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Cushman, P. (1996). Locating Dialogue: A Reply To Flax. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(6):883-894.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(6):883-894

Locating Dialogue: A Reply To Flax Related Papers

Review by:
Philip Cushman, Ph.D.

Flax and I do have our differences, as her review (and mine of hers) points out, and I will address those in a moment. But first I would like to postpone the impulse to argue, and instead carry on the mission of this journal, by proceeding in a more hermeneutic, dialogic manner. I will not try to develop an empathic knowing that would claim a felt experience of what Flax was feeling, because I believe that kind of “knowing” is highly problematic, if not impossible. Instead, I prefer to conceive of the process as one that might help me to get a sense of the kind of world Flax lives in, the kind of cultural and political frame of reference that would bring to light her particular concerns and criticisms. Gadamer's work suggests that if I can do so in a genuine, open manner, not only will I better appreciate the truths of her world, but I will also come face to face with the same questions about my world. This is one aspect of what is called the hermeneutic circle: the tacking back and forth between the part and the whole, the particular and the general, difference and familiarity.

The dialogic process might help me to get a sense of the kind of moral commitments that would move Flax to be concerned with the issues she raises, and the kinds of previous battles in her life that would cause my work to “show up” in the way it does for her. Also, in the course of this process I was moved to wonder why she and I, who agree on many issues, end up arguing—what might our argument mean? What are we trying to get at here, and how can our differences be of help to current disputes in our discipline and our society? Asking these kinds of questions, Gadamer suggested, will help us enter into what he calls a “genuine conversation,” a dialogue. These questions helped me not only get a sense of the parameters of Flax's world, but learn more about the parameters of my own world as well. The approach helped me be more open to Flax's arguments and committments and, importantly, become more aware of the limitations of my own.

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