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The Ethics and Politics of Speech

Communication and Rhetoric in the Twentieth Century

Pat J. Gehrke

Publication Year: 2009

The Ethics and Politics of Speech interrogates the ethical, political, and philosophical assumptions of American communication studies.  It examines essays, conference proceedings, and archival documents across the 20th century to generate a new approach to the ethics and politics of communication. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book would not have been possible without significant contributions from a number of colleagues and mentors who provided advice, encouragement, and necessary corrections. First and foremost is Christopher Johnstone, who oversaw the earliest years of this project and spent countless hours and boxes of red pens working over chapters many times. He has been an invaluable ...

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Introduction: Communication, Speech, and History

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pp. 1-13

What relationship does communication have to our ethical and political obligations and commitments? What responsibilities are bound to the practice of rhetoric? These questions have pervaded the study of communication for well over two millennia. Richard Lanham called it the “Q” question, referring to the ancient Roman orator...

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1. Preparing the Speaker to Stand Tall

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pp. 14-32

In most histories of communication, it is common to read that ethics were not a central concern for communication scholars in the first half of the twentieth century. To support such a position, one can easily marshal evidence from the early half of the century touting the importance of efficiency and efficacy in oratory and the requisite skills-based education in public speaking. Subsequently, one might...

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2. Rhetoric, Discussion, and Character

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pp. 33-59

If one were to listen only to the political discourse and the civic education of today, then one might never imagine that it was not until 1913 that citizens nationwide could vote for their federal senators or that the Nineteenth Amendment did not nationalize women’s suffrage until 1920. It is hard to imagine, by today’s standards, that

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3. From Speech Science to Rhetoric and Philosophy

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pp. 60-87

just as the earlier ethics, which were derived from the social sciences, undermined common assumptions about the centrality of efficacy in speech communication and the “great orator” model of historical change, so too did emerging philosophical understandings of communication in the 1950s and 1960s continue to cast doubt upon some of these same suppositions. With the investigation of...

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4. Humanism, Rhetoric, and Existential Ethics

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pp. 88-110

The necessity that rhetoric engage in philosophical work and the relative weakness of reason as a ground for ethical theories or moral criteria pushed rhetorical studies and communication ethics in the middle of the twentieth century to take up ontology, the study of the nature of being. This period saw an explosion of rhetorical theory that paid little attention to questions of persuasive technique and...

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5. The Ethics of Objectivism and Relativism

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pp. 111-132

Given the importance and breadth of subject matter in rhetorical studies, perhaps it seems strange to find a strong conservative force within the field of rhetoric and the discipline of speech communication during the last quarter of the twentieth century. The conservation of the discipline, in terms both of preserving the discipline and of creating for it a core and corresponding boundaries, was expressed most...

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6. The Recalcitrance of Humanism

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pp. 133-146

The nature of the human mind and the capacity and qualities of human agents were persistent issues for speech and rhetoric scholars, but in the last decades of the twentieth century, the specific focus on the issue of will and the very possibility of being an agent in the world gained a special fascination. Will, as the basic constitutive event of most ethics and the necessary component of most views of political...

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Conclusion: History, Community, and Alterity Ethics

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pp. 147-167

After a century of efforts to establish ethical codes, values systems, and moral rules that might guide communication, we have generated more questions and uncovered more gaps and have today a vast diversity of opportunities for thinking about communication and about how one can choose to live one’s life. In the past hundred years, every attempt to lay out an ethic that might safely guide communication has also created some tension, some unanswered question, or some...


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pp. 171-185


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pp. 187-199


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pp. 201-205

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386505
E-ISBN-10: 080938650X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329489
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329484

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 630153285
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Ethics and Politics of Speech

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Subject Headings

  • Rhetoric -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Oral communication -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Oral communication -- Moral and ethic aspects.
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