First draft of paper for special issue of Journal of Constructivist Psychology, edited by Tom Strong

ACKNOWLEDGING UNIQUE OTHERS:
ETHICS, “EXPRESSIVE REALISM,” AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM

John Shotter

ABSTRACT: As Goffman (1967) remarks: “[if] the minute social system that is brought into being with each encounter [becomes] disorganized... participants will feel unruled, unreal, and anomic” (p.135). In other words, if we and our interlocutors are to communicate readily and easily, we rely on those with whom we are involved to sustain the sense of a collective-we between us, a shared reality that is our reality. And it is only in relation to such a shared reality that we can express to each other who we are, express the nature of our unique 'inner lives' to each other. To an extent, we owe our very being, our identity, to it. If it collapses, then it is quite easy for us to feel unheard, or unable to express ourselves. Is there something wrong with us? Or with the world? If we are to sustain the sense of a collective-we, then we find ourselves with, as Goffman notes, certain “involvement obligations,” or “interactive responsibilities,” to our joint affairs: only if 'you' respond to 'me' in a way sensitive to the relations between your actions and mine can 'we' act together as a 'collective-we'; and if I sense you as not being sensitive in that way, i.e., as not being responsive to me, but as pursuing an agenda of your own, then I will feel immediately offended in an ethical way. I will feel not only that you lack respect for 'our' affairs, but a lack of respect for me too. In such circumstances, not only do I feel insulted, but I lack the social conditions necessary to express myself, the nature of my own 'inner life'. In psychotherapy, in which it is the task of therapists to explore the unique inner lives of their clients, this is disastrous. Yet, in the pursuit of a technical agenda, it is only too easy to ignore the intrinsic “involvement obligations” present to some extent in all our exchanges with others, and as a result, to disrupt or disturb them in their very being, in who they are for us.

“Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment” (Wittgenstein, 1969, no.378).

“Monologism, at its extreme, denies the existence outside itself of another consciousness with equal rights and equal responsibilities, another I with equal rights (thou). With a monologic approach (in its extreme pure form) another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness. No response is expected from it that could change anything in the world of my consciousness. Monologue is finalized and deaf to other's response, does not expect it and does not acknowledge in it any force” (Bakhtin, 1984, pp.292-293).

“Our attitude to what is alive and to what is dead, is not the same. All our reactions are different” (Wittgenstein, 1953, no.284).


As soon as I begin an interchange of looks with another person, and I sense them as looking toward me in a certain way (as they see me looking toward them in the same way too), a little ethical and political world is created between us. We each look toward each other expectantly, with anticipations, some shared some not, arising from what we have already lived in our lives so far. Indeed, to put the point more generally, in any living contact between any two or more human beings, in the meetings between us, at least two things of importance occur: (1) Yet another form of life emerges between us, a collective or shared form of life with its own unique character and its own unique world, in whose terms, for the duration of our meeting, we can mean things to each other. But also, within this world, (2) we are 'present' to each other as who are, at least to a minimal extent, we can 'see into' each other _ hence, if it is a stranger with whom we have become involved, we quickly look away again, lest we reveal too much of ourselves unnecessarily.

    In our living contacts with an other or otherness, then, our mere surroundings are transformed into “a world,” an at least partially shared world that we sense ourselves as being in along with the others and othernesses   (See footnote 1)  1 around us. Besides having an ethics and politics to it, besides our having expectations within it as to how the others around us should treat us and are likely to treat us, our partially shared world has, we feel, a unique culture to it. For each of us, it contains a certain set of interconnected things, with certain values to them in relation to which I take on a certain character, and toward which I take a certain stance: I am a psychologist surrounded by people who require the kind of help I can offer them; I am an architect worrying about both the efficient and exciting use of space; I am a mathematician surrounded by other mathematicians, a painter surrounded by the world of art, a musician, a student of history, a construction worker, etc., etc. But overall, I am simply a person with a 'life of my own' among other such persons also with 'lives of their own', with us all expecting in our meetings with each other to be treated as such.

    These, then, are the topics I want to explore in this article: How is it that we can gain this kind of sense of another person as having, in relation to us, an 'inner life of their own' _ that what confronts us is not just an object, but another consciousness? And what, ethically, is entailed in our coming to an understanding of them, of their life, their inner life _ not just in our terms, but in their's?

Expressive understandings 'from within' relationships

However, as the epigraph quotation from Bakhtin (1984) above suggests, there is an important distinction to be made between two different kinds of approach we might adopt in our meetings with the others around us, for a monological approach is very different from a dialogical approach. As we shall see, only the immediate expressive-responsiveness at work in a dialogical approach makes the appreciation of an other person as another consciousness distinct from our own, possible. “With a monologic approach,” to repeat, “another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness,” Bakhtin (1984, p.293) notes.

    I will explore the detailed nature of our dialogically-structured, living relations with the others and othernesses around us much more fully below. But let me straightaway emphasize here, it is due to the fact that, as living beings, we cannot not be spontaneously responsive to the behavior of the others and otherness around us in some way (and in so being, express ourselves back to them in some way), that the special outcomes of our meetings with them that I noted above occur. Why have we not noticed this before? The emphasis in Western philosophy on only the capacities of individuals, along with the divide between subject and object, mind and body, thought and action, and all the other Cartesian trappings we have adopted in our intellectual endeavors, has led us, as a result, to ignore the essentially dynamic-relational features of our living involvements out in the world _ features which make their appearance only in the unfolding of our living relations with our surroundings. The relations that unfold just as much in time as in space are what we have missed in thinking about our relations to the others and othernesses around us in the past. But, as the back-and-forth flow of spontaneously occurring activity between them and us unfolds, not only do we create between us in our meetings a third, shared form of life, not wholly their's nor our's, but also, in the 'overtones' and 'partials' present in the rhythmic flow of activity coming into us in response to our expressive activity out toward them _ in “its specific variability,” as Voloshinov (1984, p.69) calls it _ they can express themselves, the unique nature of their inner lives', to us. Thus, as we shall see, not only does this intermingling of our expressive-responsive behavior with their's give rise to the possibility of our coming to an understanding of their behavior in a way quite different to that in which we come to an understanding of a dead entity's behavior, but the intermingling of their activity with our's also gives rise to the creation between us and around us of a 'space' with a 'depth' (of possibilities) to it, i.e., to in fact a shared 'world'. Rather than the perception of an underlying reality, what seems to become available to us in such activity, is the perception of an in-lying reality.

