Types and registers solicited It is customary to distinguish between direct (explicit) or indirect (implicit) argumentation and to relate genres to one or the other type of argumentation. In addition to being nuanced in the classification and the attachment, it is the choice of the enunciation which will allow especially to distinguish the two types. In the first type, the speech is in principle supported by the author, we will speak then test in the broad sense; in the second type, the speech is rather delegated to a narrator and characters, we will then deal with the narrative and the fiction, the general genre of the apologue. Beware, however, the chemically pure genres do not exist: an essay may contain examples that sometimes confine to fiction 6, as a fable also allow the direct expression of the author, La Fontaine does not hesitate …
As for the dialogue, it would belong to both types since it is a direct argument, a debate between several theses; but it also comes from indirect argumentation, fiction in its theatrical or romantic form. The philosophical dialogue brings together at least two characters, one of whom is supposed to represent the author, should it then be related to direct argumentation? But as the transcribed debate is a fictitious situation, it also belongs to the indirect argumentation, to the theatricalization of the discourse. This is why philosophical dialogue can be considered as a literary genre in its own right.
Direct or explicit argumentation
The test or the treatise An essay is a book gathering various reflections or dealing with a subject that it does not claim to exhaust; it is a fairly convenient literary genre with multiple forms. It is a book that offers a reflection, which confronts opinions, and especially that exposes a personal point of view on a topic in any field whatsoever. Essentially, the essay belongs to the didactic register since it proposes a teaching or a sharing of knowledge in a structured discourse on a diverse subject (art, culture, society). He first consisted in the compilation of earlier philosophical works to evolve towards a personal and free reflection that knows his incomplete or unfinished project.
An essay is defined by its field (history, economics, politics, science, pedagogy, art, literature) by its context (historical, cultural events, history of ideas, intertextuality …) by its subject (main and secondary themes), its thesis (his pronouncements), his quotations of the theses of others to confirm or specify his own or to denounce the errors of the opponents …
As a result, any essay is more or less a particular form of discussion with other absent minds, but made present by the quotation and the commentary. It is almost always a deliberative discourse where it is necessary to identify the author’s own positions, those which led him to undertake the writing of the work, being attentive to the marks of enunciation7 and modalization, to reported discourses and various forms of quotation (direct citation, references, allusion, commentary …), to identify the concessions to the opposing theses, to examine the passage to the polemic register when the criticism becomes virulent or acerbic: irony, affirmations more marked, attacks, innuendo, condemnations, indignation, reprobation …
The form of the essay is very free, which is why the authors use it so often. Today, politicians and journalists cast their projects, their experiences or their judgments. The essay takes the form of an expanded article, a treatise, a history book, memoirs, a study, a philosophical discussion, an open letter, a pamphlet … Some are written using a rigorous, thematic, analytical, logical plan on a specific subject. Others present digressions, an unpredictable course like the Montaigne Essays.
The dialogue of ideas
An argument can take the form of a dialogue between two or more people. Dialogue is an essential way to confront ideas. Around us, there are many who seek to promote dialogue between cultures, generations, blocs, countries, religions, ideologies to avoid violent and destructive confrontations … In a dialogue are opposed not only ideas, but values: according to a logic of principles and feelings
moral (good / evil, right / wrong, sincerity / lies …) or sociological (the right / the shocking …); aesthetic (the beautiful / the ugly, the attractive / the repulsive, the exposed / the hidden, the admissible / the provoking …); intellectual (true / false, order / chaos, logic / absurd, real / fiction …); practical (the useful / the futile, the profitable / the superfluous, the paying / the free …).
In literature, the dialogue of ideas is in various genres
In the theater, dialogue is usually the essence of the spoken text, and even in the form of deliberative monologue it retains its character of dialogue with oneself. It is he who ensures the dramatic progression in the tension between divergent interests. This speech is often colored externally by the stage directions that indicate the emotions and feelings that agitate the characters. In the theater (but sometimes also in the novel or the philosophical dialogue), this dialogue is marked by the double enunciation:
two transmitters: the characters who speak and the playwright, author of the play, who uses the stage as a tribune; multiple recipients, a character’s comments are usually addressed to a particular interlocutor, but may be directed at other participants in the discussion and, ultimately, the reader or audience. This is obvious in the aside.
In the novel or the novel, the dialogue of ideas between the characters is one of the forms of the pause in the story. The words are related to direct, indirect, indirect free or narrative speech. Sometimes the author mixes with the words of his characters. The use of dialogue of ideas in a novel allows, as in the theater, to animate an ideological debate, to depict on the spot the intellectual life or the burning questions of an era. Similarly, the novel may contain deliberative monologues, one of the best known is the “Storm under a skull” of Les Miserables.
It can also be found in the essay. For example, it serves as a guiding thread at several levels in Diderot’s Bougainville Travel Supplement, a kind of controversial essay on civilization and sexual morality. The apologue, the fable or the philosophical tale sometimes (often?) Use the dialogue to oppose theses, to suggest a criticism, to denounce the flaws … Candide discusses with the Negro of Surinam at Voltaire, the wolf argues with the lamb or with the dog in the fables of La Fontaine …
Philosophical dialogue is inherited from antiquity. Plato, Greek philosopher of the fifth century BC J.-C., presents the teaching of his master Socrates in the form of dialogues with his students and his opponents, according to the method of “maieutics” (or childbirth) which, by appropriate questions, gave birth to the truths that they carried in them without knowing it. This type of dialogue involves two well-disposed interlocutors who advance the conversation so as to expose the whole area under discussion. In Socrates, it is not a matter of debating, but of practicing a dialectical dialogue where cross questions lead to the emergence of an answer. Its aim is essentially didactic because, used by a clever master, it serves to transmit knowledge.
The dialogue is marked: By particular typographic signs, By the enunciation clues of the persons who play a determining role to express the divergence of the positions or the status of the characters. By turns to capture the attention (impressive or conative function of language, phatic function), to involve the interlocutor in the point of view of his opponent (use of the “we”) or take him to witness. By argumentative processes that evoke the eventuality, the hypothesis.