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2nd Unit : 3rd Study Group Session

2nd Unit : 3rd Study Group Session

Writings in the Form of Dialogues and Spinoza

The 3rd Study Meeting, the 2nd Unit

On November 28, 2011, Research Associate Dr. Takeshi Ohno gave a presentation titled “Writings in the Form of Dialogues and Spinoza“ starting at 18:10 (at Conference room, Undergraduate School of Literature, Hakusan Camups, Toyo University). The most famous work of Spinoza may be Ethics, which has a geometrical structure. In A Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being, he inserted two short dialogues. Writings in the form of a dialogue were not very rare: for example, Kant even inserted a short dialogue in his essay for the lectorship qualification. His presentation reconsidered the meanings of using such dialogue formats.

The 3rd Study Meeting, the 2nd Unit

In the world of philosophy, the most well-known works in a dialogue format are those by Plato. Plato considered that a dialogue was the best method to work on philosophical issues. Such a dialogue was not a mere series of disputes, but constituted a process of reasoning as a whole. In the aincient works including those by Plato, a dialogue was assumed to be a conversation between particular persons; but in the works of Medieval Christian philosophy, conversations between a “teacher” and a “student” were more often seen. Moreover, dialogues with oneself were sometimes seen, as Soliloquies of Augustine in which he conversed with his own reason.

In Plato and Augustine, a dialogue is an approach to the search after Truth, but the merit of a dialogue is not confined to that: for example, some dialogues were written to explain something more plainly, such as Berkeley’s Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Or a philosopher might intend to show arguments against his own view and refute those arguments, which can clarify the points at issue. Spinoza’s dialogues are assumed to be for that purpuse, to clarify the points being debated.

Isn’t any dialogue ― not only those aimed at the search after Truth or clarification of points at issue ― in itself a movement of thinking?; aren’t there more meanings to having a dialogue face to face? The presentation provoked so many questions. It was a very productive meeting which reconfirmed the importance of dialogues as a method of philosophy.