Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English) is a
written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people,
and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange. As a
narrative, philosophical or didactic device, it is chiefly associated
in the West with the
Socratic dialogue as developed by Plato, but
antecedents are also found in other traditions including Indian
In the 20th century, philosophical treatments of dialogue emerged from
thinkers including Mikhail Bakhtin, Paulo Freire, Martin Buber, and
David Bohm. Although diverging in many details, these thinkers have
articulated a holistic concept of dialogue as a multi-dimensional,
dynamic and context-dependent process of creating meaning.
Educators such as Freire and
Ramón Flecha have also developed a body
of theory and techniques for using egalitarian dialogue as a
2 As genre
2.1 Antiquity and the Middle Ages
2.2 Modern period to the present
3 As topic
4 As practice
4.1 Egalitarian dialogue
4.2 Structured dialogue
4.3 Dialogical leadership
5 See also
8 External links
Frontispiece and title page of Galileo's
Dialogue Concerning the Two
Chief World Systems, 1632
John Kerry listens to a Question
of reporter Matt Lee,
after giving remarks on
World Press Freedom Day
(3rd May 2016)
The term dialogue stems from the Greek διάλογος (dialogos,
conversation); its roots are διά (dia: through) and λόγος
(logos: speech, reason). The first extant author who uses the term is
Plato, in whose works it is closely associated with the art of
dialectic. Latin took over the word as dialogus.
Oldest extant text of Plato's Republic
Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Dialogue as a genre in the
Middle East and
Asia dates back to ancient
works, such as
Sumerian disputations preserved in copies from the late
third millennium BC,
Rigvedic dialogue hymns and the Mahabharata.
In the East, In 13th century Japan, dialogue was used in important
philosophical works. In the 1200s, Nichiren Daishonin wrote some of
his important writings in dialogue form, describing a meeting between
two characters in order to present his argument and theory, such as in
Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man" (The Writings
of Nichiren Daishonin 1: pp.99-140, dated around 1256), and "On
Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land" (Ibid.,
pp.6-30; dated 1260), while in other writings he used a question and
answer format, without the narrative scenario, such as in "Questions
and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra" (Ibid., pp.55-67,
possibly from 1263). The sage or person answering the questions was
understood as the author.
In the West,
Plato (c. 437 BC – c. 347 BC) has commonly been
credited with the systematic use of dialogue as an independent
literary form. Ancient sources indicate, however, that the Platonic
dialogue had its foundations in the mime, which the Sicilian poets
Epicharmus had cultivated half a century earlier. These
works, admired and imitated by Plato, have not survived and we have
only the vaguest idea of how they may have been performed. The
Mimes of Herodas, which were found in a papyrus in 1891, give some
idea of their character.
Plato further simplified the form and reduced it to pure argumentative
conversation, while leaving intact the amusing element of
character-drawing. By about 400 BC he had perfected the Socratic
dialogue. All his extant writings, except the Apology and
Epistles, use this form.
Following Plato, the dialogue became a major literary genre in
antiquity, and several important works both in Latin and in Greek were
written. Soon after Plato,
Xenophon wrote his own Symposium; also,
Aristotle is said to have written several philosophical dialogues in
Plato's style (of which only fragments survive).
Modern period to the present
See also: Closet drama
Two French writers of eminence borrowed the title of Lucian's most
famous collection; both Fontenelle (1683) and Fénelon (1712) prepared
Dialogues des morts ("Dialogues of the Dead"). Contemporaneously,
in 1688, the French philosopher
Nicolas Malebranche published his
Metaphysics and Religion, thus contributing to the
genre's revival in philosophic circles. In English non-dramatic
literature the dialogue did not see extensive use until Berkeley
employed it, in 1713, for his treatise, Three Dialogues between Hylas
and Philonous. His contemporary, the Scottish philosopher David
Hume wrote Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. A prominent
19th-century example of literary dialogue was Landor's Imaginary
In Germany, Wieland adopted this form for several important satirical
works published between 1780 and 1799. In Spanish literature, the
Dialogues of Valdés (1528) and those on Painting (1633) by Vincenzo
Carducci are celebrated. Italian writers of collections of dialogues,
following Plato's model, include
Torquato Tasso (1586), Galileo
(1632), Galiani (1770), Leopardi (1825), and a host of others.
