as Bases of Persuasion Ethics
Ethics refers to those
prescriptions and guidelines that involve concerns larger than effectiveness
of persuasive efforts. Ethical standards look toward the needs of
others and the greater good of the society in which persuasion takes
place. Ethics involves values. While some values may be personal and
not all agree on every ethical standard, many communication scholars would argue
that some ethical positions are objectively required of persuaders.
Communication Values Relevant to
Ethical persuaders value:
Truthful information (which makes rational choice possible).
(Note: links to "Defining Characteristics of
Persuasion" - "choice")
undermines persuasion and all communication and, thus, all human sociality ---> existential mistrust.
truth? Logical? Emotional? Relational?
Allowing receivers a range of choices that make freedom actual and moral action possible.
Presenting and discussing the best reasons
for action not just those most favorable to the
advocate or those which "work" (i.e. get you what you
A "level playing field" for all communicators.
Fairness in persuasion includes ("autonomous
for respondents to reflect and prepare counter‑arguments.
equal access to information resources
for all .
use of power differentials.
E. Respecting the (adult) audience as capable of rational decision-making;
American cultural values influencing persuasion ethics
A. Persuasion should reinforce or at least be
consistent with free and democratic processes. Among those
clear, honest information
and proposals are required for participation in democratic decision-making
for dissent, discussion, democratic decision-making, etc. by
all receivers is essential.
right to respond by opponents
is expected in a democracy
persuaders should favor
the public interest over their own self interest
Persuaders should demonstrate good character
and a sense of the integrity of ideas (their full complexity, consistency,
fair consideration of the consequence of
ideas) including thorough research.
Persuaders should consider the multiplicity of perspectives of
entire audience, esp. cultural, moral, political and economic variation -- and care about that.
Both the means and the ends of
persuasion should be ethical (as in the principles of A. - E. in I. above)
and persuaders should consider the long-term as
well as short term "good."
have responsibilities too.
active, critical listeners - not passive receivers.
have the responsibility to respond to persuasion using their own ethical
Listeners should support
persuader's efforts to be ethical and honest -- rather than using honesty, etc.
against opponents (e.g. the problems faced by politicians who tell the
truth on tough issues).
urges to silence opponents.
and don't accept strawman and ad hominem arguments. It only
encourages others to use them.
Discussion Questions for Friday
Make a short list of several things that are
illegitimate/improper to do in persuasion efforts.
How ethical is the kind of campaign communication we
have seen so far in the 2016 presidential campaign?
What Is propaganda?
Is it always
unethical? Based on the two traditions, why or
What are the problems for a society
that does not value and use ethical persuasion?
If what you are trying to get people
to do a "good thing," why shouldn't you use any method you can to