Defining Communication Ethics

Standard

The operative word for defining communication ethics appears to be “ought”. This chapter shows positions that “promote and protect  a good that one “ought” to practice within a particular communication ethic.

This chapter has studies four metaphors of communication ethics praxis:

  • Multiplicity of Communication Ethics
  • Philosophy of Communication
  • Applied Communication
  • Narrative

For point one, while definitions of communications ethics have multiplied, there is one common thread among them: each articulates a given good that produces and shapes the ethic.

Jensen (1997), in Ethical Issues in the Communication Process, defines ethics as “the moral responsibility to choose, intentionally and voluntarily, oughtness in values like rightness, goodness, truthfulness, justice, and virtue, which may in a communicative transaction significantly affect ourselves and others” (p. 4). Jensen highlights the importance of protecting and promoting the good of choice, a central question in the West and in the disciplinary tradition of communication.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 938-942). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

The second metaphor is philosophy of communication, which is different than in the day when one view of the good prevailed.

The value of a philosophy of communication is to connect the “why” to the “how” of the doing, keeping the “why” as primary.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 992-994). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

The why gives meaning to what is communicated, helps to see from the inside instead of the outside, and leads to the how, which is the third metaphor: Applied Communication. It brings communication into engagement, beyond mere theory.

We are all familiar with those who are able to critique a situation, but sooner or later we ask the question: What are you going to do about it? We expect action.

And finally we come to metaphor four: Narrative. Narrative requires agreement amongst people to create an interpretation that guides  decisions. Postmodernity recognizes multiple narratives at play, and requires the need to learn and understand these competing views of the good.

Narratives are persuasive. with multiple narratives we see narratives interacting with each other, attempting to persuade people

We suggest that the study of communication ethics implies the question, “What is the narrative ground that shapes a philosophy of the good and sanctions given practices in application of that good?”

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 1113-1115). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Having completed the four metaphors, the authors now give us their literary example through Les Miserables.

They talk about the various narratives in the book, and how various characters pursue different goods. But the examples they give seem to give, unintended by them, but not, I think, by the author, a definite bias in the narrative for the one narrative of good over the others. Les Miserables illustrates their point about a multitude of goods; the way they used it doesn’t represent the equality of those goods in the narrative exchange and persuasion.

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