Snakeoil and conversational imperatives

veiled+lady_485041815At the moment I’m trying to think through a kind of peculiar imperative, that of the conversation. Imagine a scene: a pub, restaurant or party, one in which the focus is a kind of average everyday, ‘passing the time’ conversation. The subjects roam across TV programs, a little current affairs, perhaps venturing into some personal experience. Maybe the topics don’t even reach this far and consist of a banter about women, men, sex, people that are hated or disliked. At some point in this situation someone begins to express an opinion that is unusual and they continue to express it even when it comes up against confusion and disagreement. Each time someone objects, another reason is given. The game becomes one of giving and taking reasons, except it is at this point that something arises that is no longer smooth. Aggression, anger or a general heightened emotional state begin to be displayed – the scene is decsending into an argument and not a reasonable, debating society type of argument nor an emotionally over-loaded inter-personal conflict but rather a confrontation and disruption.

Now to begin with this is not the clearest example of a phenomelogical situation, of that I’m aware. I need to develop and refine the sort of situation I’m interested in. For the moment, however, what I’m interested in is exactly what is disrupted. To all intents and purposes it seems like the snakeoil of sociability, of easily rubbing along together, is broken or disrupted. Yet paradoxically the situation is supposedly one of communication – so how do certain limits become set to this communication. How, in other words, does a common sense begin to obtain? This common sense, this commonly agreed set of topics which can be discussed and the ways in which we can discuss them, establishes itself through culture, through the common sense of everyday life. Common sense becomes no longer a ground for communication but precisely the illusion of communication that aims at blocking all new thought or at least any new content. In doing so common sense becomes precisely a bloackage to the ideal we enoivisage exists inside a communicative relation. This is something I think Nietzsche, Heidegger and Deleuze all agree upon as an enemy of thought.

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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

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