Friday, March 7, 2008

Listening to yourself and others

The two are not unrelated. I was thinking about these kinds of listening in the academic context of the importance of understanding your own scholarly convictions, so that you can make the greatest use of what you hear/read from others.

The ideas we read in scholarly publications are not meant to be accepted simply because they are in an academic publication. They are meant to be tested in the court of scholarly examination. This is the fundamental view of the progress of science in the model proposed by Sir Karl Popper in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery." The fact that more recent philosophy of knowledge focuses even more heavily on the social aspects of developing knowledge does nothing to weaken that premise (unless you assume that scholarly discourse has no element of contentious debate whatsoever).

We should read academic works with a critical eye: what assumptions and presuppositions are being made? What kinds of logical reasoning are being used, and are they being used carefully? What kind of evidence is presented, and is that evidence convincing? What are the strengths of the argument? Its weaknesses? By understanding our own philosophical positions, we are much better able to read in this way. We should be reading with an open mind, of course: as we test the ideas of others, we should also be testing our own--and we should be open to changing our own ideas in the face of good arguments and evidence.

When I initially wrote the title, I immediately saw that that this is about more general patterns of communication, too.

Or at least, I think of it this way: if we have developed the ability to listen to ourselves, if we have developed some idea of who we are and what we believe, then we have developed a foundation from which we can better listen to others. If we don't know how to listen to ourselves, or if we have not developed a sense of who we are and what we believe, then we're caught in insecurity--worrying about ourselves and therefore unable to hear what others are experiencing.

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