I have been centrally influenced in the dialogical approach I take to interpersonal communication, not by the theories of Wittgenstein, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, and Voloshinov, but by certain specific utterances or expressions in their writings. As I see it, all communication begins in, and continues with, our living, spontaneous, expressive-responsive (gestural), bodily activities that occur in the meetings between ourselves and the others and othernesses around us. Indeed, as living, embodied beings, we cannot not be responsive in some fashion to the expressions of others (spoken, written, or otherwise), and to other kinds of events, occurring in our immediate surroundings. Thus, as I see it, abstract and general theories are of little help to each of us in the unique living of our unique lives together, either as ordinary people or as professional practitioners. While the specific words of another person, uttered as a ‘reminder’ at a timely moment as to the character of our next step within an ongoing practical activity, can be a crucial influence in its development and refinement. Thus in this paper, I outline a distinction between ‘withness‘ and ‘aboutness-thinking’: Withness (dialogic)-thinking is a form of reflective interaction that involves coming into living contact with an other’s living being, with their utterances, their bodily expressions, their words, their ‘works’. It gives rise, not to a ‘seeing’, for what is ‘sensed’ is invisible; nor to an interpretation, for our responses occur spontaneously and directly in our living encounters with an other’s expressions; but to a ‘shaped’ and ‘vectored’ sense of our moment-by-moment changing placement in our current surroundings – engendering in us both unique anticipations as to what-next might happen along with, so to speak, ‘action-guiding advisories’ as to what-next we might do. Aboutness (monologic)-thinking, however, is unresponsive to another’s expressions; it works simply in terms of a thinker’s ‘theoretical pictures’ – but, even when we ‘get the picture’, we still have to interpret it, and to decide, intellectually, on a right course of action.
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