atheoretical practitioners,16 acts to deconstruct schooling as a disciplinary power structure, for it reduces the instructional target “unit” to one, thus confounding the disciplinarian strategies documented by Foucault under the term “normalizing judgment.” Normalizing judgment
refers individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of comparison, a space of differentiation and the principle of a rule to be followed. It differentiates individuals from one another, in terms of the following overall rule: that the rule be made to function as a minimal threshold, as an average to be respected or as an optimum towards which one must move. It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the “nature” of individuals. It introduces, through this “value-giving” measure, the constraint of a conformity which must be achieved. Lastly, it traces the limit that will define difference in relation to all other differences, the external frontier of the abnormal. . . . The perpetual penalty that traverses all points and supervises every instant in the disciplinary institutions compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes. 17

It is this form of educational structure which active learning undermines, for it confounds the “average to be respected” and “the limit that will define difference in relation to all other differences.” In rendering the norm a norm of one it breaks the disciplinary matrix and switches the focus of learning to what Kilpatrick, in a seminal paper introducing the project method in 1918, called the “wholehearted purposeful act,” which he also associated with “the typical unit of the worthy life in a democratic society.”18 This is no small shift, for through redefining the subject of the educational experience, it breaks with the overarching discourses of education understood as a disciplinary institution for cultural reproduction by the state. These discourses—education as investment (“our children are our future”), education as production (the eternal “efficiency movement”), or education as a delivery or “banking” system—are all hegemonic strategies, classic examples of what Habermas called “ideologically frozen relations of dependence . . . whose power resides in their nontransparency,” designed to reproduce the economic and political unit, “worker-consumer-citizen” for the uses of the state—and, of course, for the “good” of the units themselves.



As Foucault has argued, these disciplinary discourses are in fact forms of what he punningly calls “subjection.” In subjecting individuals to the disciplinary matrix, they in fact construct, reinforce, and maintain a certain form of subject-ivity. In producing subjects, discipline substitutes the “memorable man” with the “calculable man”19 and thus acts to produce the bad infinity of modern collectivism. Modern collectivism in fact reinforces individualism by inserting the subject in the disciplinary matrix according to “the limit that will define difference in relation to all other differences,” that is according to a predetermined calculus of difference based on a uniform notion of the normal. This creates the paradox of the hyperindividualized subject whose individuality is in fact a complete illusion, since it is based only on the comparison with others according to a set of differences pre-determined by the system. So the typical American rugged individualist bases what he considers his individual distinctiveness on the size, make, and year of his SUV or television set. Once normalizing judgment is broken, education becomes a project dedicated to the enabling of the “memorable man” as opposed to the production of the “calculable.” Educational success is then judged by the criterion of meaning, or in Kilpatrick’s words, “wholeheartedness” which the learner, teacher, and curriculum, understood as a triadic system, create in any given context. Before she becomes active, the learner is in fact an isolated individual—isolated in the disciplinary matrix to which she has been “subject-ed.” Reconstrued as responsible for the construction of her own meanings, she enters, not just a group, but a community of learners. It is a community in the sense that her drive for meaning has become coherently related and interdependent on the drive for meaning of each other member in the group. The locus of control has shifted—in this, she has become re-subjected, which is to say reconstructed as a subject-in-relation and a subject-in-process. Thus the notion of active learning, while appearing to be hyper-individualistic, is actually an outgrowth of the ontological and epistemological revolution occurring in the early part of the twentieth century under the influence of evolutionary, organismic theory, variously called “transactionalism” or “interactionism.” The determining metaphor for this shift was the notion of the “organism-in-environment” as the unit of analysis rather than just the organism, thus deconstructing the subject-object dualism which in fact held the notion of discrete subjectivity firmly in place. Once the subject is understood as part of the object, both their actual boundaries and, of course, the possibility of “objective” knowledge come into question. Transactionalism results in both pragmatist (Dewey’s “scientific method”) and constructivist (Piaget’s genetic epistemology) theory, both of which assume inquiry to be the fundamental cognitive activity of learning, which in turn is understood as a strategy which serves the drive for equilibration between organism and environment. Applied to the classroom, the organism (student) is understood as both a product and a producer of the environment, which opens the way to multilogical relations and to the reconstruction of power, for simply to assume this metaphor is to deconstruct any unilateral transmission theory and its assumption of necessary hierarchy.