    To return to the simple example of two people 'looking at', rather than, say, 'looking over' each other. Oliver Sacks (1985), in describing his first meeting with Dr P. _ the man who mistook his wife for a hat _ was at first puzzled as to why Dr P. had been referred to his clinic. He was a man of great cultivation and charm, and showed no sign of dementia in the ordinary sense: “Yet there was something a bit odd. He faced me as he spoke, was oriented towards me, and yet there was something the matter _ it was difficult to formulate. He faced me with his ears, I came to think, but not his eyes. These, instead of looking, gazing, at me, 'taking me in', in the normal way, made sudden strange fixations _ on my nose, on my right ear, down to my chin, up to my right ear _ as if noting (even studying) these individual features, but not seeing my whole face, its changing expressions, 'me', as a whole” (p.8). There was, although he says that he did not fully recognize it at the time, “just a teasing strangeness, some failure in the normal interplay of gaze and expression” in Dr P.'s way of visually relating to him. In Bakhtin's (1984) terms, it was as if Dr P., visually, had only a monologic relation with the others and othernesses around him, and had no dialogical capacity to recognize their expressions. Indeed, as Sacks (1985) comments, with respect to Dr P.'s inability to recognize photographs of any of his family, colleagues, or pupils, or even himself: “He approached these faces _ even those near and dear to him _ as if they were abstract puzzles or tests. He did not relate to them, he did not behold. No face was familiar to him, seen as a 'thou', being just identified as a set of features, an 'it'. Thus there was formal, but no trace of personal, gnosis. And with this went his indifference, or blindness, to expression” (p.12).

    We can get an initial sense of what is at issue here in a little exercise I sometimes have my students do in pairs. If we can induce a friend to bear with us, and allow us not to look at 'them', but to use them while we try to see our own face reflected in the surface of their eyeballs (or lenses of their spectacles), they will have that same sense of being 'looked over', as if merely an object, that Sacks initially had with Dr P. Clearly, the change that takes place as a looker ceases to regard another person personally and switches to regarding them objectively, to seeming only to be 'looking over' them or 'surveying' them, is a change Sacks describes precisely as a change in “the interplay of gaze and expression” _ the gazed at person feels that the looker's face has gone 'stoney', that the 'interplay' of visual activity between them has ceased, and as a result the looker is no longer seeing them as a person. Indeed, as we all know, to stare, i.e., to look steadily and fixedly at another person, is considered rude _ stared at babies pull whatever sheet that is near to hand before their eyes. While not easy to describe in its intricate, interactive detail, there is no doubt that the experience of being regarded in this way is strongly sensed _ indeed, many animals also respond strongly to such eye contact with human beings.

    About the role of our eyes in our expressions, Wittgenstein (1981) remarks: “We do not see the eye as a receiver, it appears not to let anything in, but to send something out. The ear receives; the eye looks. (It cats glances, it flashes, radiates, gleams.) One can terrify with one's eyes, not with one's ear or nose. When you see the eye you see something going out from it. You see the look in the eye” (no.222). Indeed, I see my friend over there watching his children play with other children, and I can see his joy at their actions, as well as his concern with the lack of response on the part of the other children to his children: “'We see [his] emotion' _ As opposed to what? _ We do not see facial contortions and make inferences from them (like a doctor framing a diagnosis) to joy, grief, boredom. We describe a face immediately as sad, radiant, bored, even when we are unable to give any other description of the features. _ Grief, one would like to say, is personified in the face. This belongs to the concept of emotion” (no.225).

    Indeed, to not to be spontaneously responsive in this way to expressive events occurring around us, is difficult. We must train ourselves especially if we are to suppress it. To adopt an objective attitude in science to the subject matter of our investigations _ or in Bakhtin's (1984) terms, a monologic attitude _ we must follow a strict methodology that decrees a series of set of step by step manipulations solely in accord with the theory we are currently subjecting to experimental test. We must not be influenced at all by any tendency we might feel to respond to our subject matter's immediate behavior. We must distance ourselves from them. But to act in this way, i.e., objectively, is to treat all entities for the purposes of our investigations _ whether alive or dead _ as if dead, as entities which we cannot, or will not, enter into any dialogically-structured exchanges with at all. We act in this way, visually observing the geometrical shapes or forms of things from a distance, along with the extent to which changes in those forms correspond with changes in the abstract forms within which our general theories are couched, precisely in an effort to eliminate any particular and/or unique, idiosyncratic responses we might as individuals have to the events we observe. Our aim here is to come to a wholly intellectual, disinterested, disembodied understanding of what in the physical sciences we call our 'external world' (Russell, 1914).

Our conjoint spontaneous involvements,
and the relational opportunities they afford for our self-determination as free agents

Here is not the place for a detailed exploration of the nature and the origins of our appetite for this kind of objective knowledge in the history of Western philosophy _ I have set out its character in many places elsewhere (e.g., Shotter, 1974, 1975). But what is very relevant here, is to make explicit some of the needs it seeks to satisfy. As Descartes (1968) put it back in 1637, one aspect of his dream, was that by the use of the kind of methodical reasoning he advocated, we could come to know: “... the force and the actions of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, and all other bodies that surround us... [such that we could] utilize them for all the uses to which they are suited and thus render ourselves masters and possessors of nature” (p.74) _ to repeat, rather than more knowledgeable participants in Nature, by methodical reasoning we could become masters and possessors of it. By manipulating an entity in accord with a theory as its nature, and by merely observing whether the results of our manipulations accord with, or depart from, the expectations engendered by the theory, we can come to a manipulative or instrumental understanding of its behavior. And we can do this from a distance, without any need to enter into a living, responsive relation with it. To this achievement, we can add another aspect of the dream that we have inherited from Descartes: In coming to this kind of understanding of an entity's behavior in this way, we can find that sense of connection between our out-going actions and their in-coming satisfaction, solely in the occurrence of an expected result within ourselves _ we need owe nothing to the others around us (now, or in the past) for our manipulative discoveries. We can be their sole authors. His methods provide a recipe for establishing the authority of experts.

