Conversation, Way to Truth

Vincent Kundukulam

We are living in a world of pluralism and the growing multiculturalism has given way to fragmented identities in all walks of life. There is an urgent need of an instance that can respond to the aspirations of different groups of sexual, ethnic, religious and cultural diversities and can help people to arrive at a consensus in view of building up a common platform for social living. In this regard, David Tracy’s concept of conversation is interesting.

According to David Tracy, in a world of plurality, conversation is a necessity to know the Truth, because dialogue is an instance of the manifestation of the mystery. The key in any game of conversation is not the self-consciousness of the players but the release of self-consciousness into the to-and-fro, the back-and-forth movement. When one person is willing to dialogue, s/he discloses what is inherent in the inner core of self. S/he allows the process of to-and-fro movement of the question and response take place between the dialogue-partners. When the dialogue partners are really caught up in the subject of discussion the mysterious aspects hidden in them disclose naturally.

Tracy admits that the genuine dialogue is risky. But he adds that only by risking our present self-understanding in the presence of the other that we will know the hidden aspects of truth. The partners in conversations are not to be afraid of the differences because the difference does not mean dialectical opposition. In fact, when one learns how the other experiences the world s/he gets enriched in his/her own tradition and understand better his/her own uniqueness. “Tracy writes: “To recognize the other as other, the different as different is also to acknowledge that other world of meaning is, in some manner, a possible option for myself … after any genuine dialogue what once seemed merely other now seems a real possibility.” To Tracy, “to understand at all is to understand differently. To understand at all is to understand for and within genuine dialogue allowing real manifestations of the other’s truth and thereby mutual transformation.”

In the practise of dialogue it is not appropriate to propose a fixed working methodology for ever. The reason is the culture is ever changing and very complex. Nobody knows certainly what method would be most fitting to face the conflicts or what long-term results the present method would bring in. Therefore a healthy stand would be to begin with one proposal, watch closely its defects and bring in necessary modifications. Every method has to be proved by its functioning; there is no prior justification. In course of this process there will emerge institutions and movements with claims of universality. Those who claim the legitimacy of authority bears the burden of justifying it. If they cannot prove it, their claims are illegitimate and hence to be dismantled. For the success of this process people have to closely watch and verify whether the leadership and its mode of functioning are committed to the lower sections of people, to the environment and to the society at large. If their activities help only to preserve structures of power or interests of the people at the top, then they are to be opposed.

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