The second major educational innovation which reconstructs theory and practice for the intersubject—community of inquiry—assumes, following field and systems theory and the reconstruction of the subject-object relation, that any group gathered together is an interactive system. And following transactionalism’s reconstruction of learning as problem-solving within an environment—i.e., learning as both the process and the result of a search to reconstruct the organismenvironment unit in a more satisfactory form (i.e., to equilibrate)—it also assumes that the fundamental form of growth and development both of the individual and of the collective takes place through a process of communal deliberative inquiry (or search) into meaning, resulting in the reconstruction of beliefs, values, and discourses on both an individual and a collective level. This process is completely unavailable to a pedagogical model based on the replication and iteration of legitimated knowledge transmitted unilaterally by an authoritative other. Even as inquiry is a process in which the subject and the object are both active and passive, shaping and being shaped, determining and determined in and through their transaction, so the methodology of group inquiry is necessarily dialogue, which assumes by definition that its interlocutors are in a relation of both mutual and self-interrogation.20 More specifically, community of philosophical inquiry (CPI) involves practicing philosophy—understood as cognitive inquiry into our fundamental beliefs about the world and the assumptions that underlie them—through group dialogue. It creates its discussion agenda from questions which are posed by the interlocutors as a response to some stimulus—whether text or some other media—and includes discussion of specific philosophers or philosophical traditions, if at all, only in order to develop its own ideas together about the concepts under discussion. As a pedagogical form, CPI is dialogical and multilogical rather than monological, constructivist rather than transmissional, and its curriculum is at least partially co-constructed and emergent. As a form of communal discourse, it aspires to an ideal speech situation in the sense that power is present in the discursive system, not as reified in role hierarchy or arguments from authority, but in the transformative, systemic dynamics of dialogue. It may also be thought of as a form of collaborative, playful, communal “worldmaking” in Goodman’s sense of the term; in fact its characteristic discursive patterns bear a striking resemblance to his five “processes that go into worldmaking,” practiced as a conversational art.21 Although community of inquiry in education is possible in all academic disciplines, and will take different forms depending on the discipline to which it is applied, it finds its most transparent and methodologically uncomplicated expression in applied philosophy, i.e the actual doing of philosophy rather than reading it or reading about it. Philosophy in the elementary and high school classroom is gaining power as an educational idea now as the phenomenon of the intersubject emerges in human culture because communal philosophical dialogue is the discursive space where the subject’s fundamental assumptions about self, world, knowledge, belief, beauty, right action, and normative ideals enter a dialectical process of confrontation, mediation, and reconstruction. As an educational form, it is the transitional cultural space for the deconstruction of the unitary, hierarchical self and the reconfiguration of subjectivity; and for the emergence of a discourse



which is capable of exploring, articulating, and drawing the implications of the new model of subjectivity for personal and social life. Community of philosophical inquiry is the discursive master-form of the emergent epoch of the intersubject because it expresses the possibility of overcoming the contradiction between two poles of subjectivity: the “autonomous” discrete subject and the collective being. In communal philosophical dialogue one thinks both for oneself and with others. Information is both mediated through the other and individually constructed, but never directly transmitted. Education is reconstructed as a form of hermeneutics, or dialogical interpretation. CPI as a communal discursive event, a methodology, and a set of skills and dispositions, has some of the following characteristics.22

Problematizing Texts and the Priority of the Question:
Stimulus texts, whether print or other media, are storied, concrete, creative, interactive and multi-logical, rather than expository, linear, sequenced “textbook” discourse. They are designed for communal “reading,” and both stimulate and model the process of inquiry. They are designed and/or used to problematize a concept or an issue—to stimulate questions rather than propositions—to look for the limits, the boundaries, the gray or fuzzy areas of a concept. In an inquirybased form of education, the question has priority over the proposition because it represents the disequilibrative element in any conceptual structure, and thus the opening for its deconstruction and reconstruction. Any text which reifies concepts rather than allows space for problematization is resistant to inquiry.

Student Generated, Open Agenda:
Participants generate questions in response to the text, and those questions become the agenda for collaborative discussion and other forms of group action. As such, students are collaborating in the construction of the curriculum. The limits of this collaboration extend from the teacher choosing the texts to students themselves choosing or creating texts.