    Indeed, the power of prediction and control, a power that we can locate solely within ourselves as individuals, is not without its attractions. However, it still leaves us ignorant of the ordinary, everyday ways in which we do in fact relate ourselves to the others and othernesses around us. We remain unacquainted with the ways in which we do in fact come to a grasp of the unique character of the unique people and the unique circumstances in relation with which, in practice, we live our daily lives. In fact, it leaves us illiterate in the kind of knowledge that we all can acquire in gaining an easy familiarity with places, persons, or circumstances _ the kind of familiarity we can have when feel 'at home', or 'know our way around', or how to 'go on' within a circumstance in question. But arrive at this kind of essentially practical knowledge, rather than an understanding of regularities and repetitions, of generalities and abstractions, we need to arrive at unique understandings of unique persons and of unique, never-again-to-be-repeated events _ for these are the kind of understandings that enables us to 'go on' in particular, practical situations.

    But this kind of contact with the others and othernesses around us, within which they reveal their inner lives to us, does not just occur by happenstance. It is a human achievement. Goffman (1967) discusses the spontaneously emergent “involvement obligations” and other responsibilities we face in sustaining such joint spontaneous involvements, along with some of the “involvement offences” we can commit by becoming too wilful in our actions. As he notes: “A conversation has a life of its own and makes demands on its own behalf” (p.113). Thus, our involvement offences almost all arise out of us acting deliberately, as we ourselves require, rather than spontaneously, as each conversational moment requires. In the next section below, I will turn to a discussion of these essentially ethical issues. But here, I want to discuss the existential character of the conversational realities that are created between us in our joint spontaneous involvements, and how we depend on these realities for feeling secure within ourselves, as well as what happens to our self-assurance if fail to sustain them.

    Goffman (1967) describes this existential aspect of our involvements thus: “Social encounters differ a great deal in the importance that participants give to them but... all encounters represent occasions when the individual can become spontaneously involved in the proceedings and derive from this a firm sense of reality. And this kind of feeling is not a trivial thing, regardless of the package in which it comes. When an incident occurs and spontaneous involvement is threatened, then reality is threatened. Unless the disturbance is checked, unless the interactants regain their proper involvement, the illusion of reality will be shattered, the minute social system that is brought into being with each encounter will be disorganized, and the participants will feel unruled, unreal, and anomic” (p.135).

    In other words, when the spontaneous involvements sustaining our living contacts with each other are threatened, more is at stake than our merely feeling insulted, or that the other(s) around us have not sufficiently contributed to the maintenance of the relationship between us. Lacking the appropriate relations to our surroundings, we can feel ourselves existentially reduced. We can feel robbed, not only of the openings and invitations, the opportunities, the 'callings' we need, if we are to express ourselves at all responsively and responsibly, i.e., as autonomous, self- determining, socially accountable individuals (Shotter, 1984)   (See footnote 2)  2 . But we can feel robbed also of the kind of resourceful or responsive surroundings we also require for such self-expression. For, paradoxical though it may sound, we cannot act in a self-determining way without the relationally- responsive help of the others around us. Not only do we need to feel, prior to our attempts to express ourselves, the other's readiness to respond to us, but, to the extent that we cannot predict their response ahead of time, we need to sense also that we can in anticipation of their response. But, if their actual response fails to fulfil our expectations, fails to acknowledge that aspect of our expression which expresses us _ which, of course, is quite likely _ then we must act again, and perhaps again, until we finally sense (or not) that at least they have grasped who we are. Unless we feel that the others around us will continue to provide us with the 'callings' and 'answerings' we need to sustain the 'developmental' process usually required in our efforts to express ourselves, we simply cannot become ourselves with them.

    Without both the invitational-expressions, and the responsive-answers of the others around us, just as Dr P. had to try to 'work out', self-consciously, as if according to a check-list of visual features, what something is, thus appropriately to respond to it, so would we, deliberately and intellectually, have to try to 'work out' how to make sense of linguistic expressions.

    This is reminiscent, of course, of the way in which we test our theories as research scientists, by using as that sense of connection between our out-going actions and their satisfaction that occurs solely within ourselves, without any reference, initially at least, to the judgments of the others around us as to whether it makes sense to them or not. But to repeat, paradoxical though it may seem, if we are to be self-determining individuals, free to express ourselves to the others around us, we cannot expect to do it in a simple 'one-pass' utterance, by saying a sentence and having a listener understand it; we cannot know ahead of time what we need to say to achieve the desired result. A complex back-and-forth process requiring the interrelating, the interweaving, or the intertwining of many events or features of the interaction occurring between us is required if we are to be satisfied that we have indeed expressed ourselves to them. Specifying or determining what needs to be said requires negotiating between speaker and hearer, between what has already been said and what currently is being said, as well as making use of tests and assumptions, use of both the present context while waiting for something said later to make clear what was meant earlier, and the use of many other “seen but unnoticed” background features of our everyday meetings with others (Garfinkel, 1967, p.36)   (See footnote 3)  3 . Hence, strangely, only if we know our 'way about' within our meetings with the others and othernesses around us, can we effortlessly achieve our own ends _ otherwise, we must make great efforts to impose them by force, and even then face only a moderate chance of success.

Attunements, acknowledgments, and essential references

We depend on the others around us, then, if we are to use words to expressing ourselves to them. But due to what Bakhtin (1981) calls their “internal dialogism” (p.280), without both the initial 'invitational openings' and the 'anticipated answerability' provided us by others, we can feel quite impotent to express our true and unique selves in words to them _ no matter what we say of ourselves, we feel they will not be able to acknowledge, i.e., to recognize in the subtle dynamics of our utterances as they unfold, the dimensions of our otherness, our expressions of ourselves. Bakhtin (1981) puts the issue thus: “Every word is directed toward an answer and cannot escape the profound influence of the answering word that it anticipates. The word in living conversation is directly, blatantly, oriented toward a future answer-word; it provokes an answer, anticipates it and structures itself in the answer's direction. Forming itself in an atmosphere of the already spoken, the word is at the same time determined by that which has not yet been said but which is needed and in fact anticipated by the answering word” (p.280).

    Thus all speech must in its 'contours', so to speak, be uniquely responsive to its circumstances _ to the characteristics of the speaker, the addressee (the listener), the surrounding situation, and so on _ if it is to be expressive of the unique circumstances of its occurrence. Thus we cannot, unless we are uttering the mere formulaic repetition of a fact, issuing an official command, or expressing some other entirely conventional utterance, simply utter a sequence of pre-decided words. For, to emphasize the seemingly paradoxical point already made above yet again, we cannot know ahead of time exactly what words we need to utter to achieve our desires. The 'something' we desire, the 'lack' we are trying to remedy, cannot already be known to us in its practicalities, i.e., its character, in these circumstances. We must _ with the aid of the others around us _ search to discover, step-by-step, what it is that will satisfy the impulse to act we feel. Hence Wittgenstein's (1953) remark: “Let the use of words teach you their meaning. (Similarly one can often say in mathematics: let the proof teach you what was being proved.)” (p.220).

