Expressions like “intellectual battle,” “culture war,” “winning an argument,” or “attacking faulty reasoning” employ adversarial metaphors suggestive of something rather removed from Raphael’s depiction of philosophical dialog in his famous painting, School of Athens (shown cropped in the banner of this blog). Surrounded by a collection of other intellectuals of the period, the two men at the center of that work — Plato and Aristotle –– are shown having a discussion. This is the leitmotif of what Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins dubbed “The Great Conversation.” This is a conversation about the “great ideas” that have shaped the intellectual history of the West over the last 2,500 years.
The Great Conversation is an example of the “dialectical paradigm” of argumentation. This paradigm makes certain assumptions about the ability… Continue reading