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Dialectics and the Art of Communication

In a Facebook thread, I was asked by FB friend Nanda Gopal to take a look at a talk by Alex Epstein, on "Intellectual Persuasion." After watching the presentation, I posted this on Facebook:

I thought it was a very good talk. Before I say why, let me plug a book from my mentor, Marxist political theorist, Bertell Ollman. Bertell wrote a book called Dialectical Investigations, and in it, he talks about the different levels on which dialectics (context-keeping) is important. Among these is the need for the comprehensible exposition of your ideas. This "moment" of exposition, Ollman explains, is crucial to getting your point across, and some of the principles that he outlines coincide exactly with what Epstein advocates here, namely:
1. Context-bridging: In order to master the art of communication, it is extremely important to try to understand the context of the audience (be it one person or a group): their knowledge, their needs, their interests. Epstein drives home the point that by bridging your context and the context of your audience, you increase the odds of being understood and of persuading your audience. He gives some very good techniques (e.g., coming up with one-sentence condensations of your point of view; providing three concrete examples by which to illustrate your point; and bridging the differences between your point of view and the opinions of others, by what he calls "addition, subtraction, and modification.").
2. Context-briding sometimes requires one to "reframe" one's arguments in a way that connects with your audience. It helps to go into a conversation with the assumption that your interlocutors are honest, even if they are incorrect. As he puts it: "Every wrong view is an answer to a legitimate question." That's a terrific insight.
Anyway, I would say that this is a nice condensation of how one applies the principles of dialectics ("context-keeping") to the art of communication.

I was additionally asked what collections of Aristotle do I find most useful, and I replied:

The problem is that I like some of the translations in each of about four different works, but the only complete one is the Jonathan Barnes edition of the Complete Works of Aristotle, which, while complete, is not necessarily my favorite on all counts. I find The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon very useful. But I also like the English translation by H. Rackham of "The Athenian Constitution; The Eudemian Ethics; On Virtue and Vices" (part of the Loeb Classical Library). And then there are some very good Selections, translated by Terence Irwin and Gail Fine (for Hackett publishing, 1995). It's very hard finding one collection that satisfies me in all ways.