    For the process of discovery here, then, paradoxical though it may again sound, is not at all akin to the process in which we discover 'a solution to a problem' _ a bottom-up process in which we 'work out' a particular unknown quantity by discovering its relationship, its 'place', within a system of quantities already known to us. Our trouble in having others understand us is, to an extent, indeterminate. It can begin with their spontaneous reactions to our actions or utterances   (See footnote 4)  4 , but then must proceed in an open, top-down process, within which an overall, shared form of life has to be creatively developed between us, step-by-step, in a transaction negotiated between them and ourselves. And only the final achievement of a mutual understanding will allow us, retrospectively, to identify what the particular steps were _ among the many other inadequate steps we in fact took _ that were adequate to that task. The part played by each of particular steps we took, our elementary actions, can thus only be understood within the ongoing context of that overall activity. Indeed, to the extent that the negotiated transaction unfolds in a sequence of unique, moment-by-moment exchanges, each one having, so to speak, both a unique direction and sense   (See footnote 5)  5 , our elementary actions simply cannot be 'cut-out' from the overall activity in which they are embedded, if their unique, momentary, direction and sense is to be retained _ a point, as we shall see, of the utmost importance. To the extent that events occurring within our meetings draw their sense from their sequential positioning within the meeting as an indivisible whole, let us call it the indivisibility-principle.

    So, although the 'absent somethings' that we need to say or do to express ourselves adequately in a current circumstance are next to impossible to articulate, the fact is, we can in a responsive process of 'searching around', nonetheless, come to articulate them step-by-step.

Indeed, we can often have just this experience when, say, writing something, and we cannot think exactly of the words we need, while remaining convinced the right words do nonetheless exist, and that they will sooner or later occur to us if we go in for the right kind of searching. But, as Wittgenstein (1953) remarks, what that kind of searching is, is not easy to describe: “How do I find the 'right' word? How do I choose among words? Without doubt it is sometimes as if I were comparing them by fine differences of smell: That is too ......, that is too ......, _ this is the right one. _ But I do not always have to make judgments, give explanations; often I might only say: “It simply isn't right yet.” I am dissatisfied, I go on looking. At last a word comes: “That's it!” Sometimes I can say why. This is simply what searching, this is what finding, is like here” (p.218).

    We must not let the uniqueness of these events _ when we refer to an otherwise unspecified 'this!' or a 'that!' _ overshadow their importance for us. Wittgenstein (1953) brings out their importance in the example that follows: “In saying 'When I heard this word, it meant .... to me' one refers to a point of time and to a way of using the word. (Of course, it is this combination that we fail to grasp.) And the expression 'I was then going to say .....' refers to a point of time and to an action. I speak of the essential references of the utterance in order to distinguish them from other peculiarities of the expression we use” (p.175). In other words, the essential references of an utterance are the reference we make in our own unique use of it. And what Wittgenstein is bringing to our attention here, is our capacity, people's capacity, to acknowledge, to sense, or to recognize (in some degree), that a presently unfolding event or expression 'resonates' or is 'attuned to' a 'something' already present in us. For instance, as already mentioned with regard to the experimental testing of our theories, we need to be able to acknowledge, to recognize, the occurrence of an experimental outcome as 'fitting', or not, in with the “essential references” in our theory-engendered expectations. Thus, what we lose when as a speaker we 'fall out' of joint spontaneous involvement with our addressees, is not what our words mean conventionally, but what we mean in saying them. We find it difficult to express our selves, who we are.

    Without the attunement of the others around us to our expressions, without their expressions of acknowledgment, it is as if we are speaking to them in a foreign tongue. We can still be 'experts' at speaking a language, in the sense of being able to achieve our technical goals by its use, but we cannot express within it the subtleties we need to express if we are to explore with them why we feel, say, the quantification of human relationships is destructive of them in important ways, or why seeking to solve 'problems' within them is not always a pathway to their improvement, and so on. Making our reasons for such judgments as these explicit to others, the sense we have of the dangerous directions in which such actions might possibly take us, so that they can come to share our concern, is not easy. For, to repeat, rather than the perception of an underlying reality, something that we can talk about, it is the perception of an in-lying reality that is required. It is our mutual attunement to the unspecifiable essential references of people's utterances that make it possible for us to specify just the selected references required to carry on our practical affairs without confusion.

    Merleau-Ponty (1962) expresses this most subtle and complex issue thus: “There is, then, a taking up of others' thought through speech, a reflection in others, an ability to think according to others which enriches our own thoughts. Here the meaning of words must be finally be induced by the words themselves, or more exactly, their conceptual meaning must be formed by a kind of deduction from a gestural meaning, which is immanent in speech. And as, in a foreign country, I begin to understand the meaning of words through their place in the context of action, and by taking part in a communal life _ in the same way an as yet imperfectly understood piece of philosophical writing discloses to me at least a certain 'style'... There is thus, either in the man who listens or reads, or in the one who speaks or writes, a thought in speech the existence of which is unsuspected by intellectualism” (p.179).

    Bakhtin (1986) also expresses a similar point in noting that, “any word exists for the speaker in three aspects: as a neutral word of a language, belonging to nobody; as an other's word, which belongs to another person and is filled with echoes of the other's utterance; and finally, as

my word, for, since I am dealing with it in a particular situation, with a particular speech plan, it is already imbued with my expression. In both the latter aspects, the word is expressive, but, we repeat, this expression does not inhere in the word itself. It originates at the point of contact between the word and actual reality, under the conditions of that real situation articulated by the individual utterance. In this case the word appears as an expression of some evaluative position of an individual person (authority, writer, scientist, father, mother, friend, teacher, and so forth)...” (p.88). In other words, subtle though it may be, my speaker's meaning, what I mean in saying the words I utter, how I mean you to take them, is expressed only within the unfolding 'contours' my utterances, and can be understood only by those who 'follow' the 'shape' of their unfolding responsively. Hence, on the one hand, we can sense another's lack of acknowledgment, lack of attunement to one's own evaluative position _ as Sacks does with Dr P. _ in a dissonance, a failure of interplay, in the interchange occurring between us and them, but on the other hand, sometimes, we can experience a 'shock of recognition', as if hearing our mother tongue spoken in a foreign country. “Yes, that's exactly it,” the other says, and we smile with pleasure, and experience an immediate sense of 'ease', of 'familiarity', of 'connectedness' with them.

