A Dialogue: At the Demonstration. Part I

As I wrote in my very first blog post, I want to try things out in this blog. In this post I am trying something new for me, I publish the first part of a dialogue I have written.

The topics of the dialogue are mostly introductory. There are important philosophical issues touched upon without these issues being simplified, but the text does not presuppose any prior knowledge of philosophy.

Readers acquainted with ancient philosophy will be quick to spot the influence of Platonic dialogues. However, the positions the speakers take are not quite the same you find in typical dialogues by Platon. I leave to my readers to formulate, what exactly the difference is.

Note that I am not a native speaker when it comes to English and the literary quality might suffer because of this. If you find any orthographic or grammatical mistakes I would be happy to be corrected in the comments.


Recently I attended a demonstration in company of L. To our surprise we found that G also had come to the meeting place. L saw this as an opportunity to tease G.

L: I did not expect to meet you here, G. I thought you might follow a thought rather than a call for justice.

G: Did you expect most of the people, whom you see here? Or why is my case of not being expected by you noteworthy?

L: I thought I had indicated so much. You are especially unexpected, because would I have thought of you, I would have expected you not to come since you reflect on the events of the world, rather than to take to the streets and shape them. – Or maybe you do not even intend to participate in our protest and your presence is more of a research visit?

G: I am here because I am intrigued by disagreement.

L: Ah! So you are not here to express your disagreement to ruling politics, but rather to observe our expression of disagreement?

G: I think we are in disagreement about this. Having observed the people around me I find myself much more in disagreement with the government than anyone else at this demonstration.

L laughed. L: Oh, is that so? Do you care to elaborate how this is so? I am sure you are going to turn everything on its head once again!

G: Whatever the proper position to put things may be, we may try to find it in our conversation.

I see that there is a disagreement between the people at this demonstration, presumably including you my dear L, and the government, or those who represent it, but it seems a rather superficial disagreement to me. You disagree about how matters ought to be governed, while you agree that everyone has to accept that these matters ought to be governed, and even that everyone has to accept that there is one specific way according to which matters ought to be governed. I myself, on the other hand, disagree that any of this is clear at all.

L: I see, but once again and as expected you turn everything on its heads. I even admit that your disagreement is more fundamental in a sense, however, you still miss the point entirely. The kind of disagreement, which matters for a demonstration is a political disagreement and for such a disagreement you have to take a political stance, which you avoid.

G: Do I? Do you not agree that “X is clearly the one right political path” is a political claim?

L: I admit as much.

G: Then do you not agree that denying such a claim is disagreeing with a political claim?

L: I see where you are headed and I admit that you are disagreeing with a political claim. Nonetheless, I maintain that there is no political disagreement in your case. For a political disagreement two political positions have to be presented, two political positions which cannot be both realised.

G: Can “X is clearly the one right political path” and “X is not clearly the one right political path” both be realised at the same time?

L: The question is misleading, you misunderstand me on purpose!

G: Quite to the contrary! I am giving my best to understand you – and to rule out all possible misunderstandings is the best way of understanding I am familiar with. But if you prefer, you can tell me more about the kind of political positions you have in mind.

L: I mean positions which tell you how one ought to act politically. Here you go!

G: So it is a political position – of the right kind – to hold that one ought to cut public funding for something?

L: Yes.

G: And it is a political position to hold that one ought not to cut public funding for something?

L: Yes, it is.

G: Even if my reason to hold that one ought not to do so is only that I like it to better that way, while I see that this is no reason for you not to act that way?

L: No! That is not the “ought” I mean, that one holds that someone should do this for political reasons, which hold for everyone!

G: You are making a very good distinction, L. You and the others at this demonstration seem to hold that everyone has to accept that matters ought to be governed in a specific way, that there is something about the world which makes accepting the matters ought to be governed a specific way the only correct choice independently of who is to make the choice.

L: That is correct.