Amazon today lists 1760 books on a search for "listening." 99% of them fall into (1) language training, (2) Christian and Spiritual Direction texts, and (3) tips and techniques for listening in different contexts. This book is different. Fiumara attempts to bring listening into the light -- what listening is, really, what happens when we listen, and what listening does to us.
As she shows carefully in the first few chapters, what people think of today as a "philosophy of listening" -- what we can use as a basis for thinking about listening -- is a whole lot of talking about talking. There is almost nothing at all on the subject of what listening is about.
Listening, especially listening to what we have not listened to before, is going to get more and more important in this world, as change accelerates all around us. And Fiumara is right; we are operating without basic maps or carefully wrought structures for thinking about listening. Paraphrasing Heidegger, we have the unfortunate habit of listening only to what we already understand. My children, I notice, like many other people in the world today, get angry when I ask them to begin to listen to something they have not before encountered. Listening is bloody important.
The ambition of this book -- a philosophy of listening -- is an astonishingly important ambition for our times. I don't think Fiumara fully realizes the ambition here, but she has done a superb job of aiming us in the right direction and raising all kinds of the right warnings and concerns. I have read this book half a dozen times. I quote it regularly when I am giving talks. I use it for thinking how to construct a marriage, a community, and how to get my children to listen to me, others, the world, and to be better listeners for themselves.
I recommend this as one of the top 10 books on the shelf of anyone who is committed to thinking about growing people in this era we are entering.
Thank you, Dr. Fiumara.
First published in 1990. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.