Involvement obligations: the rights and duties of interactants

If we and our interlocutors are to communicate readily and easily, then, we rely on those with whom we are involved to sustain the sense of a collective-we, a shared reality between us and around us, that is our reality. For, it is only within such an intimately shared reality that we can not only express to each other who we are, the nature of our unique 'inner lives' to each other. But, to go further, it is only within such richly textured realities that we can sense ourselves as free agents in our interactions, and not feel 'dictated' to by the others around us in what we say and do. For, it is just in the gaps they offer us, in between their talk and our responses to it, that we can have the opportunity to act completely in terms of our own judgments and skills, to adjust our actions as we perform them to fit our sense of our circumstances. To appreciate the importance of our being able to do this, imagine what would it be like if, even in these small gaps (through a radio ear-piece, say), the voice of another was at work in us, trying to tell us what to say next? First, we would feel disoriented and confused, with the other trying to command us to talk in ways quite unrelated to our own sensing and judging as to what was best for us in each moment, as we related ourselves to the changing nature of our circumstances. We would not know how to phrase or intone their utterances. How should we fit them into our circumstances? But secondly, our conversational partners, if they found out, would feel outraged at having been cheated, at having being misled into responding to our talk as if it was our talk, when it was in fact the talk of another.

    Indeed, it might be difficult to establish whose disturbance would be greater. But one thing is clear, such a circumstance would, besides eliciting bewilderment and confusion, would also elicit great anger and resentment, and do it almost instantly in the very moment of bewilderment. For at the very heart of our precarious living out of our lives as beings continually vulnerable to unforeseeable events in our surroundings, is our having the right to act in ways related to our own sense of what matters to us as the unique persons we are. Unless we are allowed to offer our own sense for our expressions, and can trust those around us to 'take up' our offers, we cannot, so to speak, 'live our own lives'. And there are few other events more disturbing to us than our feeling overwhelmed by wholly 'outside' influences. Garfinkel's (1967) “breaching” experiments illustrate this. He instructed his students to insist, in their conversations with their friends, that the friends be precise and definite in their use of words. So that, for instance, when a friend said: “I had a flat tire [on my way to work yesterday],” the student replied: “What do you mean, you had a flat tire?” The friend appeared momentarily stunned, and then answered in a hostile way: “What do you mean, 'What do you mean?' A flat tire is a flat tire. That is what I meant... What a crazy question” (p.42).

    The justification for our anger is there in the moment. For, unless we are allowed the right to determine our meanings in the moment, we cannot feel fully free to express ourselves. Our expressions cannot be assigned fixed meanings that remain identical through the changing conditions of their use. Ethically, we must allow other people both to be “specifically vague,” i.e., to be only partially clear, in what they say, while allowing them to entertain the expectation that

either, we will assist them in further making their meaning clear, or allow them whatever further opportunities are required for them to do so. Without these expectations, without this trust, to repeat, “participants will feel unruled, unreal, and anomic” (Goffman, 1967, p.135). Indeed, as Garfinkel (1967) notes, with respect to the almost instant anger aroused by his students breaching or violating these usually taken-for-granted features of our interactions, “departures from such usages call forth immediate attempts to restore a right state of affairs” (p.42).

    In our current cultural climate, in which most of our relations to the others around us are of a technical or functional nature, it is not difficult to feel humiliated and reduced, treated disrespectfully (Sennett, 2003; Shotter, in press). But just sometimes, even in our meetings with strangers, we can suddenly feel recognized and find a special feeling of 'in-touchness', of responsive-relatedness, at work within our in interactions with that other _ just as Sacks was aware of its lack in his relations with Dr P. To an extent, we owe our very being, our identity, to it. If it collapses, then it is quite easy for us to feel unheard, or unable to express ourselves. Is there something wrong with us?

    A relevant event here is recounted in Anderson and Goolishian (1993). It is a psychotherapeutic encounter between Harry Goolishian (a family therapist) and a thirty-year old man, Bill, a so-called 'revolving door treatment failure', who has been hospitalized on many previous occasions as a supposed paranoid schizophrenic. Goolishian asks him: “What, if anything, could your previous therapists have done differently that would have been more useful to you?” Bill immediately answers: “That is an interesting and complicated question. If a person like you had found a way to talk with me when I was first going crazy... at all the times of my delusion that I was a grand military figure... I knew this [delusion] was a way that I was trying to tell myself that I could overcome my panic and fear... Rather than talk with me about this, my doctors would always ask me what I called conditional questions” (p.25) - what Bill called "conditional questions" were, of course, check-list diagnostic questions, questions which had the interactional effect of making Bill feel like an object under another person's surveillance. Whereas, Harry Goolishian was there, present, in a personal relationship with him, rather than, so to speak, standing over against him, observing him from a distance.

    In other words, Harry Goolishian's response was an acknowledgment of Bill's expressions of himself a person of value, worthy of being listened to and taken seriously. Clearly, Bill was immediately able to recognize that someone special was underway, that had not been present in the previous psychiatric interviews he had undergone. But what was it that enabled Bill to tell so immediately that his relationship with Harry Goolisian was so different from his previous relationships with psychiatrists and psychotherapists? How was it that Bill felt able to go on almost straightaway after beginning to talk with Harry Goolishian, to say: “If you could have talked with the 'me' that knew how frightened I was [as you are talking with me now]. If you had been able to understand how crazy I had to be so that I could be strong enough to deal with this life threatening fear... then we could have handled that crazy general” (p.25, my emphasis and additions)? Instead of putting Bill in the one-down position of a 'testee', being examined as to whether he could 'pass' the questions asked him, Goolishian was putting himself in the position of 'tutee', asking Bill to 'teach' him. Suddenly, who may not be an expert on normally required behavior, but is an expert on his own problems of coping with life, has much to say.

