Some have been asking for more scholarly-ish articles and essays from yours truly posted here, so here’s one I recently put together:
Philosophizing with Children and Youth – Juxtaposing the Socrates Café & Philosophers’ Club Approach with Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue
By Christopher Phillips, PhD
Leonard Nelson, who wrote widely and deeply on such subjects as ethics and the theory of knowledge, popularized Socratic inquiry in educational settings. Eventually he was forced by the rise of Nazism to quit these efforts. His influence continues, however, and indeed grows. There is little gainsaying the efficacy of the Socratic Dialogue fostered via the Nelsonian method, which since the 1990s has become pervasively popular, especially in Europe, and which is largely encapsulated in Nelson’s noted essay, “Socratic Dialogue and Critical Philosophy,” as “the art of teaching not philosophy but philosophizing”. This perspective of active engagement places emphasis on the fact that Nelson’s model of Socratic exchange is not a static method within a closed system, but a dynamic, process-oriented approach to inquiry with no fixed epistemological boundaries. Nelson maintains that participants in Socratic dialogue are, in effect, further freeing their minds as they challenge and weigh a variety of viewpoints.
Nelson provocatively characterizes the Socratic process as one that “works back from particulars to universals as a method of regressive inference, thereby identifying it with the inductive method”. By this approach from the specific to the general, one pursues “the path of abstraction, which employs reflection to lift the knowledge we already possess into consciousness”. Yet the Socratic method can potentially be both deductive and inductive simultaneously. For instance, in a Socrates Café inquiry, participants oftentimes discover that the view they believed they held is not the one they in fact harbor. In the process of methodically expostulating their perspective and subsequently supporting it (or attempting to do so) with discursive reasoning and concrete examples, they induce, or work back from, particulars as a means of discovering deductively their truly held position, hence bringing to the surface what had in a sense been hidden.
I find intriguing Nelson’s assertion that it is not through “occasional bright ideas,” much less “mechanical thinking”, that we gain greater knowledge; rather, “only planned, unremitting, and consistent thinking leads us from darkness into its light”. Yet even the most consistent, systematic thinking, no matter how relentless, may not in itself lead to new insights, unless the system itself is an intentionally open one, and features a method that facilitates discovery. One hallmark of the Socratic method, in Nelson’s estimation, is that it is an innovative approach that enables inquirers better to “do their own thinking”. Nelson argues that this form of philosophical enquiry utilizes “the interchange of ideas as a safeguard against selfdeception”. I agree, with the caveat that the interchange of ideas alone, though a necessary facet, is not in itself a sufficient safeguard against self-deception, and can actually prop up self-deception if not employed in the service of sound methodical means and ends.
In Enquiring Minds, Dr. Rene Saran a noted fomenter, particularly in the United Kingdom, of the movement to establish Nelsonian Socratic dialogue in educational settings, claims Nelson was the first modern philosopher to attempt to engage in Socratic inquiry “in a public and systematic way”. It could be noted here that Saran and most other Nelsonian proponents refer to the Nelsonian version of Socratic dialogue as Socratic Dialogue with a capital ‘D,’ and so I will do so as well. He [Nelson] thought of Socratic Dialogue as a unique way to learn to philosophize, an antidote to and even a political weapon against dogmatism, and a royal path to an ethical truth.
Saran lauds what she presents as Nelson’s neo-Kantian approach to Socratic dialogue, in which a rational approach is used for philosophical investigation. Scientifically-based truths or findings are considered compelling, but are not necessarily held to be the exclusive realm for gaining knowledge, since other forms of contemplative inquiry are equally valid. She extols Nelson’s efforts to advance “the concept of thinking for oneself, or self-directed learning” and for deeming the Socratic method to be “especially suited for fostering the capacities of enquiry and reasoning” in ways that cultivate individual autonomy. Saran’s view is that Nelson advocates the use of the Socratic method to advance “a learning-teaching process
in which learners, through co-operative group dialogue, win knowledge about their own inner experience and develop insights into the truth concerning a philosophical question. In this process they are guided by a facilitator who steers the dialogue without impinging on the substance of the self-directed enquiry of the learners […].
The end is to enable “ordinary people to philosophize with the aim of enriching and informing civic life”. My own perspective is that in addition to serving as a means for greater inner growth and individual actualization, the aim of the Socratic approach is to advance and cultivate more meaningful participation by everyday people in the socio-political sphere.
