Communication Ethics: a lengthy, belabored prologue


You know the book is going to be labored when it has four headlined sections in the preface. You could never get away with that in a fiction book (well, perhaps I shouldn’t say that, but it would have to support something really special), but in my most recent text book that is exactly what I got.

Here is the book, in proper bibliographic listing:

Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M. H., & Bell, L. M. (2008). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Sage Publications.

The class is on communications and leadership ethics. I am sure I will find it quite interesting. I’ve had the professor before, and he kept a very good dialogue going.

Which is perhaps a good segue into talking about this book, since “dialogue and difference” is part of the title. My intention is to write up observations I have about the book, chapter by chapter, and since the preface has 4 sections, I think I can get a whole post out of the preface!

The four sections of the preface are:

1) The Pragmatic

2) A Minimalist Era

3) A Narrow Ridge

4) Communication Ethics Praxis in an Era of Difference

The preface talks about the need to “meet the perennial question of how to work out our differences in productive ways.” The modern era, the authors assert, is more willing to learn from alternate points of view, challenging previously unchallenged perspectives of the dominant group.

If you have heard the term Postmodern, this is what the author means by it: the time where the dominant worldview is being challenged and we are entering into dialogues of understanding with people of opposing viewpoints.

The Pragmatic section points to the opportunity to learn, to listen, instead of to perpetuate the universal ideals of the dominant group. We listen to the challenges of opposing views of what “the good” is.

The Minimalist Era section is a conclusion of the pragmatic, that instead of trying to find multiple points of agreement, we reduce down to the most minimal needed to peaceful coexistence, and live and let live.  We learn from others, instead of judging when they say something that doesn’t fit the frame of our idea of the good.

A Narrow Ridge talks about the dangerous obstacles that this method has to navigate between: Relativism on one side, Objectivism on the other.

We acknowledge the public presence of multiple competing goods, and we assume the importance of the first principle of communication ethics— learning that seeks to attend to the face of another, negotiate difference, and locate minimal agreement— permitting persons to function in the public sphere with those of differing maximal positions.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 333-335). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Communication Ethics Praxis in an Era of Difference finally gets to outlining the book, instead of laying the foundation.  The book has three sections:

  • Communication Ethics Approaches
  • Communication Ethics in Contexts
  • The Pragmatics of Communication Ethics

What I intend to find interesting about this approach, is the use of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables to illustrate the main points of each chapter.They are going to use the novel as a “Humanities Case Study”.

Now, as a writer, I understand the use of story and metaphor, and think this is a great idea. My one concern is that it isn’t really a “case study” but one persons belief of how people might react. The more true it is, the more likely it is to be believable to people, but it isn’t an actual study, but a story. I am curious to see how well I think they use this literary form. Do they treat the literature correct, or twist it and treat it a science? We will see.


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