    A similar circumstances arose in some Swedish research I'm connected with, to do with Safety Delegates going into Care Homes for the Elderly to talk with them about the adequacy of their care   (See footnote 6)  6 . When questioned by delegates referring to a check-list of pre-formulated questions, the elderly were disengaged and barely communicative; they did in fact complain that they felt they were being tested to see if they “had done their homework.” Only when they were approached with the question: “What message do you want to give the safety delegates, to X, to his/her colleagues?,” did they begin to open up. Indeed, one old man followed the interviewer to the door, still talking, and then waved her good-bye, and asked her to come again. Here, as in the Bill example above, the whole 'tone' of the exchange _ in terms of body posture, level of energy, vocal rhythm, willingness to exert effort, etc., in short, responsiveness _ was quite different in the two styles of address adopted.

    Just as we can all immediately detect (Bill and the elders included) _ when, say, someone we are talking with at a party ceases to be 'with us', so to speak, and to look over our shoulder for their next port of call _ the disappearance of the spontaneous living interplay of mutual expressive responsiveness occurring between ourselves and others, so we can also detect its, in various degrees, its presence. Indeed, we can sometimes find it inappropriately excessive, so that the bank teller's pauses, glances, and smiles can only mean that they are using the current financial transaction between us as the vehicle for a 'flirtation' of some kind. Indeed, this interplay in some degree is in fact a required background to all our interactions, if we are to have any success at all in being meaningful to each other within them.

    As the examples above show, however, we have tended not to attribute much importance to these subtleties, these niceties of our conversational interactions. We have tended to focus instead _ like the questionnaire wielding delegates, and probably Bill's other therapists _ simply on the informational, functional, or logical content of our utterances, while leaving their relational style unexamined in the background. But as Goffman (1967) makes clear, although they may be given very little prominence in our current efficiency-conscious dealings with each other, stories of events that draw our attention to their importance are enshrined in our culture, and are told from time to time: “No culture, in fact, seems to be without exemplary tales for illustrating the dignity and weight that might be given to these passing realities; everywhere we find enshrined a Drake who gallantly finishes some kind of game before going out to battle some kind of Armada, and everywhere an outlaw who is engagingly civil to those he robs and to those who hang him for it” (p.118). Indeed, although such exemplary events may currently be few and far between, I'm sure we can all remember times when, needing or wanting to leave a conversation, we have stayed involved in it until 'the right moment to leave' occurs _ and in so doing, “affirm the moral rules that transform socially responsible people into people who are interactively responsible as well” (p.118).

“Expressive realism;” an outcome, not the basis for our interactions

Goffman (1967) calls the requirements immanent in our interactions that transform us from “socially responsible people into people who are interactively responsible as well” _ and thus able to sustain the little but crucially important worlds created in face-to-face encounters _ involvement obligations. Irrespective of what our social roles might be _ our rights and duties as doctors, teachers, bank clerks, policemen, fathers, mothers, etc. _ if we are to offer each other the opportunities each to live our own lives, our rights and duties as interactants are as follows:

1 .      We must begin by treating the others or othernesses around us, not as an already known 'problem' to be solved, but as still radically unknown to us, and unknowable by us;
2 .      we must then 'enter into' dialogically-structured relations with them, that is, we must 'open' ourselves up to being spontaneously 'moved' by them;
3 .      we must relate to them responsively and responsibly _ for this sense of contiguity, of contingency, of the other's responses to us being contingent on our own, is very basic _ and without it, we cannot be 'present' with them (or to them);
4 .      we must not only 'follow' these others, but also provide opportunities for them to 'follow' us   (See footnote 7)  7 .

About this last condition, i.e., the provisions in what one says or does for others to follow on with their actions, Goffman (1967) remarks: “Here, then, is one of the fundamental aspects of social control in conversation: the individual must not only maintain proper involvement himself but also act so as to ensure that others will maintain theirs. This is what the individual owes the others in their capacity as interactants, regardless of what is owed them in whatever other capacities they participate, and it is this obligation that tells us that, whatever social role   (See footnote 8)  8 the individual plays during a conversational encounter, he will in addition have to fill the role of interactant” (p.116).

    These dynamic, background features of our interactions, not only make it possible for us to mean things in general to each other, but to be recognized by each other both as expressing uniquely who we are, and as expressing something quite unique about our mutual circumstances. Thus making it possible for one person to point out something unnoticed by another, and for the other to be able to acknowledge it. These features, along with a number of others (see Garfinkel, 1967, p.41), “furnish,” he says, “a background of seen but unnoticed features of common discourse whereby actual utterances are recognized as events of common, reasonable, understandable, plain talk” (p.41). Indeed, unless they are seen to be there by all involved, as Garfinkel's breaching experiments show, interactants become angry and indignant. Yet, so fluid and ephemeral, so changeable and unique to the moment are they, that they remain “unnoticed” in our academic and intellectual discussions of our own human nature and human affairs. Indeed, such mutually shared and sharable realities, rather than providing a prior basis for our interactions, are an outcome of them. And it is in this sense that reference to shared realties can play a real part in our development of our social constructions. Hence the importance of Goffman's (1967) work here in bringing them _ “the little world sustained in face-to-face encounters” (p.118), these “passing realities” (p.118) _ and their intricate interactively developed nature, to our attention.

    Indeed, to go further in emphasizing the importance of Goffman's work here: In bringing to our attention, not only the special, existentially constitutive functions of our “conjoint spontaneous involvements,” but also, the very special nature of the kinds of events we can experiences as occurring within them, confronts us with the conceptual possibility of what Rudd (2003) calls a direct, “expressive realism.” In formulating it as a realism, Rudd refers to a remark of Wittgenstein's (1953), in which he notes that, when referring to another person's spiritual aspect, we say: “My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul” (p.178). In other words, as we saw above, our trouble with understanding people is indeterminate. It cannot be solved _ as Dr P. tried to solve his difficulties _ by formulating hypotheses on the basis of evidence. My response to another person, as having a soul, or not, is something far more immediate, unreflective, and spontaneous. Indeed, unless we already had the possibility of taking the 'attitude' that this person has a soul while that one is soul-less, we could not undertake any discussion or argument with others about other people's spirituality. We would have no shared understanding of what was relevant, and what was irrelevant, to the discussion. “I do not act in this way towards another person,” writes Rudd (2003), “because I suppose him to have a soul; the supposition that he has a soul is an intellectualized reflection of my way of acting” (p.123).

    This, of course, implies that what we thought was fundamental, the task we inherited from Descartes of devising methods for establishing the authority of our individual claims to knowledge, is in fact the opposite of the case. The problem is not that of asking how individual philosophers and behavioral scientists can provide a grounding or irrefutable basis for such already existing distinctions as these, e.g., between having a soul or not. The task is of a quite different kind. We must make explicit how our primordial knowledge of the 'real' arises, by describing the processes of interaction occurring between us that make the forms of life possible, within which these distinctions matter. This is how we can escape from the expression of mere opinion into a witnessable knowing along with others.