As an inveterate Nelsonian practitioner, Saran stresses that Socratic Dialogue is “governed by a set of rules”. She lists three full pages of procedural rules, which range from highlighting “the responsibility of all participants to express their thoughts as clearly and concisely as possible” to dictating that any experiences offered in the course of the dialogue by participants have to be “derived from one’s own particular experience; hypothetical or generalized […] examples are not suitable”. Rules can certainly be, and in all likelihood are, an important part of any meaningful method. But what struck me as odd is that there is no mention of method in the context of any of the rules, as if, at best, they are divorced from or a mere adjunct to the method. There is a further implication that the ‘keepers of the rules’ are the ‘leaders’ of the inquiry.
I have participated in two Nelsonian Socratic Dialogues the format of which, as Saran notes, was first developed by Gustav Heckmann, one of Nelson’s students. As Saran describes it, Heckmann evolved Nelson’s Socratic Dialogue “into a teacher-learning dialogue,
into his work as a teacher-trainer in post-war Germany”. His primary aim was to enable people to make reasoned judgments, so they would never again fall prey to the pernicious types of group think that lead to mass movements such as Nazism.
Both the Nelsonian Socratic Dialogues in which I participated took place over intensive three-day periods. Such participation enabled me to juxtapose the Nelsonian practice with my emerging Socrates Café approach, in which similar ends were aimed for, though the means of achieving them would turn out to be markedly different. Both the dialogues in which I took part strictly adhered to an elaborate protocol described in the index of Saran and Neisser’s Enquiring Minds. At the outset of each Socratic dialogue, in each of which were five participants, the moderator informed us we would discuss a ‘What is x?’ question. In my first Socratic dialogue, the question we were given was, ‘What is integrity?’ We were then requested to relate a personal dilemma that we deemed to have challenged or called into question our personal integrity. We were subsequently instructed to decide unanimously which of the confessional-type experiences which had been related we would like further to investigate as a group. We then cross-examined the person whose ‘dilemma vignette’ on integrity had been adopted by the group as the principle means for developing over the next two days an agreed-upon conceptual definition of integrity. The facilitator, all the while, transcribes on large poster paper taped to a wall a précis of our inquiry, so that we can ‘map’ the dialogue and refer to its trajectory as we continue the process.
In the case of the “What is integrity?” question, we were charged with locating the instance(s) that integrity occurred or emerged in the example under scrutiny, and to come up with a working definition of integrity based on this. Then, we bring into the discourse each of the other personal examples or acts of perceived integrity (or lack thereof – the example was meant to relate to the theme of integrity, but need not be a positive or redemptive instance) that the rest of had earlier shared. We then were charged with determining whether the working definition could be applied with equal preciosity to these examples, and if not (as was the case), we then had to rework the definition.
Our ultimate task was to reach group consensus on a ‘universal definition’ of the concept based on what we had gleaned from the example under scrutiny and the responses to our questions. With the deft prodding of the facilitator, each participant was compelled to compromise elements of her own closely held notions of how integrity should be defined, in order to reach so-called universal consensus. It was a painstaking process, and it is safe to say that few if any of us was essentially satisfied with the final definition we wrought. The Socratic dialogue could not be brought to closure until we reached agreement on a definition of integrity, and by the end of three intensive days together, it seemed to me that even the most recalcitrant among us was willing ultimately to relent from his position and agree to a group definition of the concept that he did not necessarily fully subscribe to, in order to bring the dialogue to an end. The second experience was similar, and underlined my perceptions of the first encounter with Nelsonian Socratic methods, except that the question examined was ‘What is change?’ My experiences in Nelsonian Socratic dialogue mesh in many ways with Stan van Hooft’s characterization of what should transpire in a Socratic dialogue, as set forth his essay “Overcoming Principles”:
The dialogue takes great pains to achieve consensus and mutual understanding. Effort, discipline and perseverance are required for this. Everyone’s thoughts need to be clarified in such a manner that participants understand each other fully. The discourse moves slowly and systematically, so that all participants gain insights into the content of the dialogue. Participants can also engage in meta-dialogue, if they feel that the process is not leading anywhere productive. It is this effort that generates the intensity of the dialogue and turns the experience into a formation of motivation.
