Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mikhail Bakhtin: The Dialogic Nature of Consciousness

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogical Imagination. ed. and trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist. Austin: University of Texas P, 1981.

{MB—The utterance} tastes of the context and contexts in which it has lived its socially intense life (293)

---. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. trans. C. Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

Everything that pertains to me enters my consciousness, beginning with my name, from the external world through the mouths of others (my mother, and so forth), with their intonation, in their emotional and value-assigning tonality. I realize myself initially through others: from them I receive words, forms, and tonalities for the formation of my initial idea of myself. … Just as the body is formed initially in the mother’s womb, a person’s consciousness awakens wrapped in another’s consciousness. (xx)

Truth is not born nor is it found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for the truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction. (110)

I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another. The most important acts constituting self-consciousness are determined by a relationship toward another consciousness (toward a thou) … The very being of man (both external and internal) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate … To be means to be for another, and through the other for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, he is wholly and always on the boundary: looking inside himself, he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another … I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another. (287)

Monologism at its extreme denies the existence outside itself of another consciousness with equal rights and equal responsibilities, another I with equal rights (thou). With a monologic approach…another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness. No response is expected from it that could change everything in the world of my consciousness. Monologue is finalized and deaf to the other's response, does not expect it and does not acknowledge in it any decisive force. Monologue manages without the other, and therefore to some degree materializes all reality. Monologue pretends to be the ultimate word. It closes down the represented world and represented persons. (Bakhtin: 292-93)

The dialogic nature of consciousness. The dialogic nature of human life itself. The single adequate form for verbally expressing authentic human life is the open- ended dialogue. Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium. (Bakhtin: 293)

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