Have you already argued today?

Whether private or public, political or religious: people are always arguing. There are also many and extensive arguments about arguing itself. On the following pages, we compare the arguing of the present with the arguing of the century of enlightenment. The limits of what can be said are not fixed, either historically or in the present, but must be redefined again and again in dialogue. We use specific cases of dispute, the media used and the people involved or affected to examine the mechanisms of dispute.

Have you already argued today?

The bird of self-knowledge

The wooden sculpture from the middle of the 18th century, which was originally attached to a sleigh as an ornament, confronts us with a special form of argument - that with ourselves. The "bird of self-knowledge" is probably one of the most important aspects of the argument about arguing in mind, namely touching one's own nose. Because the question for all of us is how we are prepared to argue. Our current times have a connection with the 18th century in that the limits of what can be said must always be determined through interaction and the ability to self-criticize is essential. We ourselves are responsible for how we argue with each other.

“Bird self-knowledge”, figural sleigh head made of hardwood, southern Germany, mid-18th century. Munich, Bavarian National Museum: D 499

In this online exhibition and in the 2023 annual exhibition of the Francke Foundations, there is no division into a legitimate “good” culture of debate and an illegitimate “bad” culture of debate. Instead, social, media, linguistic-rhetorical and physical mechanisms and their consequences are shown. The basis for this is the concept of invectiveness, which focuses on phenomena of confrontation, belittlement, abuse, etc.

Both exhibitions invite reflection and discussion about arguing itself as well as about differences and connections between the 18th century and today.

What are the limits of what can be said? Where does constructive discussion end and personal belittlement begin? What functions do provocative transgressions of boundaries have?

Dispute arenas

The spaces in which dispute situations take place have a decisive influence on them. Dispute arenas are shaped by historical or current media, institutional, cultural and social conditions and role models that are effective in them. Looking at the arenas of dispute makes it possible to show ritualized forms of respective disputes (e.g. in duels and talk shows) and gestures and poses (such as finger signs, postures and clothing styles). In this way, the arguing styles of people in the past and present become clear. The following chapters take a look at the disputed arenas of the marketplace and the courtyard as well as the current arena of screens and sounds.

How have disputes been organised in different spaces and constellations over the centuries? How were and are they depicted, disseminated and influenced by the media?

Chapter selection


Kupferstich auf dem man verschiedene Personen auf einem Marktplatz sieht

Dispute arena marketplace

Court arena

Dispute arena screens and sounds

Logo - Bundesregierung (Medien und Kultur)
Logo - Freundeskreis der Franckeschen Stiftungen
Logo - Sachsen Anhalt (Kultusministerium)