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Café de Flore inaugurated its’ first Café Philo in English, April 2, 1997, with:

Can People Communicate?

     At first, there was a sense of hesitation… people weren’t sure what was going to transpire though curiosity was high. Subject for debate: Can People Communicate? “It’s all non-sense just the same” someone said. Well, if the others had taken that attitude, the evening would have ended there. But, their rejection of this oversimplified remark (though with foundation beyond its’ simplicity), led the debate onwards.

     The topic was introduced by a well versed man who wondered if communication was possible at all. He elaborated on the complexity of the question by explaining that what is said may not be understood in the way it was intended but rather by what one’s perception of what is being said. Communication, if it occurred at all, according to him, was perhaps a meeting place: the meeting of what was being expressed with what was understood to be expressed (a kind of crossroads/intersection of meaning/intention between expression and comprehension).

     Others intervened with comments describing spoken language exchange to non-verbal communication as oftentimes dictated and/or guided by cultural boundaries. Someone pointed out in Japan when one says “yes” at times it may mean “no”, as their cultural connotation of “no” is different from the western concept. In other words, even if “yes”/agreement is stated it may mean “no”. One would have to understand the cultural context in order to know know when “yes” meant “no”.

     One of the French definitions of communication pointed out by Marc Sautet, is “communiquer” used as a verb meaning “giving access to”…(as the river commnicates with the stream, or the room communicates with the other room). Communication “giving access to”, in order to be successfully carried out, needs to be received by one who is accessible. Hence, the sender and receiver of the message are mutually accessible via several different vehicles of communication: non-verbal gestures, language, aesthetic interactions with objects of art and nature).

     Different levels of communication spanned from the automatic responses in routine situations to emotive responses evoked from different situations. Works of art can sometimes evoke greater emotional response from people than people can when interacting through language. Does language limit the communication between people or does it enhance communication? What’s the difference between communication between people and communication with objects of art? Is it not a question of identity? As one finds what one is seeking, either in the other (person) or in the object of art/nature, can we say then, that communication has occurred? The interrelationship between the two parties concerned demonstrates a message sent, a message received.

     How about communicating with oneself? When one steps outside of oneself and hears the other voice discussing some situation with the inner voice, we can say that a certain level of communication has been achieved.

     Heidegger might say: the fact that man (as a <<being there>> Dasein) in the communal sense is necessarily a being-with-others, his very existence is based upon communication. If we further follow Heidegger in this thought pattern, man must beware of communication with the “they” as this puts him into an inauthentic mode of being. However, this inauthentic mode of being is essential to man’s communication with others. In fact, this is the paradox fo his existence as he gets to know himself through others, he must also be careful not to become the others thereby losing his own identity. Language, gestures, art, etc. are vehicles of communication in which man comes to know his “authentic self”, if he can successfully lift up the clouds shadowing over him in his inauthentic existence.

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     Did people come a bit closer to their authentic selves while discussing this theme “Can people communicate”?





Other discussions:

Would it Have Been Better Not To Have Been Born?




About the Café Philo:

Stirring it with Socrates and a teaspoon




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