Dialectical Interchange


As delineated in Paulo Freire's
Pedagogy of the Oppressed


1. ". . . Every human being, no matter how 'ignorant' or submerged in the 'culture of silence he may be, is capable of looking critically at his world in a dialogical encounter with others. Provided with the proper tools for such encounter, he can gradually perceive his personal and social reality as well as the contradictions in it, become conscious of his own perception of that reality, and deal critically with it." (p. 13)

2. "To surmount the situation of oppression, men must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity. But the struggle to be more fully human has already begun in the authentic struggle to transform the situation." (pp. 31, 32)

3. "Thought and study alone did not produce Pedagogy of the Oppressed; it is rooted in concrete situations and describes the reactions of laborers (peasant or urban) and of middle-class persons whom I have observed directly or indirectly during the course of my educative work. Continued observation will afford me an opportunity to modify of to corroborate in later studies the points proposed in this introductory work." (p. 21)

4. ". . . The radical is never a subjectivist [assuming personal, closed ideas]. For him the subjective aspect exists only in relation to the objective aspect (the concrete reality which is the object of his analysis). Subjectivity and objectivity thus join in a dialectical unity producing knowledge in solidarity with action, and vice versa." (p. 22)

5. "This solution cannot be achieved in idealistic terms. In order for the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform." (p. 34)

6. "This pedagogy makes oppression and its cause objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation. And in the struggle this pedagogy will be made and remade." (p. 33) "Nor does the discovery by the oppressed that they exist in dialectical relationship to the oppressor, as his antithesis--that without them the oppressor could not exist--in itself constitute liberation. The oppressed can overcome the contradiction in which they are caught only when the perception enlists them in the struggle to free themselves." (p. 34)

7. "Just as objective social reality exists not by chance, but as the product of human action, so it is not transformed by chance. If men produce social reality (which in the 'inversion of the praxis' turns back upon them and conditions them), then transforming that reality is an historical task, a task for men." (p. 36)

8. "One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge men's consciousness. Functionally, oppression is domesticating. To no longer be prey to its force, one must emerge from it and turn upon it. This can be done only by means of the praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it." (p. 36)

9. ". . . The oppressed must confront reality critically, simultaneously objectifying and acting upon that reality. A mere perception of reality not followed by this critical intervention will not lead to a transformation of objective reality--precisely because it is not a true perception. This is the case of a purely subjectivist perception by someone who forsakes objective reality and creates a false substitute." (p. 37)

10. "The more the people unveil this challenging reality which is to be the object of their transforming action, the more critically they enter that reality." (p. 38)

11. "The man who proclaims devotion to the cause of liberation yet is unable to enter into communion with the people, whom he continues to regard as totally ignorant, is grievously self-deceived." (p. 47)

12. "It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis." (p. 52)

13. "Critical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation. The content of that dialogue can and should vary in accordance with historical conditions and the level at ]which the oppressed perceive reality. But to substitute monologue, slogans, and communiques for dialogue is to attempt to liberate the oppressed with the instruments of domestication. Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects which must be saved from a burning building; it is to lead them into the populist pitfall and transform them into masses which can be manipulated." (p. 52)

14. "At all stages of their liberation, the oppressed must see themselves as men engaged in the ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human." (p. 52)

15. ". . . When the situation calls for action, that action will constitute an authentic praxis only if its consequences become the object of critical reflection. In this sense, the praxis is the new raison d'etre of the oppressed; and the revolution, which inaugurates the historical moment of this raison d'etre, is not viable apart from their concomitant conscious involvement. Otherwise action is pure activism." (pp. 52, 53)

16. "To achieve this praxis, however, it is necessary to trust in the oppressed and in their ability to reason. Whoever lacks this trust will fail to initiate (or will abandon) dialogue, reflection, and communication, and will fall into using slogans, communiques, monologues, and instructions. Superficial conversions to the cause of liberation carry this danger." (p. 53)