In the 19th century, the French returned to the original application
of dialogue. The inventions of "Gyp", of Henri Lavedan, and of others,
which tell a mundane anecdote wittily and maliciously in conversation,
would probably present a close analogy to the lost mimes of the early
Sicilian poets. English writers including Anstey Guthrie also adopted
the form, but these dialogues seem to have found less of a popular
following among the English than their counterparts written by French
The Platonic dialogue, as a distinct genre which features Socrates as
a speaker and one or more interlocutors discussing some philosophical
question, experienced something of a rebirth in the 20th century.
Authors who have recently employed it include George Santayana, in his
eminent Dialogues in Limbo (1926, 2nd ed. 1948; this work also
includes such historical figures as Alcibiades, Aristippus, Avicenna,
Dionysius the Younger
Dionysius the Younger as speakers). Also Edith Stein
Iris Murdoch used the dialogue form. Stein imagined a dialogue
Edmund Husserl (phenomenologist) and Thomas Aquinas
(metaphysical realist). Murdoch included not only Socrates and
Alcibiades as interlocutors in her work Acastos: Two Platonic
Dialogues (1986), but featured a young
Plato himself as well. More
Timothy Williamson wrote Tetralogue, a philosophical exchange
on a train between four people with radically different
Philosophy of dialogue
David Bohm, a leading 20th-century thinker on dialogue.
Martin Buber assigns dialogue a pivotal position in his theology. His
most influential work is titled I and Thou. Buber cherishes and
promotes dialogue not as some purposive attempt to reach conclusions
or express mere points of view, but as the very prerequisite of
authentic relationship between man and man, and between man and God.
Buber's thought centers on "true dialogue", which is characterized by
openness, honesty, and mutual commitment.
Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council placed a major emphasis on dialogue with
the World. Most of the Council's documents involve some kind of
dialogue : dialogue with other religions (Nostra aetate),
dialogue with other Christians (Unitatis Redintegratio), dialogue with
modern society (Gaudium et spes) and dialogue with political
authorities (Dignitatis Humanae). However, in the English
translations of these texts, "dialogue" was used to translate two
Latin words with distinct meanings, colloquium ("discussion") and
dialogus ("dialogue"). The choice of terminology appears to have
been strongly influenced by Buber's thought.
David Bohm originated a related form of dialogue where a
group of people talk together in order to explore their assumptions of
thinking, meaning, communication, and social effects. This group
consists of ten to thirty people who meet for a few hours regularly or
a few continuous days. In a Bohm dialogue, dialoguers agree to leave
behind debate tactics that attempt to convince and, instead, talk from
their own experience on subjects that are improvised on the spot.
In his influential works, Russian philosopher and semiotician
Mikhail Bakhtin provided a linguistic methodology to define the
dialogue, its nature and meaning:
Dialogic relations have a specific nature: they can be reduced neither
to the purely logical (even if dialectical) nor to the purely
linguistic (compositional-syntactic) They are possible only between
complete utterances of various speaking subjects... Where there is no
word and no language, there can be no dialogic relations; they cannot
exist among objects or logical quantities (concepts, judgments, and so
forth). Dialogic relations presuppose a language, but they do not
reside within the system of language. They are impossible among
elements of a language.
The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire, known for developing
popular education, advanced dialogue as a type of pedagogy. Freire
held that dialogued communication allowed students and teachers to
learn from one another in an environment characterized by respect and
equality. A great advocate for oppressed peoples, Freire was concerned
with praxis—action that is informed and linked to people's values.
Dialogued pedagogy was not only about deepening understanding; it was
also about making positive changes in the world: to make it
Main article: Dialogic learning
A classroom dialogue at Shimer College.
Dialogue is used as a practice in a variety of settings, from
education to business. Influential theorists of dialogal education
Paulo Freire and Ramon Flecha.
In the United States, an early form of dialogic learning emerged in
Great Books movement of the early to mid-20th century, which
emphasized egalitarian dialogues in small classes as a way of
understanding the foundational texts of the Western canon.
