attentiveness, qualities of listening and the listener in the community of philosophical inquiry
Keywords:listening, inquiry, attentiveness, facilitation, practice
AbstractThis paper seeks to redress a predominant focus on speaking over listening in theorising the Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CPI). Frequently, where listening is discussed, the focus is on encouraging children to be active listeners. This means of describing the listening that occurs in the CPI has lost some efficacy as the language of active listening has been co-opted as a management technique focussed on making the speaker feel heard with little emphasis on the intentions or outcomes for the listener. Thus, on a cynical reading, ‘active listening’ can become reduced to performative physical indicators of listening (such as eye contact and body language), overlooking the ethical-epistemic commitments of the genuinely engaged listener. Here, rather than formulating new terms to describe listening, I propose Iris Murdoch’s account of attentiveness as an apt descriptor of the effects of truly involved listening on the self that seeks to attend to the unfolding content of the CPI and as a way of characterising the qualities of a CPI where such listening is achieved. Here, attentiveness is presented as a concept that captures the unique facets of listening as a challenge to individual participants concerned with contributing effectively to the dialogue as it unfolds within the CPI and those facilitating the dialogue. The paper briefly explores some implications for practice contexts, proposing three interventions to cultivate attentiveness in CPI participants and in facilitators (especially if they are undergraduate or postgraduate in Philosophy because philosophical identities might become a barrier to attentiveness). At its conclusion, this paper repositions listening in the CPI as a productive risk with a particular form of ‘aliveness’ aptly captured by the term attention.
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