Discussion and other group action proceed by following the inquiry where it leads through questioning, asking for evidence, criteria, and reasons, exploring alternatives and hypotheses, proposing, connecting, and distinguishing ideas, drawing temporary conclusions, etc. Inquiry and reasoning behaviors are dispositional, in the sense that they are aspects of intentionality, or intrinsic “meaning-toward” the world. They are easily learned—sometimes in fact more easily by children than by adults—because they are simply more advanced forms of a kind of thinking which, on a constructivist and transactional account, is inherent to biological and emotional survival. The difference between CPI and “real life” is that in the former, the problems which are triggered by the stimuli are enclosed in a discursive circle—which can be interpreted either as a “magic” circle or a frustratingly limited artificial circle removed from action—which in fact is the circle of philosophy. Therefore a major question for the efficacy of the



structure and process is how the judgments which emerge from a communal philosophical inquiry emerge into action—whether that action be psychological or practical/instrumental.

The inquiry proceeds through communal dialogue. Each individual is in relation with each other individual, and in relation with the group as a whole. Each interaction changes how the whole inquiry is understood by the interlocutors, and leads to another interaction. Interlocutors build skills in translating between various expressive, cognitive, and discursive styles and registers, in remaining sensitive to context, in putting ego in perspective, in being sensitive to the beliefs of others, and in tolerating ambiguity. Ontologically, dialogue implies the intersubject. Epistemologically, it implies that knowledge is a shared human construction, taking place in time, always related to context, and in continual reconstruction. Metaphysically, it implies nothing—that is, although it assumes that truth can only be available in “the long run,” it offers no guarantee that it will every be available or not.

Communal dialogue leads to the intra-psychic reproduction of the inter-psychic: knowledge, skills, and dispositions which are manifested between members are replicated within each individual. This is the fundamental learning theory of CPI, and follows Vygotsky’s theory of the developmental relation between the individual and the social in the acquisition of skills and concepts.23

The inquiry is characterized by emergent, recursive themes, which tend, through ongoing clarification and development, towards fundamental philosophical issues like freedom, good, nature, culture, mind, justice, persons, etc. which are the conceptual basis for humanizing reflection.

Multi-dimensional Thinking:
CPI includes at least these kinds of thinking: 1) Critical thinking, which relies on criteria, is sensitive to context, self-correcting, and conducive to judgment; 2) Creative thinking, which is imaginative, originative, independent, expressive, pluralistic, holistic, aesthetic; 3) Caring thinking, which is respecting, maintaining, loyal to persons and process, empathic, celebratory, nurturant, restorative.24

As a process, CI is non-hierarchical, democratic, pluralistic, ethically sensitive, and oriented to individual and communal transformation. The convener and facilitator of the process is model, coach, and co-investigator, rather than instructor or ultimate authority. CPI represents one form of the reconstruction of power in the classroom, with implications for others.



Open System:
The structure of the inquiry is chaotic, emergent, self-correcting, and self-organizing. Every interaction has an incalculable effect on the system. Growth is characterized by building and integrating, which also involves, as an aspect of continual reorganization, splitting, extenuation, tangles, asymmetries, attenuations, etc. The characteristics listed above have implications not only for curriculum and pedagogy, but for school politics as well, which cannot be separated from larger political spheres. Ultimately, CPI and, more generally, community of inquiry in other disciplines will have its most crucial social effects in the reconstruction of relations of power within institutions—including the family—for the process of communal dialogue decenters and destabilizes relations of authority between student and teacher and leads to their reconstruction and redistribution as a communal process.25 In that the student-teacher relationship is the young person’s first, paradigmatic relation of authority which both models and creates relations of authority within the larger society, the shift represented by CI is associated necessarily with de-hierarchization, which in turn is associated with the reconstruction of power as fluid, group-negotiated, and revisable in form. This new relation to and approach to power is made possible, not just by the emergence of the intersubject, but through the emergence of the form of community which it implies—community as inquiry and as the continual reconstruction which follows on inquiry. Certainly power can be reconstructed in many ways, not all of them fluid, egalitarian and democratic. But any value which holds to the continuous reconstruction of relations of power necessarily implies no fixed form of power, which precludes hierarchy as “ideologically frozen relations of dependence,” and thus implies either chaos or continual re-organization on a more satisfactory level. As in any historical dialectical emergence, what Peirce called “tychism,” the principle of chance in evolutionary processes, plays its incalculable part in the emergence of the intersubject. Infrastructural variables must be propitious for the emergence of superstructural elements, but the two dimensions of historical becoming are mutually interactive, and cannot be thought of separately. Superstructural elements may arise from structure, which then turn and influence its reconstruction: the two are mutually entraining. We have to admit that given that historical causality is overdetermined, the intersubject is only one possible historical “necessity” among myriad possible others—the rise of a new and frightening kind of totalitarian personality for example. But it can be claimed at least that history indicates a transformative movement of normative subjectivity, whether that evolution be interpreted as relatively random, evolutionary, or both. It can also be claimed that infrastructural elements are propitious for the emergence of a new form of subjectivity, given the current shift in information environment and what we know about the implications of past shifts for normative subjectivity.26 Further, if we understand education as the primary means of enculturation into any given infoenvironment, we can at least claim that educational structures will change as the infoenvironment changes. And although we can always expect multiple superstructural responses to the same infrastructural stimulus, we can