    Such an “expressive realism” only becomes available to us, however, if we honor the involvement obligations set out to an extent along the lines of those above. If we do, it then becomes possible, not to infer a reality hidden behind or underlaying appearances, but directly to experience a reality lying within appearances. Indeed, we can sense it as a dynamic, expressive reality whose moment-by-moment changing expressions can be experienced as all issuing from the same, unitary, overall source of expression _ an inexhaustible source of yet more expressions to come in the same style. But, to repeat, the ability to perceive appearances as expressive of an in- lying reality in this way, involves a certain attunement or responsiveness to their expression on the part of the perceiver. It cannot just be taken for granted that because we are intelligent and rational, well trained in scientific and/or academic modes of investigation, and have all the appropriate sense organs at the ready, that we all must have such an ability. For this ability is intimately and intricately interwoven in with the richness of our emotional lives, and with our willingness _ or lack thereof _ to acknowledge others, to open ourselves to being 'moved' by another's expressions.

    But let me add here that, clearly, such an attunement to, and acknowledgment of others comes, of course, in degrees. It is possible, as Bakhtin (1984) points out, to be deaf to another's response, and not to acknowledge in it any force. But nonetheless, it is to an extent still fundamental in all our practices of social interaction. Lacking it completely, we would _ like Dr P. _ have to 'work out' from unconnected fragments of data, their possible inter-linkings into an identifiable, organic whole (if, that is, we already had a memory store of such 'dynamic wholes' with which to make comparisons as to a best fit). In other words, our capacity to perceive the unfolding of a sequence of different expressions as all issuing from the same expressive source, when in responsive contact with that source, is not just an extra interpretation added on to our practices, but is constitutive of our very interactive practices themselves. Without such an ability, the ordinary everyday, unproblematic flow of our spontaneous exchanges would be impossible. Indeed, it is often necessary for us to be able to refer, at a certain moment in that flow, to avoid confusions, to sort out ambiguities, and so on. As already mentioned, Wittgenstein (1953) draws our attention to what he calls the “essential references” (p.175) we can draw on at a certain moment in our utterances. Without them, deixis _ our simple ability to use I and you, to talk of here and now, this and that, and so on _ would be impossible. In coming at a particular moment in the already ongoing flow of contingently intertwined activity occurring between them and us, in pointing in their gestural expressiveness from 'this past' toward 'that kind of future', people's activities allow us to intervene at that moment, and in doing so, to point them toward 'another kind of future', toward seeing a connection between events of a previously unnoticed kind.

Conclusions: the power of noticing (and noting 'noticings' in words)

Indeed, the whole thrust of Wittgenstein's (1953) philosophical methods (that I have been using in this article) are oriented toward bringing these seen, but usually unnoticed features of our interactions with the others and othernesses around us, into our focal attention. His aim in “constantly giving prominence to distinctions which our ordinary forms of language easily make us overlook” (no.132), is to arrive at “just that understanding which consists in,” as he puts it, “'seeing connections'” (no.122) that previously we have failed to see. And this is what I have been trying to do _ along with help derived also from Bakhtin's and Goffman's writings _ in this article. But this whole approach relies on the possibility of our being able to enter into a form of engaged, responsive understanding in our relations (in our meetings) with other living beings, compared to the kind of understanding we can have of the nature of dead things. For, to repeat what is now almost a mantra: living beings can 'call out' spontaneous reactions from us in ways that are quite impossible for dead forms. And it is this that makes these two kinds of understanding so very different from each other.

    So, although the subtleties of glance and gesture, of tone and facial expression, may, as Wittgenstein (1953) remarks, provide us only with “imponderable evidence” (p.228) for, say, a person's state of mind _ imponderable in the sense of not being describable in any factual, categorical detail _ we nonetheless rely continuously on the possible reality of such momentary references, while checking them out in case we are wrong: “Why did you frown when I said his name?” “I didn't” “Yes you did!” “Well don't you know. He and I broke up last week.” But more than this, all the examples I used above _ imagining, say, when someone at a party ceases to be 'with us' while we are talking with them _ would lose their force, cease to be real for us. Indeed, we would no longer be able to assume that in our talk 'about' such entities as 'society', 'social relations', 'history', 'the individual', 'the self', 'persons' _ as well as about 'language' and 'communication' _ that we all know perfectly well what the 'it' is that is referred to by the use of such words. Nor would we be able to train each other, and our students, in being 'objective', in paying attention to events in their surroundings in 'this way', the way that is accounted in our culture as being objective, rather than in 'that way', which is accounted as being subjective.

    To end this article, let me emphasize two points already made, by repeating them in Goffman's (`1967) words. First, with regard to what he called one of the fundamental aspects of social control in conversation, he notes that: “[A]s Adam Smith argued in his Theory of the Moral Sentiments, the individual must phrase his own concerns and feelings and interests in such a way as to make these maximally usable by the others as a source of appropriate involvement; and this major obligation of the individual qua interactant is balanced by his right to expect that others present will make some effort to stir up their sympathies and place them at his command. These two tendencies, that of the speaker to scale down his expressions and that of the listeners to scale up their interests, each in the light of the other's capacities and demands, form the bridge that people build to one another, allowing them to meet for a moment of talk in a communion of reciprocally sustained involvement. It is this spark, not the more obvious kinds of love, that lights up the world” (p.116). In other words, no matter what sentiments we might claim to adhere to in our treatment of others, the primal scene with respect to which outside others make their judgments of us, is to be found there, in the moment of our interaction with those others. Our protestations not withstanding, outsiders can see our responsiveness, or unresponsiveness, at work. They may not be able to 'prove' their claims _ in the sense of identifying our actions as fitting into a well- known theoretical category _ but if they are sufficiently sensitive the “essential references” of our utterances, they will be alerted as to how to 'go on' with us. And this is how another person's trust in us can imperceptibly slip away, without our seeming to have done anything in particular to warrant their dismissal of us as a person of worth.

