Dialogue as a literary form across philosophical traditions
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Throughout the history of philosophy as an academic discipline, scholars have tended to focus almost exclusively on the content or meaning of philosophical works, with very little attention to the form or style that philosophers have adopted to articulate their ideas. Although the major philosophical traditions of the world (Euro-American, Indian, Chinese, Islamic…) all include a variety of styles that have changed according to different historical periods and cultural contexts, there has been relatively little attention to analyzing these different literary forms: Why do philosophers use the styles that they do? In what ways do philosophers employ the styles they use as a way of conveying their message? What is the relationship between form and content in philosophy?
In our small-scale two-day workshop, we will explore these questions with a particular focus on the use of dialogue in philosophical works. A number of the world’s major philosophical texts – including the works of Plato, the Upanishads, Boetheus’s The Consolations of Philosophy, the Buddhist Nikayas, the Zhuangzi, David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues Between Hylas & Philonous, and the Mumonkan – have been composed in the form of a dialogue. But only recently have scholars begun to investigate how the dialogue form is used in these texts, and what implications the dialogue form has for the interpretation of these works.
Contact: Sam Clark, email@example.com.
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