At times, though, I felt that mutual consensus came at the expense of mutual understanding. As I came to an empathic understanding of others’ views, I embraced the plurality of perspectives, feeling that each in some way held kernels of profound truths, and so resultantly felt less the need to arrive at consensus. Yet it was a consensus that the facilitator required, since that was the only way for the dialogue to come to a successful end, according to the facilitator’s protocols. What I found most significant was that the participants became more connected as we gained more profound insights into our respective views, and as were allowed the opportunity to express and support them, making it possible for others then to scrutinize them. On the other hand, the requirement to achieve a consensus seemed to me to result in unnecessary antagonism as we attempted through argumentation and persuasion to get others to accept our varying perspectives. This process appeared to be systematic, in the sense that we followed to the letter the Socratic dialogue protocol set forth by the facilitator. However, it seemed to me that it would have been more authentically Socratic to investigate deeply at some point the differences between our views, to delve into the concept of change itself, exploring differences of kind and degree.
In juxtaposing Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children Program with contemporary versions of Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue, Sarah Davey, in an essay in Analytic Teaching entitled “Consensus, Caring and Community: An Inquiry into Dialogue,” suggests that a major point of contrast she finds between these two forms of dialogue is in the differing “emphasis each places on consensus and conceptual analysis, and on reaching full agreement. Whereas the chief concern of Socratic dialogue is on consensus to achieve conclusive definitions, in the community of inquiry it is not always important to aim for consensus. Proponents of philosophy for children have invariably argued that conflict of opinion drives the community of inquiry, or even that conflict should be celebrated as a means to understanding”. While Davey finds that “the sole aim of Socratic dialogue is to align the views of all of the members in the group in much the same way as deep friendship requires the people in the friendship to have interests in common based on shared attitudes and values,” in the case of Lipman’s program, the “community of inquiry is comprised of co-inquirers, which is a form of partnership. Unlike the friends looking outward, these partners-in-dialogue face each other in much the same way as the lovers do, but not necessarily because they are fond of each other. Rather, they care for the relationship they share together, which is to follow the inquiry where it leads and collaboratively engage in self-correction”.
Though both Nelson’s adherents, and Lipman’s, appear to be engaged in searches for truth; and though both are replete with procedural rules; the thrust of Lipman’s program is that gaining a deeper understanding of participants’ differing views enables them to accept and even embrace differences of opinion, whereas with Socratic Dialogue “understanding is the basis of consensus” The rationale of this latter perspective being that, “if members have a full understanding based on reason alone, then they cannot avoid coming to the same conclusions”.
My participation with Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue was one of the factors that led me to determine that a Socrates Café/Philosophers’ Club inquiry would proceed differently. In most cases, these initiatives I founded and fomented, in schools as much as in any setting outside the hallowed halls, last from about 30 minutes (because of school-time limitations, principally) to two hours per session, and it is alright if each participant emerges with a somewhat uniquely held perspective on, and philosophy of, any given concept under scrutiny. Although there is no pressure on Socrates Café or Philosophers’ Club participants to reach consensus, this does not gainsay the fact that consensus sometimes emerges as a natural outcome of a specific inquiry. What typically results in a Socrates Café inquiry is that there are matrices of agreement, but it is rare for there to be full agreement among the group when it comes to concluding a final answer to any given question under scrutiny. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue process can develop the capacity to achieve consensus, and a keen appreciation for what this entails. However, it is less clear to me whether one’s capacities for judgment; or one’s ability to recognize dogma, much less combat it, are in any way honed.
The tensions and interactions between my fellow Nelsonian Socratic Dialogicians participants and myself were thrilling, even if at times these became challenging due to the confessional nature of the personal dilemma which the group had chosen to scrutinize. I appreciated the genuine give and take, and at times quite empathic listening, as participants engaged one another and exchanged philosophical perspectives. I learned about myself, perhaps not so much in terms of the philosophical process itself expanding my intellectual horizons, but in terms of my strengths and weaknesses in engaging with those with whom I disagree.
Rene Saran writes how Nelson founded a boarding school in 1922 in which pupils’ education was based on immersion in Socratic dialogue. The Nazi regime banned the school in 1933 yet, by this time, as Saran powerfully describes it, the school had already served the purpose intended:
It is noteworthy that many who had attended Nelson’s Academy […] became active underground anti-fascists in opposition to Hitler. […] It was this participation [in Socratic dialogue] that sustained those who took part in the underground resistance, enabling them to retain and deepen their inner convictions in the fight for survival under Nazi tyranny.
