Voltaire Philosophy

Voltaire: To Online Dialogue Leaders

Online communities lacking leadership often get trapped within the realms of talking nice or tough. Debate is healthy, as it creates a container for reflective and generative dialogue. But within all conversational settings, dialogue leaders must ensure harmony, protecting a culture of inquiry and a commitment to emergence and creativity. They synchronize the actions people take during a conversation. Movers initiate ideas and transition conversations, while opposers challenge their direction – both act as advocates. To inspire, followers complete ideas and support the conversation, as bystanders provide perspective. Leaders keep everyone transitioning through the fields of conversation, ensuring debate leads to breakthroughs not breakdowns. What might Voltaire, an 18th century writer and philosopher, a fighter of free thinking and human dignity, an influencer of the French and American revolutions, offer today’s online dialogue leaders? Continue reading

Falcon

Preying on Big Data

The falcon soars to a pitch high above a plain, surveying for an attractive piece of data. Another 2.5 quintillion bytes is filling the landscape today, stuffing social media posts, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, cell phone GPS signals and other information systems.

He anticipates the flow of information, staying a step ahead of reactions, considering all environmental conditions. Circling the surroundings, he isn’t expecting the feel of familiarity, but thinking instinctively – nothing is unfamiliar. The characteristics of untrustworthy, unreliable data are consistent across state borders. Continue reading

How 12 Strangers Agreed on Murder

Six months ago, I was walking in downtown Colorado Springs wearing a blue-and-white pin labeled “Juror Div. 8.” I was part of a group of people selected by two teams of lawyers to interpret evidence in the 4th Judicial District of the Colorado State Judicial Branch.

After the lawyers completed their arguments in the first-degree murder trial, the jury was excused. I’d decide a man’s guilt with eleven other people, culminating two weeks of listening to witness testimonies, and getting acquainted. Finally, we could speak about the most meaningful thing this group of strangers had in common: a twisted love triangle and its deadly shooting. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: Exploring the Fields Listening

During a dialogue coaching call today, I examined the fields of listening within personal relationships. I guided my coachee through understanding the transition from judgmental listening to listening from outside, and then into empathic and generative listening. Each field carries a concurrent change in dialogue, where actors in a conversation move from the shallow exchanges of politeness or debate into those of inquiry and flow. My coachee explained two recent conversations with people in her private life. Continue reading

Dialogue Coachee Call: ‘Who is my self?’

“Who is my self?” That was one of a couple of self transcending questions I needed to answer last Friday, ahead of a call today with my dialogue coach. I traveled to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, grabbed a stone and considered it.

“Who is this person, this being?” At first, nothing happened. Perhaps, the question has no answer, or it’s capable of infinite possibilities. I jotted down words on a piece of paper: thinker, experimenter, worker, stress-free, risk-taker, divergent. The words were soon followed by phrases: “living life,” “not wasting time,” “finding a personal purpose”, “experiencing many mini purposes for a greater overall purpose.” As I wrote, I started to metaphorically lift from my self, thinking more critically of who I am — not what I or other’s expect, but who I’m being. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: ‘Who is my self?’

While facilitating a dialogue coaching call today, I found further evidence that everyone struggles with who they are. People are caught between conflicting personalities, resulting in the occasional discomfort or confusion. After my coachee reflected on the question “Who is my self?” while taking a brief walk in the afternoon air, she identified an internal conflict: her authentic self and ideal self. While authentically loyal, goal-orientated, determined and sometimes selfish, she strives to strike a balance with her ideal self to ensure a meaningful yet altruistic life. “Ideally, we’re all here to serve each other for some sort of synergy,” she said. Continue reading

Candide

Voltaire: To Digital Citizen

Ferney, February 20, 1759

Once again, sir, this orange has been squeezed, and now we must save the peel. Perhaps, my peculiar birth was hundreds of years premature. Did I materialize too early, or just in time? For I’ve survived a generation, weak in the body, strong in the mind, paving your rue for truth. Nearly 300 years later, I trust you’re reasoning in novel ways, exposing and uprooting tyrants, sowing innovative utopias, benefitting from a sweeping brilliance.

Monsieur, do you demand skepticism of truth and reasoning? Do you cherish an inalienable right to make use of your pen as of your tongue?

“Respect my master’s absurdities!” says tradition’s slave. “Nay,” yells the enlightened. “Shut your mouth. For your master’s lies shouldn’t earn five minutes from a shelled mollusk.” Continue reading

Dialogue Coachee Call: Practicing Suspension

Today, my dialogue coach and I discussed my ability to suspend judgments. Suspension is considered critical to preventing a conversation’s breakdown, as it transitions from argumentative to inquiry. We reviewed how to best carry conversations from debate and argument to more reflective dialogue. Without an authentic capacity to suspend judgments, people quickly succumb to overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frustration or politeness and denial. The result is talking tough or nice, or completely halting the dialogue process before it breaches the barriers leading to meaningful acts of mutual and collaborative understandings. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: Reflecting on Suspension

During a call today, I was a dialogue coach for someone reflecting on suspending judgments during employee evaluations. She’s hoping to transition her evaluations into moments focused more on inquiry than debate. Suspension has proven difficult for one employee who routinely reacts defensive, re-enforcing prior conclusions. However, to improve understandings and cultivate a more collaborative work environment, she feels it’s important to persist at suspending judgment. Continue reading

Communicative Action, Tell Your Wife I said ‘Hello’

Jürgen Habermas, a German philosopher and sociologist, has several matured positions related to dialogue processes, including his widely cited Theory of Communicative Action. Habermas is known for combining philosophy with social sciences to explain dialogue processes. His explanations of the actions required to form mutual understandings are pioneering and powerful. They’re considered highly influential in political discourse, public policy and critical thinking. After exploring his theories, I realized why a conversation I had nearly a decade ago stayed so memorable. Continue reading