|Original Title:||Conversation, entretien|
|Volume and Page:||Vol. 4 (1754), pp. 165–166|
|Author:||Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert (biography)|
|Translator:||Malcolm Eden [University of London]|
|Original Version (ARTFL):||Link|
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|Citation (MLA):||d'Alembert, Jean-Baptiste le Rond. "Conversation, discussion." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2008. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.840>. Trans. of "Conversation, entretien," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 4. Paris, 1754.|
|Citation (Chicago):||d'Alembert, Jean-Baptiste le Rond. "Conversation, discussion." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2008. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.840 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Conversation, entretien," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 4:165–166 (Paris, 1754).|
Conversation, discussion; these two words generally indicate a mutual exchange between two or more people; with this difference, that conversation is commonly used for all talk between two individuals, whereas discussion is for talk concerning a precise subject. So we can say that a man’s conversation is good, to indicate that he speaks well about different subjects on which he has the occasion to talk, but we do not say he is good at discussion. Discussion is used of a superior to an inferior; it is not usually said that a subject has had a conversation with the king, but that he had a discussion. The word discussion is also used when the talk concerns an important subject. It is said, for instance, that two kings have talks or a discussion concerning the way for them to make peace. Discussion is ordinarily used for printed conversations , unless the subject of the conversation is not serious; we speak of Cicero’s discussion of the nature of the gods, and the conversation between Father Canaye and Marshal Hocquincourt. The word dialogue is reserved for dramatic conversations and colloquy for polemical and public conversations that have as their aim matters of doctrine, like the Colloquy of Poissy. When a number of people, especially more than two, gather and speak together informally, we say they are having a conversation and not a discussion .
The rules of conversation are, in general, not to dwell on any one subject, but to pass lightly from one to another without effort and without affectation; to know how to speak about trivial and serious things; to remember that conversation is a way to relax, and is neither an armed attack, nor a game of chess; to know how to be neglected, and more than neglected, if necessary; in short, to let one’s mind wander freely, so to speak, as it wishes or as it can; to take care not to monopolize the conversation tyrannically, and, lastly, to avoid a dogmatic and magisterial tone, since nothing will shock listeners more or turn them more against us. Conversation is perhaps the moment when we are least able to conceal our self-esteem, and there is always something to lose for anyone who wounds somebody else’s, because if the wounded party tries to take his revenge and is skilled in finding the means, he will find them in general readily to hand: for who does not give weapons to the self-esteem of others on a hundred different occasions? Another fault to avoid is to speak in a conversation as one would to readers, and to have what is called a well-written conversation. A conversation should no more be a book than a book should be a conversation. What is striking is that those guilty of the first of these faults are commonly also guilty of the second. Because such people are used to speaking as they write, they imagine they should write as they speak. One can never be too circumspect when speaking in public or too relaxed when we are with our friends and acquaintances. See Affectation.