17. "Those who work for liberation must not take advantage of the emotional dependence of the oppressed--dependence that is the fruit of the concrete situation of domination which surrounds them and which engendered their unauthentic view of the world. Using their dependence to create still greater dependence is an oppressor tactic." (p. 53)

18. ". . . While no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others. Liberation, a human phenomenon, cannot be achieved by semihumans." (p. 53)

19. "Nor can the leadership merely 'implant' in the oppressed a belief in freedom, thus thinking to win their trust. The correct method lies in dialogue. The conviction of the oppressed that they must fight for their liberation is not a gift bestowed by the revolutionary leadership, but the result of their conscientizacao [critical consciousness]." (p. 54)

20. "The revolutionary leaders must realize that their own conviction of the necessity for struggle (an indispensable dimension of revolutionary wisdom) was not given to them by anyone else--if it is authentic . . . It is reached, rather, by means of a totality of reflection and action. Only the leaders' own involvement in reality, within an historical situation, led them to criticize the situation and to wish to change it." (p. 54)

21. "Likewise, the oppressed (who do not commit themselves in the struggle unless they are convinced, and who, if they do not make such a commitment, withhold the indispensable conditions for this struggle) must reach this conviction as Subjects, not as objects. They also must intervene critically in the situation which surrounds them and whose mark they bear; propaganda cannot achieve this. While the conviction of the necessity for struggle (without which the struggle is unfeasible) is indispensable to the revolutionary leadership (indeed, it was this conviction which constituted that leadership), it is also necessary for the oppressed. It is necessary, that is, unless one intends to carry out the transformation for the oppressed rather than with them. It is my belief that only the latter form of transformation is valid." (p. 54)

22. ". . . Apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, men cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other." (p. 58)

23. ". . . Thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world . . ." (p. 64)

24. "The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow." (p. 67)

25. "The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos." (p. 68)

26. "Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality." (p. 68)

27. "Education as the practice of freedom . . . denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without men, but men in their relations with the world. In these relations consciousness and world are simultaneous: consciousness neither precedes the world nor follows it." (p. 69)

28. "As men, simultaneously reflecting on themselves and on the world, increase the scope of their perception, they begin to direct their observations towards previously inconspicuous phenomena . . ." (p. 70)

29. "That which had existed objectively but had not been perceived in its deeper implications (if indeed it was perceived at all) begins to 'stand out,' assuming the character of a problem and therefore of challenge. Thus, men begin to single out elements from their 'background awareness' and to reflect upon them. These elements are now objects of men's consideration, and, as such, objects of their action and cognition." (p. 70)

30. "In problem-posing education, men develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. Although the dialectical relations of men with the world exist independently of how these relations are perceived (or whether or not they are perceived at all), it is also true that the form of action men adopt is to a large extent a function of how they perceive themselves in the world." (pp. 70, 71)

31. "Problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality, thereby responding to the vocation of men as being who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation." (p. 71)

32. "Problem-posing education affirms men as beings in the process of becoming--as unfinished, uncompleted being in and with a likewise unfinished reality . . . The unfinished character of men and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity." (p. 72)

33. "Problem-posing education . . . affirms men as beings who transcend themselves, who move forward and look ahead, for whom immobility represents a fatal threat, for whom looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future." (p. 72)

34. ". . . The point of departure must always be with men in the 'here and now,' which constitutes the situation within which they are submerged, from which they emerge, and in which they intervene. Only by starting from this situation--which determines their perception of it--can they begin to move. To do this authentically they must perceive their state not as fated and unalterable, but merely as limiting--and therefore challenging." (pp. 72, 73)

35. "If it is in speaking their word that men, by naming the world, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which men achieve significance as men. Dialogue is thus an existential necessity. And since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and humanized, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person's 'depositing' ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be 'consumed' by the discussants. Nor yet is it a hostile, polemical argument between men who are committed neither to the naming of the world, not to the search for truth, but rather to the imposition of their own truth. Because dialogue is an encounter among men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some men name on behalf of others. It is an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one man by another. The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is conquest of the world for the liberation of men." (p. 76)

