Half a Language: Listening in the City of Words

  • Richard SmithEmail author
Part of the Educational Research book series (EDRE, volume 4)


In his Preface to Gemma Corradi Fiumara’s The Other Side of Language1990 p. i) Manfred Riedel writes, “Our philosophy is grounded in only half a language, in which the power of discourse is deployed while the strength of listening is ignored. We inhabit a culture that knows how to speak but not how to listen”. This is of course not simply a matter of not being able to identify appropriate ‘listening skills’. It is worse than that: it is not clear that we have anything but a thin and debased notion of listening in our contemporary (western) world, in which it is seen principally as the poor relation of speaking, mute and passive by contrast to the active, dynamic creativity of speech. In this chapter, I shall first suggest that unsatisfactory accounts of the concept of truth are partly responsible for why we have forgotten to think about listening and argue briefly for a largely dialogic notion of truth and truthfulness in which, bearing in mind the theme of this book, on ‘Proofs, Arguments and other Reasonings’, the distinction between proving and persuading is less than firm. From this perspective, it will be easier to see how and why listening, of the two partners in the dialogue, has been neglected. The poor relation of the proceedings needs to be redeemed from the obscure and marginal status it currently occupies, and the remainder of the paper consists of moves in this direction.


Listening Skill Poor Relation Dynamic Creativity Philosophical Dialogue Mere Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Annas, J. (1981). An introduction to Plato’s republic. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Blackburn, S. (2006). Plato’s republic: A biography. London: Atlantic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Cavell, S. (2004). Cities of words: Pedagogical letters on a register of the moral life. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cross R. C., & Woozley, A. D. (1964). Plato’s republic: A philosophical commentary. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Ferrari, G. R. F. (1990). Listening to the cicadas: A study of Plato’s phaedrus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Fiumara, G. C. (1990). The other side of language: A philosophy of listening. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Grassie, W. (1997). Postmodernism: What one needs to know. Zygon, 32(1), 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Griswold, C. L. (1988). Platonic writings, platonic readings. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Jowett, B. (1871). The dialogues of Plato. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Lee, H. D. P. (1968). Plato: The republic. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  11. Rorty, R. (1989). Contingency, irony, and solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Smith, R. (2006). On diffidence: The moral psychology of self-belief. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(1), 51–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Smith, R. (2008). To school with the poets: Philosophy, method and clarity. Paedogogica Historica, 44(6), 635–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Vesey, G. (Ed.). (1974). Philosophy in the open. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Weil, S. (1977). Reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God. In G. A. Panichas (Ed.), The Simone Weil reader (pp. 44–52). New York: David Mackay.Google Scholar
  16. Williams, B. (2002). Truth and truthfulness: An essay in genealogy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Winch, P. (1958). The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DurhamDurhamEngland

Personalised recommendations