identify the intersubject—and educating for the intersubject—as one possible both actual and normative response. Finally, that the current actual response to the global structural shift we are undergoing—in the form of a hardening of radical individualism combined with ever more mindless utilitarian collectivism—may be characterized as reactionary and even barbaric, yet reaction and barbarism will never be far from our door even in the best of times, nor will it ever represent the last word on the human possibility.

1. For an account of the research, see Daniel Stern, The First Relationship (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977). 2. The “modern” period is here understood as having begun roughly around 1500 in Europe. 3. For several psychohistorical accounts of this process, see Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (New York: Knopf, 1962); Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); and Jorge Arditi, A Genealogy of Manners (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). For two philosophical accounts with some historical structure, see Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989); and Jerome D. Levin, Theories of the Self (Washington: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1992). 4. “Chiasm, instead of the For the Other: that means that there is not only a me-other rivalry, but a co-functioning. We function as one unique body.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty The Visible and the Invisible (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1968), 215. 5. Most obviously Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion , and W. D. Fairbairn. For a full account, see Fairbairn’s An Object-Relations Theory of the Personality (Basic Books, 1952). 6. See Republic, Book IV, 434–44. In F. M. Cornford, trans. and ed., The Republic of Plato (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), 129–43; Michel Foucault, The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986); and Paul, Romans chap. 6. 7. Indo-European social structure has been explored by Georges Dumezil. See his The Destiny of the Warrior (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977). 8.. Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 135; and The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 65. 9. Otto F. Kernberg, Object-Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (New York: Jason Aronson, 1976), 72. 10. Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 146–7. 11. Karl Marx, from Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. In Eugene Kamenka, ed., The Portable Marx (New York: Viking, 1983). 12. See Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 180–4. 13. Marshall McLuhan , Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964). 14. Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1978), 56, 75. 15. Neil Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity (New York: Delacorte Press, 1979).



16. See for example, Caroline Pratt, I Learn from Children (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948); and for an account of early experiments, John and Evelyn Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow (New York: 1915). 17. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish. trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1979), 182–3. 18. William Heard Kilpatrick, “The Project Method,” in Fred Schultz, ed., Sources: Notable Selections in Education, third edition (Guilford, CT: McGraw Hill/Dushkin, 2001), 45, 47. The paper was originally published in Teachers College Record in 1918. 19. Discipline and Punish, 193 20. Hugh J. Silverman, “Hermeneutics and Interrogation.” Research in Phenomenology 16, 1986, 87–94. 21. Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1978), Section I,4 (7–17). Goodman’s five ways of “worldmaking” are “composition and decomposition”; “weighting”; “ordering”; “deletion and supplementation”; and “deformation.” 22. The following list is in large part adapted from the theoretical work of Matthew Lipman, who has been the chief articulator of community of philosophical inquiry theory and practice since the 1970s. These points and characteristics can be found throughout his theoretical writings, but the majority are stated and argued in his Thinking in Education, second edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), especially in chap. 5, “Thinking in Community.” 23. L. S. Vygotsky, Mind in Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979). 24. See Lipman, Thinking in Education, for an exposition of this cognitive triad. 25. For one persuasive interpretation of this process, see Pavel Lushyn, “The Paradoxical Nature of Ecofacilitation in the Community of Inquiry.” Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children, 16,1 (2002): 12–7. 26. For a succinct analysis, see Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New York: Methuen, 1982).