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A Conceptual History of Everyday Talk

The Chattering Mind The Chattering Mind A Conceptual History of Everyday Talk S A M U E L M C C O R M I C K The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2020 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact the University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th

for “the great unthinking mass,” the history of Western thought is riddled with disdain for ordinary collective life. But it was not until Søren Kier ke gaard developed the term “chatter” (snak) that this disdain began to focus on the communicative practice of ordinary collective life. And not just any communicative practice: it was the average, everyday talk of modern mass society— in person and in print, among ordinary 3 I N T R O D U C T I O N citizens and educated elites, with varying degrees of deliberateness and unawareness, and always in a certain

Press proved crucial as well, as did the peerless work of the editorial trio that saw the book into print: the editorial associate who gave the manuscript book form, Dylan Montanari; the executive editor who skillfully oversaw the book’s publication, Kyle Wagner; and the correspondent extraordinaire who championed the project from the start, Doug Mitchell. More than anyone, though, I wish to thank my four- year- old daugh- ter, Iris. Conversations with her are keen reminders that there is al- ways something about everyday talk that cannot itself be understood as

talk— but not as it has concerned us in this book. Note, for instance, the kinship between his account of con- versation and the gradual instrumentalization of everyday talk we dis- cussed in the opening pages of this book. Tardean conversation not C O N C L U S I O N 292 only includes the means- turned- ends practice of “phatic communion,” in which interpersonal communication doubles as evidence of the so- cial bonds it also seeks to establish, but also integrates this practice into the more purposeful activity of “political talk,” where phatic commu- nion

pretension) Boss, Medard, 219 braggart, 45, 175– 76, 178, 189t, 200. See also alazon (braggart) Burke, Edmund, 290 calculating machines, 299 Cambridge School, 9 Carmen, Taylor, 206 Carneades, 68– 69 character: of being, 157, 219; Danish na- tional, 36; of Dasein, 145, 154, 169– 70, 211; in education, 58; formations of, 208; ideal, 232; of logos, 158, 163; and morality, 60– 61; of the world, 193, 212 chatbots, 8 chatrooms, 3 chatter (snak): congregational, 89; defi ned, 51– 52, 56; different kinds of, 43– 44; as everyday talk, 292; as free associa- tion, 257– 59

does advocacy work in Montana. peggy j. miller, PhD, is a developmental and cultural psychologist and a professor in the Departments of Com- munication, Psychology, and Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an expert on early socialization, approaching this problem through the prism of everyday talk in families and com- munities. She is best known for her innovative research on working-class children’s narratives and for her comparative studies of narrative as a medium of socialization in Taiwan and the United States


varying ways, are exemplars of engaged citizenship. My two amazing sons, Jonah and Daniel, underscore the urgency of invigorating a new kind of citizenship we can be proud of, as well as of valuing everyday talk and discovery. Most important, though, is the emotional, intellectual, and creative in- put of my wife, Eliana, who has both kept me grounded and encouraged me to take off, as appropriate, throughout the work. She helped me come up with the idea for the research on our honeymoon, as we walked among olive groves in Tuscany, and she has patiently endured much time

/2/07 9:50:33 AM 14. Mansbridge, “Everyday Talk in the Deliberative System.” 15. These two questions correspond to the fi rst two questions among the list that Mi- chael Delli Carpini, Fay Lomax Cook, and Lawrence Jacobs pose as the major questions facing empirical studies of deliberative democracy (“Public Deliberation,” 336). See also Ryfe, “Narrative and Deliberation in Small Group Forums”; Mendelberg and Karpowitz, “How People Deliberate about Justice”; Sanders, “Against Deliberation,” 362; Merelman et al., “Unity and Diversity,” 802. 16. Mill, On Liberty

out the space of religious talk and activity and made it difficult to speak or act religiously in ways that extended beyond these boundaries. Furthermore, despite the barriers to extending religious talk beyond common genres, the commonplace talk about religion made such “diffi- cult” talk possible. Sometimes people misunderstood what others meant (or even what they were talking about) and demanded qualifications and explanations. These interactions extended (or at least exposed) the lim- its of everyday talk. In other circumstances the more generically bounded talk