The Roots of Dialogue

  • Lauren Swayne Barthold


Leading dialogue theorist and practitioner William Isaacs, like other dialogue practitioners in the field he helped found, based his work on Martin Buber’s principle of fundamental relationality and reiterated Buber when he proclaimed, “in the beginning was the relationship.” This chapter examines how Buber’s dialogic ontology, based on the fundamental relationality of humans, can be used to ground a theory of dialogue able to deal with divisive civic discourse plagued by polarization. Buber’s emphasis accords with John Dewey’s, who also recognized the way in which our fundamental relationality can provide the grounds and motivation for a more intentional democratic community. Dewey described how “we are born organic beings associated with others, but we are not born members of a community.” Both Buber and Dewey affirm that the fundamental connection shared by all humans needs to be actualized and put into practice through concrete dialogic relations if we are to achieve a viable pluralistic community.


Dialogue Martin Buber I and Thou I-Thou Maurice Merleau-Ponty Relationality Dialogic relationship Event Experience 


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Swayne Barthold
    • 1
  1. 1.Liberal ArtsEndicott CollegeBeverlyUSA

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