Regular participation in such dialogue might contribute to resistance to those types of dogma that can promote ‘groupthink,’ defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics”. In turn, such uncritical acceptance of others’ ideas might potentially precipitate the types of mass movements that Nelson found to be the principal enemies of democracy. Additionally, participants prospectively consider adjusting or amending their beliefs, if the ‘evidence’ presented so warrants. This has similarities with the continuous revolutions that characterize the emergence of new scientific paradigms. Such a process is in line with Thomas Kuhn’s observations in his seminal The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. To Kuhn, consensus among a group is indeed a criterion that must be generally shared by participants in a community of inquiry when it comes to deciding which method and which overarching theoretical framework best leads to critical scrutiny of any given view or phenomenon, and results in the most viable or warrantable explanations. It is a hindrance, on the other hand, if the community members are not encouraged to expose one another’s ‘blind spots,’ and the community strives instead for consensus as an ultimate end.
As valuable as Nelsonian Socratic dialogue is, I believe the potential for a community of inquiry is best realized when we do not try to seek consensus as an outcome, but rather to challenge consensus. Participants may agree at the outset to adopt a method that enables us to verify whether our views are tenable and, if not, seek to amend or alter or dispense with them, at times constructing an altogether ‘new’ belief based on this ‘self correction.’ Flexibility, self-awareness, reflective critique and openness to change have the potential to provide an antidote to entrenched dogmatism.
This is not to say that communities of inquiry do not arrive at consensus – only that such consensus should be the platform for continual re-testing. Such repeated testing might proceed with the ingrained expectation that the latest ‘finding’ will, if historical patterns hold, likely be amended or toppled over time. In the process, our imaginative-creative and intellectual-rational ‘lenses’ will themselves expand and deepen. Such a process might potentially alter the horizon of possibilities for democracy itself, instilling it with a revolutionary component similar to that which exists in the scientific realm, which over time upends existing conventional ‘wisdom’ to replace it with something that better fits the full facts as these emerge.
Saran, along with co-author Dr. Barbara Niesser, characterizes the goals of Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue as four-fold:
- To answer a philosophical question by seeking out the truth about the nature of concepts like tolerance, freedom, justice and responsibility, and to endeavor to reach consensus – ie to reach a result or outcome.
- To engage in the co-operative activity of seeking answers to questions and to understand each other through the exploration of concrete experiences, volunteered by participants, one of which is usually chosen by the group for detailed analysis. In this way all are engaged in the process.
- To deepen individual insights and understandings as the dialogic process moves towards enabling participants to grasp the moral perplexities of the everyday world.
- To gain through dialogue greater clarity about what is and what is not in keeping with considered, thoughtful and reasonable conduct, thus enhancing self-confidence in our ability to reason and so shaping our approach to life.
One might be in full agreement that concrete experiences/situations should be explored in a Socratic inquiry, and question whether ‘concrete’ is tantamount to a personal experience of a confessional nature: at least, in the two Nelsonian Socratic Dialogues in which I took part, the requirement was that they be of this nature. While they certainly can be of this nature, if one so chooses, many other types of concrete examples could just as meaningfully suffice, in my estimation. Any example or experience that impacts a person – something she has read, or seen on TV, or otherwise become privy to, even in quite an indirect way – can constitute a meaningful experience that is good grist for Socratic interrogation.
Moreover, rather than choosing to analyze only participants’ experiences, as is done in the course of a Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue, it could be just as fruitful intensively to scrutinize a range of other sorts of experiences that do not directly touch upon any of those taking part, but which might nonetheless have considerable pertinence to the question under scrutiny. Such experiences might serve as additional means to support one’s philosophical perspective on the given question. Further, when it comes to quotidian moral perplexities, rather than merely coming to grasp with what they are, participants may well emerge with greater insight into them. This in and of itself represents a type of clarity – one that can enhance and exacerbate one’s perplexities as one discovers more about their complexities. This might give one a much more profound appreciation and insight into the nature of complex moral issues than any outright or forced attempt to simplify or reduce such perplexities.
