Re: Forming a Group LO2748

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 21:32:52 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO2716 --

This little exchange raises -- or rather, exhibits -- some extraordinarily
complex problems, I think.

Many of them center on the way this word "assumptions" is being used.

Colloquially, we often use the word to mean something that might be better
named as "default belief". That is, some state of affairs that we will
take to be the case until real information becomes available on which to
base a truer judgement. "I will act on the assumption that this is the
case until my observation suggests that it isn't." A fully articulated,
carefully chosen set of such defaults can provide a wonderfully efficient
way to absorb and evaluate new and unfamiliar situations.

We also use the word, sometimes, to refer to deep, strong, inarticulate,
and unconscious _demands_ that we see others (never ourselves) making of
the world.

Two people in conversation, using the word in these two different ways,
may experience momentary confusion when the two meanings meet, I think.

On Sat, 9 Sep 1995, Michael McMaster wrote:

> Bill, there is an approach to assumptions that is frequently useful when
> dialogue is a significant component. It is an approach that does not look
> only at the "positive" assumptions. There are always assumptions and
> presuppositions which are unsaid and generally considered to be
> "negative". With the approach that you enunciate, I don't see them
> becoming part of the dialogue and therefor a significant force will likely
> be missed.
> > Question: In order to form an environment for dialogue to begin to take
> > place what is the minimum number of assumptions that need understanding
> > and enrollment. My early thoughts would point toward two:
> >
> > 1) We all want the project to provide the best result that we can
> > produce.
> >
> > 2) Everyone is acting rationally toward that goal.
> >
> Are these valid assumptions? At least some of the team is very likely to
> either not share these fully or to have contradictory ones even though
> they agree with the two assumptions stated.

No doubt about it. Starting from the given defaults, that will become
clear soon enough, won't it.

(Somehow this thought immediately, for me, segues into "how, at the start
of any dialog, can I most effectively communicate my initial defaults?"
And the answer that always comes back is: "By every possible use of gesture,
tone of voice, body language, timing, glance, parable, joke, silence,
eyebrow, song, dance, dog-and-pony I can imagine, BUT NEVER BY EXPLICIT
UTTERANCE." And really, friends, I can't tell whether this is a
practical or a theoretical concern of mine. All I know is that it's
always there.

Gosh darn. This reaches all the way back to some threads that were going
strong a couple of months ago. True, they've never been far from the
surface since then: I'm referring to the tacit-knowledge, the noise, the
control threads.)

> What about, "I want to look good" or "I have a particular way that I want
> some part of this to be done that I've already decided is best"?
Well sure. But these would emerge very quickly into light of day in a
dialog that started with the assumptions given above.

> A dialogue is not a rational process - it is a process of full human
> communication.

As stated, that doesn't seem quite right. May I paraphrase?

"A dialog is not exclusively a rational process, any more than we humans
are exclusively rational creatures. It involves full human
communication: reason, passion, will, wit, pride, humility."

The goal of dialog is mutual truth, of the sort that John Warfield alluded
to: depersonalized (in the best sense of that concept) belief. If, in
dialog, we find something true, neither of us, obviously, can take that
truth exclusively for ourself. Necessarily, it is our common property.

     Jim Michmerhuizen
     web residence at
. . . . . . . . . .   Actions speak louder than words   . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . .        but not as clearly         . . . . . . . . . .