    The final issue I want to emphasize in Goffman's words, relates to the very initial emphasis I placed on those aspects of our living activities in which we are spontaneously responsive to (and thus expressive of) both of our selves, and of our relations to the others and othernesses around us. As Goffman (1967) notes: “The task of becoming spontaneously involved in something, when it is a duty to oneself or others to do so, is a ticklish thing, as we all know from experience with dull chores or threatening ones. The individual's actions must happen to satisfy his involvement obligations, but in a certain sense he cannot act in order to satisfy these obliga tions, for such an effort would require him to shift his attention from the topic of conversation to the problem of being spontaneously involved in it. Here, in a component of non-rational impulsiveness _ not only tolerated but actually demanded _ we find an important way in which the interactional order differs from other kinds of social order” (p.115). The partially this and partially that nature of our activity here, its 'dynamically stranded', 'orchestrated', 'intertwined', 'polyphonic', or 'chiasmic' character is hard for us to imagine. The sense of 'depth' created in binocular vision, or the effects now possible with “surround sound” in our stereo systems _ in which the sounds of different instruments come from both speakers, but in a subtly correlated way so that the phase differences between the sound waves meeting between the left and right speakers display complex interference patterns simulating, not just an instrument's playing coming from the left, but coming from the left in a concert hall, or in a discotheque _ are, perhaps, our nearest equivalents. No wonder Wittgenstein (1953) remarks that “...understanding a sentence lies nearer than one thinks to what is ordinarily called understanding a musical theme (no.527). Indeed, it is in the subtle employment of the complexities of this component of non-rational impulsiveness that, I think, we can find humanity's greatest cultural inventions _ inventions which we are still in the process of trying to understand more fully and to develop further.

    If the account given above _ of how it is possible for us to appreciate that another being has a life of its own, not independently of us, but in relation to us _ is correct, then, not only do we have a chance of settling the otherwise interminable “social constructionism versus realism dispute” in academe, but more importantly, a chance of understanding how to conduct our everyday practical-social affairs more democratically. For, as became clear above, it is within the complex texturing of our interactive involvements that our sense of ourselves acting as free agents, not in accord with the 'dictates' of others, is possible. But teasing out the intricacies of what is involved in our having the right and being able, in appropriate moments, to act completely in terms of our own judgments and skills, to adjust our actions as we perform them to fit our sense of our circumstances, is clearly not an easy task. It is a possible task, nonetheless, once we realize that it is rooted in mutual respect and mutual obligation _ not in the supposed 'objective' claims of experts, who have forgotten how they were in fact trained by their teachers (in a process rooted in mutual respect and mutual obligation) to distinguish reality from illusion. Our understandings of what reality is, and what it is to be objective, are a consequence not the cause of our obligations to and respect of others. Indeed, what Goffman (1967) confronts us with here, is not simply a difference between the interactional order and other kinds of social order, but with something so fundamental that without it, we cannot be ourselves. For in fact, we owe the very possibility of our having a life of our own to their responsiveness toward us.

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Notes:


Footnote: 11.In choosing to talk of both others and of othernesses here (rather than of other persons and of objects or things), I mean to signal a distinction which will become of increasing importance in the course of this article. The distinction is to do with the way in which we deal with our sense of how something is real for us, of how its nature is not just open to any interpretation we wish to put upon it. While scientific or objective realism wants to talk of things in our surroundings as having a life of their own independent of us. I want, following Rudd (2003), to talk of them as having a life of their own in relation to us. Rudd (2003) calls this “expressive realism,” and as I see it, it is quite consistent to hold to an expressive realism within the context of a thoroughgoing social constructionism (Shotter, 1984, 1993a&b).
Footnote: 22. “If, when we are acting alone, we want others to say that we are acting not just intelligently, nor intelligibly, but also responsibly and legitimately, then we must make our actions intelligible to ourselves as we perform them, in other people's terms, and understand how they relate to other people's needs and interests” (Shotter, 1984, pp.37-38).
Footnote: 33. “Demonstrably he [a speaker] is responsive to this background [in terms of various expectancies], while at the same time he is at a loss to tell us specifically of what the expectancies consist. When we ask him about them he has little or nothing to say” (Garfinkel, 1967, pp.36-37). As Garfinkel suggests, some of these expectancies will depend upon prior agreements and will be according to agreed practices or 'methods', but others, I claim, due to the intrinsic properties of joint action, will emerge out of the immediate and local practical circumstances of the conversation in question.
Footnote: 44. As Wittgenstein (1980) remarks: “The origin and primitive form of the language game is a reaction; only from this can more complicated forms develop. Language - I want to say - is a refinement, 'in the beginning was the deed'[Goethe]” (p.31). And elsewhere that: “The primitive reaction may have been a glance or a gesture, but it may also have been a word (1953, pp.217-218).“But what is the word 'primitive' meant to say here? Presumably that this sort of behavior is pre-linguistic: that a language-game is based on it, that it is the prototype of a way of thinking and not the result of thought” (1981, no.541). And it is from these beginnings, that entirely new and unique ways of 'going on' can be creatively developed between us.
Footnote: 55. Elsewhere (Shotter, 2003), I have talked of how, by entering into dialogically-structured relations with a disorienting circumstance, we can arrive at a “shaped and vectored sense of the space of possibilities it opens up to us in the responses it 'calls' from us” (p.387), and thus gain a sense of how 'to go on' within it.
Footnote: 66. Conducted by Ann-Margreth Olsson, a M.Sc student at KCC International, London.
Footnote: 77. These are, as a I see it, more or less the conditions Jaakko Seikkula and his colleagues set out for xx open dialogue (see Seikkula, Aaltonen, Alakare, Haarakangas, Keranen and Sutela, 1995). In an open dialogue, “utterances are constructed to answer previous utterances and also to wait for an answer from utterances that follow” (Seikkula, 2002, p.268). Indeed, he adds, “hearing is witnessed in our answering words” (p.283).
Footnote: 88. Elsewhere, Goffman (1959) notes: “Society organized on the moral principle that any individual who possesses certain social characteristics has a moral right to expect that others will value and treat him in an appropriate way. Connected with this principle is a second, namely that an individual who implicitly or explicitly signifies that he has certain social characteristics ought in fact to be what he claims he is” (p.74). But here, he is focusing on people's rights and duties in their social roles. It is easy to allow our social roles to supervene, and to swamp what we owe to others as interactants _ hence, the ease with which 'superiors' can create anger and resentments in their social 'inferiors'! See also Shotter (1984, pp.15-16), for an account of the rights and duties of 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person in interactions, with regard to how they must apportion their attention, and the degree to which they should involve themselves (or not) in the interaction.

Converted by Andrew Scriven