Additionally in stating, as Saran does, that the explicit aim is to discover the truth about the nature of any given concept is at least to suggest that they have a ‘true nature,’ when in fact they may have dueling or multiple natures that might prove contradictory (among other possibilities, one being…no nature at all), depending on situation, culture, epoch or context in which they are embedded, and depending on the functional ends of the persons employing them. At the very least, one should question whether there is a truth or set of truths to their nature; if so, whether it is of an irreducible sort or not so at all; all the while seeking to gain insights into the functional uses of the concept or concepts under consideration. One might explore, with this end in mind, how and whether and even why these moral perplexities change and evolve, or devolve, over time. In the process, one may gain greater understanding of how such concepts are ingrained with perhaps a range of values, which may by no means be consistent. Perhaps the only consensus necessary among participants is to agree continually to examine how the concepts we use, and investigate as a group, affect our actions, impact upon our moral development, and inform our judgments. We might also seek to discover where there is agreement among us and where there is not.
While Saran does not explicitly mention that the process she enumerates is intended to serve as a political weapon against dogmatism, it seems implicit that achieving these four-fold goals will, in her estimation, help achieve this end. Indeed, she later states that the “basic assumption behind the practice of Socratic Dialogue” is that “it is worth our while to talk about the most important things, about how we ought to live,” and that in order to do so fruitfully, the type of tolerance cultivated in this form of dialogue must be nurtured. “We need tolerance; there has been too much dogmatism and imposition in the history of mankind”. There again, in response to such a pat statement, a Socratic interrogator might at the very least be prompted to ask in return: Do all forms of tolerance fend off dogmatism, or can some breed it? Are all forms of dogmatism pernicious, or are certain types compatible with (even promotive of) living in an open society?
The implications for democracy of the differing approaches between Lipman’s Philosophy for Children program and the Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue can hardly be overstated, according to Sarah Davey. Socratic Dialogue adherents claim that it is a supremely democratic exercise “because all members of the inquiry are given equal opportunity to volunteer any perspectives on an issue”. In Davey’s view, while this is correct as far as it goes, “insofar as all opinions are heard,” the fact remains that “if emphasis is on striving for consensus, it seems unlikely that this can occur (especially when opinions are diverse) without any appeal to compromise. In relation to democracy in a multicultural society, consensus seems even more remote, and compromise seems to be the only road to a solution. Put another way, while all members may have the opportunity to be heard, not all of these contributions will make it to the conclusion”. Even so, if all members are genuinely heard, that may prove to be the greatest contribution of all to democracy, particularly if those members have a chance further to develop their views, and to consider those of others. Such an exchange should be part of a methodical yet organic process that holds promise of transforming one’s outlook, or at least of casting one’s outlook in a different light.
The Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue’s penchant for rules-based protocol is as rigid as the rules-based protocol for Philosophy for Children is apparently lax – yet both share the apparent belief that rules themselves are tantamount to driving deliberative method (confusing and confuting such dialogical pre-conditions as tolerance, openness, commitment to the inquiry with nuts-and-bolts methodological precepts). Both extremes, when devoid of sound or explicit methodological means for conducting the dialogue itself, and when the rules are not explicitly geared towards ensuring that the methodological undertaking flourishes optimally, may inhibit this transformative element from fully manifesting itself.
In a Socrates Café or Philosophers’ Club (usually called Philosophers’ Club, though some organizers prefer to call it Socrates Café, the name more often reserved for adult inquirers in public settings), a group of children gather regularly to explore their thoughts and concepts of the world. They follow a method of questioning inspired by the philosopher Socrates. The iteration of the Socratic method of discourse we utilize provides a way for children to seek and find insights and truths by their own lights. An operating premise is Socrates believed that we only discover what we truly think about something by engaging in constructive and empathetic discourse with others.
Philosophers’ Clubs almost invariably serve to help participants nurture their ability in “the fourth R”– the ability to reason in ways as imaginative as they can be constructive. In this form of creative and critical inquiry, children are required to back up their viewpoints with compelling evidence presented in well-structured arguments. Sloppy or lazy thinking is taboo. Every step of the way, the teacher or volunteer educator is helping a child develop reasoning and logical thinking skills.
One of the key maxims in philosophical inquiry the Philosophers’ Club way, as I note in a guide, as well as in an addendum on “tips,” is: The unexamined concept is not worth using. Take this oft-explored question posed by children and youth: “Why are we here?” There lie some hidden concepts: What is why? What is we? What is here? And even, What is are?