Institutions that continue to follow a version of this model include
Great Books Foundation,
Shimer College in Chicago, and St.
John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe.
Main article: Egalitarian dialogue
Egalitarian dialogue is a concept in dialogic learning. It may be
defined as a dialogue in which contributions are considered according
to the validity of their reasoning, instead of according to the status
or position of power of those who make them.
Structured dialogue represents a class of dialogue practices developed
as a means of orienting the dialogic discourse toward problem
understanding and consensual action. Whereas most traditional dialogue
practices are unstructured or semi-structured, such conversational
modes have been observed as insufficient for the coordination of
multiple perspectives in a problem area. A disciplined form of
dialogue, where participants agree to follow a dialogue framework or a
facilitator, enables groups to address complex shared problems.
Aleco Christakis (who created structured dialogue design) and John N.
Warfield (who created science of generic design) were two of the
leading developers of this school of dialogue. The rationale for
engaging structured dialogue follows the observation that a rigorous
bottom-up democratic form of dialogue must be structured to ensure
that a sufficient variety of stakeholders represents the problem
system of concern, and that their voices and contributions are equally
balanced in the dialogic process.
Structured dialogue is employed for complex problems including
peacemaking (e.g., Civil Society
Dialogue project in Cyprus) and
indigenous community development., as well as government and
social policy formulation.
In one deployment, structured dialogue is (according to a European
Union definition) "a means of mutual communication between governments
and administrations including EU institutions and young people. The
aim is to get young people's contribution towards the formulation of
policies relevant to young peoples lives." The application of
structured dialogue requires one to differentiate the meanings of
discussion and deliberation.
Groups such as Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille use
dialogue as a communication tool for married couples. Both groups
teach a dialogue method that helps couples learn more about each other
in non-threatening postures, which helps to foster growth in the
The German philosopher and classicist Karl-Martin Dietz emphasizes the
original term of dialogue, which goes back to Heraclitus: "The logos
[...] answers to the question of the world as a whole and how
everything in it is connected. Logos is the one principle at work,
that gives order to the manifold in the world." For Dietz dialogue
(gr. dia-logos) means "a kind of thinking, acting and speaking, which
the logos "passes through"" Therefore, talking to each other is
merely one part of "dialogue". Acting dialogically means directing
someone's attention to another one and to reality at the same
Against this background and together with Thomas Kracht, Karl-Martin
Dietz developed what he termed "dialogical leadership" as a form of
organizational management. In several German enterprises and
organisations it replaced the traditional human resource management,
e.g. in the German drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt.
Dialogue Among Civilizations
Dialogue in writing
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the Term from
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Have Shaped the History of Humanity. p. 560.
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Philosophy from Kierkegaard
to Buber. p. 219. ISBN 0791406237.
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Dialogue in the
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^ Nolan 2006, p. 30.
^ Nolan 2006, p. 174.
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^ Maranhão 1990, p.51
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Learning. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
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p. xxi. ISBN 1849807388.
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the Concept of Life in the Digital Era". In Floridi, Luciano. The
Onlife Manifesto. p. 130. ISBN 3319040936.
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Dialogical Community Development. p. 28.
^ Denstad, Finn Yrjar (2009). Youth Policy Manual: How to Develop a
National Youth Strategy. p. 35. ISBN 9287165769.
^ Definition of structured dialogue focused on youth matters
^ Hunt, Richard A.; Hof, Larry; DeMaria, Rita (1998). Marriage
Enrichment: Preparation, Mentoring, and Outreach. p. 13.
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E. Di Nuoscio, "Epistemologia del dialogo. Una difesa filosofica del
confronto pacifico tra culture", Carocci, Roma, 2011
Look up dialogue in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiversity has learning resources about Practicing Dialogue
National Coalition for
Dialogue and Deliberation
Transmission of ideas
•1 person to themselves, mental
•1 person to themselves or to another without reply, verbal
•2 or more people, verbal
Deus ex machina
In medias res
Figure of speech
Suspension of disbelief
Types of fiction with multiple endings
List of writing genres
Stream of consciousness
Stream of unconsciousness