Dialogical thought avoids these risks of identical thought. A dialog begins first of all with a call and a response. Once the other person has responded smoothly to our call, we feel friendly toward them and feel they are “one of us.” Just as a stone cannot reply and so can never be “one of us,” we feel little affinity for people who shut themselves away and do not reply, even though they are fellow human beings.
On the other hand, for me to feel a real affinity for someone, their responses should continue to fall short of our expectations. Many years ago, an elaborate canine robot came onto the market. It was meant to be a replacement for a pet. So what were the requirements for this robot to become a pet that would be loved by its family? Of course it had to be able to respond appropriately to people’s calls. It wagged its tail when its head was patted, and ran up to people when they called it. But all this robot was doing was fulfilling some idealized behavior, and people soon tired of it because they felt it was no more than a sophisticated machine. To gain the real affection of its owners, the robot should have given them a hard time, sometimes looking the other way when called or sulking with displeasure. In other words, we can only feel affinity for someone and recognize them as “one of us” if they are an “absolutely other person” who remains beyond our control. What holds human relations together is not our sameness but our differences.