If you assert we “are,” you are assuming we “exist.” This makes it incumbent for one or more participants to explain what it means to exist. By isolating each concept for a while, members can probe them individually. Later in the discourse, the facilitator will bring the concepts back together. One can follow up with questions like “Where else are we?” And one might receive responses (as I have) like, “We’re here in these chairs, in this neighborhood, in this city, state, country, continent, planet, galaxy, universe.”
This then can prompt the facilitator and participants to ask questions such as: What do all these places have in common? Why are we in these places? How do we know we’re in these places? One asks questions like this not because knows all the possible answers, but because one doesn’t know. Those with such a Socratic sensibility hope that other members may provide previously unfamiliar answers and broaden members’ perspectives.
This sample question “Why are we here?” also contains assumptions that need to be challenged and examined. The word ‘why’ assumes that there is a reason we’re here. So a group of inquirers likely or prospectively will want to explore also questions like: What is a reason? What are different types of reasons? What makes a reason a good reason for explaining why we are here? Is there such a thing as here? What is it and how do we determine where it is?
The word ‘we’ suggests that there are many I’s discussing the question, that these I’s exist, and that we can call all of these I’s “we.” Which may lead participants to ask: How do we know “I” when we see it? Or is “I” something we don’t see, but detect by other means? Is “I” even a substance – an it – or is it something else altogether?
This sample question also assumes there is such a thing as “here” and that it can be located. So one could profitably ask: Is it always possible to locate ourselves in a “here” and determine where we are? If so, how precisely do we go about doing this? Can we do it on our own or do we always need the help of others? Or is it that only others can determine where we are?
In sum, my experience of establishing and facilitating Socratic inquiries in schools across the world accords to a degree with Nelson’s in that a “process of separation from the particulars of experience” can serve as one effective means to “search for the more universal truths” that people seek to live by. According to Nelson, this approach better enables one to focus attention “wholly on the general characteristics of concepts as we grasp them”, in order to then go on and fulfil “the task of making these concepts explicit by definition”. In the case of a Socrates Café, one might go on to question whether we do (or even should) seek universal truths, much less live by them; and if we do, to ask what they are, and how we can recognize them. We may moreover explore whether concepts are ever as wholly explicit as one might anticipate, whether their ‘explicitness’ may well hinge on situation, context, moral code, ends, cultural embeddedness.
We even go to the extent of asking whether any of the concepts under scrutiny at any given gathering might be dispensed with; sometimes even in questioning whether such cherished and time-honored concepts as truth or justice might be discarded. One can, at the very least, gain a greater appreciation of the putative indispensability of these foundational precepts.
In any event, utilizing
the Socratic method to elucidate concepts – clarifying them or even evolving
their function, powers and properties, as well as the values embedded within
them – can serve to help push outward the boundaries of scientific knowledge as
much as ethical knowledge or ‘democratic knowledge’: knowledge that we perceive
might help foment a more evolved version of democracy. Consequently, whether
employing experimental and deliberative means to gain a greater understanding
of the outer physical cosmos; or whether employing the same means to
interrogate the ‘inner cosmos’ of the human mind; or both at once; whether
engaged in moral/existential inquiry or inquiry in the hard sciences; a person
using the Socratic approach is able and equipped to test hypotheses and operating
premises more effectively.
 Or I should say, ‘ostensibly lax.’ Even a rule for Philosophy for Children participation that stipulates that all children should share a commitment to the inquiry can in fact turn out to be overly prescription. Many participants not be able to discern the level of commitment they might want to make until the dialogue has progressed somewhat. It seems to me that they should be allowed to suspend or reserve judgment on precisely what their commitment should be. Quite often, in my experience, those who are the most aloof at the outset of a dialogue are often, by the end, the most ‘committed,’ the most immersed. Something will have been said along the way that jars a response from them, that brings them to immerse themselves in it and ultimately make a commitment to the inquiry to an extent that may far exceed those who seemed ‘most committed’ as it first got underway. Commitments, at the very least, can wax and wane through the course of a dialogue. The fact that all those on hand remain in the room from beginning to end represents a commitment of sorts; moreover, even if someone does not make a single statement, they may be listening intently to all that is said, and that may well be tantamount to quite a high level of commitment.