ethics and rhetoric
Topic: In this essay, you will take a position in relation to the larger conversation we have been engaging throughout the quarter about the relationship between rhetoric, ethics, and the public. From Plato and the Sophists; Bitzer and Vatz; Habermas and Fraser; instrumental rhetoric and constituitive rhetoric (e.g., Nietzche and Burke); to Foucault’s critique of “Power,” rhetorical theorists have debated whether rhetoric must be grounded in some absolute Truth or Reality if it is to establish clear ethical standards. For some, appeals to universal human nature are not only misguided, but morally wrong and that a sense of a situated self or subject is needed instead. What are the implications of this critique of the rhetorical tradition on our communication ethics? Can we act as ethical rhetors in a world without universals? If so, how?
Writing Matters: Your paper must make an explicit argument about the ethical implications of your take on rhetoric. As always, your final essay should be well- organized (this includes a clear preview, transitions, conclusion, etc. as well as an explicit logical structure to your argument). It should also offer a clear focus, or thesis statement, that you support throughout your essay. Your thesis statement should be declarative and easily identifiable. It should be clear from your thesis, what it is you intend to argue in your essay. One easy way to make sure your thesis is declarative, is to frame it thus: “I want my reader to know that ____________________.” You don’t have to include that phrase, but what follows the “that” is your thesis. Structuring the grammar this way helps you to avoid fuzzy descriptors like “This paper will be about my view of ethics and rhetoric.” In other words, your thesis statement does not tell your reader what your paper will be about, but what it will, specifically, argue.
On citations, etc: This is not a research paper. That is, you are not expected to invoke theories and concepts beyond the readings we’ve done in class (although you’re not prohibited from doing so). That said, you should be citing and paraphrasing scholars we’ve read, and putting your own position into conversation with theirs. Quote when necessary to provide textual evidence to support your characterization of someone’s position. Also, do feel free to use examples to help illustrate and enliven your argument. You may use MLA, APA, or Chicago citation style, as long as you do so consistently. A works cited page is not necessary unless you reference something outside class readings.
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