chapter  3
22 Pages

Transactional Philosophy and Communication Studies

WithWayne Woodward

The pragmatist conception of transaction that provides a point of departure for this volume is the axis of a distinctive, comprehensive approach to inquiry. It is one that “develops the widening phases of knowledge, the broadening of system within the limits of observation and report” (Dewey & Bentley, 1949, p. 122). John Dewey1 offered a defining distinction between interaction and transaction. The former relies principally on “procedure such that its inter-acting constituents are set up in inquiry as separate ‘facts,’ each in independence of the presence of others” (p. 122). The more encompassing transactional approach takes a view of “Fact such that no one of its constituents can be adequately specified as fact apart from the specification of other constituents of the full subjectmatter [sic]” (p. 122). Holistic attention to context and the interrelations of its constituent elements is a general hallmark of the pragmatist, transactional approach. (Ed. Note: Earlier in his career, Dewey often used the concept of interaction. Ironically, he applied it not in the sense developed here, but to describe his transactional ideas. Readers therefore should interpret its use, with reference to Dewey’s work, in other chapters of this volume in the transactional sense.)

A new transactional contextualism (Bruner, 1990) is taking shape in the contemporary human sciences. Psychologist Bruner (1986) noted its influence, that “[i]f you engage for long in the study of how human beings relate to one another, especially through the use of language, you are bound to be struck by the importance of ‘transactions’” (p. 57).