36. "Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for men. The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love. Love is at the same time the foundation of dialogue and dialogue itself. It is thus necessarily the task of responsible Subjects and cannot exist in a relation of domination. Domination reveals the pathology of love: sadism in the dominator and masochism in the dominated. Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to other men. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause--the cause of liberation." (pp. 77, 78)

37. "On the other hand, dialogue cannot exist without humility. The naming of the world, through which men constantly re-create that world, cannot be an act of arrogance. Dialogue, as the encounter of men addressed to the common task of learning and acting, is broken if the parties (or one of them) lack humility. How can I dialogue if I always project ignorance onto others and never perceive my own? How can I dialogue if I regard myself as a case apart from other men--mere 'its' in whom I cannot recognize other 'I''s? How can I dialogue if I consider myself a member of the in-group of 'pure' men, the owners of truth and knowledge, for whom all non-members are 'these people' or 'the great unwashed'? How can I dialogue if I start from the premise that naming the world is the task of an elite and that the presence of the people in history is a sign of deterioration, thus to be avoided? How can I dialogue if I am closed to--and even offended by--the contribution of others? How can I dialogue if I am afraid of being displaced, the mere possibility causing me torment and weakness?" (pp. 78, 79)

38. "At the point of encounter there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only men who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know." (p. 79)

39. "The 'dialogical man' is critical and knows that although it is within the power of men to crate and transform, in a concrete situation of alienation men may be impaired in the use of that power. Far form destroying his faith in man, however, this possibility strikes him as challenge to which he must respond. He is convinced that the power to create and transform, even when thwarted in concrete situations, tends to be reborn. And that rebirth can occur--not gratuitously, but in and through the struggle for liberation--in the supersedence of slave labor by emancipated labor which gives zest to life. Without this faith in man, dialogue is a farce which inevitably degenerates into paternalistic manipulation." (p. 79)

? 40. "As the encounter of men seeking to be more fully human, dialogue cannot be carried on in a climate of hopelessness. If the dialoguers expect nothing to come of their efforts, their encounter will be empty and sterile, bureaucratic and tedious." (p. 80)

41. "Critical thinking contrasts with naive thinking, which sees 'historical time as a weight, a stratification of the acquisitions and experiences of the past,' from which the present should emerge normalized and 'well-behaved.' For the naive thinker, the important thing is accommodation to this normalized 'today.' For the critical, the important thing is the continuing transformation of reality, in behalf of the continuing humanization of men." (p. 81)

42. "For the truly humanist educator and the authentic revolutionary, the object of action is the reality to be transformed by them together with other men--not other men themselves. The oppressors are the ones who act upon men to indoctrinate them and adjust them to a reality which must remain untouched." (p. 83)

43. ". . . Revolutionary leaders do not go to the people in order to bring them a message of 'salvation,' but in order to come to know through dialogue with them both their object situation and their awareness of that situation--the various levels of perception of themselves and of the world in which and with which they exist." (p. 84)

44. "Only men are praxis--the praxis which, as the reflection and action which truly transform reality, is the source of knowledge and creation." (p. 91)

45. "I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination--which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved . . . In order to achieve humanization, which presupposes the elimination of dehumanizing oppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which men are reduced to things." (p. 93)

46. "When men lack a critical understanding of their reality, apprehending it in fragments which they do not perceive as interacting constituent elements of the whole, they cannot truly know that reality. To truly know it, they would have to reverse their starting point: they world need to have a total vision of the context in order subsequently to separate and isolate its constituent elements and by means of this analysis achieve a clearer perception of the whole." (pp. 94, 95)

47. "Even if the people's thinking is superstitious or naive, it is only as they rethink their assumptions in action that they can change. Producing and acting upon their own ideas--not consuming those of others--must constitute that process." (p. 100)

48. "Men are because they are in a situation. And they will be more the more they not only critically reflect upon their existence but critically act upon it." (p. 100)