Dialogue has suffered a long eclipse in the history of rhetoric and in the history of philosophy. Socrates, its most important early practitioner, left no writings of his own, and his voice has become inextricably merged with the writings of Plato. Dialogue has reemerged, however, in the twentieth century, in the work of theorists from a range of disciplinary orientations—Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Martin Buber, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Carl R. Rogers, for example— some of whom have taken an interest in the early Platonic dialogues and their relationship to the rhetorical tradition. Recent scholarship on the early dialogues, moreover, has envisioned a Socrates distinct from the Socrates of the later dialogues, a Socrates more concerned with how we live than with what or how we know, a Socrates who practices dialogue as the only true art of politics and who rejects rhetoric as the dangerous tool of an imperialistic empire. This renewed interest in dialogue offers an opportunity to rethink the role of dialogue within the rhetorical tradition and to reconstruct a dialogical (not a dialectical) rhetoric as a rhetoric that is responsive, and accountable, to other people. This renewed interest offers an opportunity, moreover, to rethink the very meaning and purpose of public discourse not as persuasion but as an ongoing exchange in which we test and contest and create ideas in cooperation and when necessary in conflict with others.
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