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Levinas's Rhetorical Demand

Levinas's Rhetorical Demand

The Unending Obligation of Communication Ethics

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Ronald C. Arnett. Foreword by Algis Mickunas


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
334 pages, 6 x 9


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About the Book

Distinguished Book Award, Philosophy of Communication Division, National Communication Association, 2017

Top Book Award, Communication Ethics Division, National Communication Association, 2017

Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics as first philosophy explicates a human obligation and responsibility to and for the Other that is an unending and imperfect commitment. In Levinas’s Rhetorical Demand: The Unending Obligation of Communication Ethics, Ronald C. Arnett underscores the profundity of Levinas’s insights for communication ethics.

Arnett outlines communication ethics as a primordial call of responsibility central to Levinas’s writing and mission, analyzing it through a Levinasian lens with examination of social artifacts ranging from the Heidegger-Cassirer debate to Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World story concerning illicit possession of information.

Levinas’s Rhetorical Demand offers an account of Levinas’s project and the pragmatic implications of attending to a call of responsibility to and for the Other. This book yields a rich and nuanced understanding of Levinas’s work, revealing the practical importance of his insights, and including a discussion of related theorists and thinkers.


Ronald C. Arnett is the chair of and a professor in the Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies at Duquesne University and the Patricia Doherty Yoder and Ronald Wolfe Endowed Chair in Communication Ethics. He is the author or coauthor of ten books, including Communication Ethics in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt’s Rhetoric of Warning and Hope, which received the 2013 Top Book Award from the Communication Ethics Division of the National Communication Association, and Dialogic Confession: Bonhoeffer’s Rhetoric of Responsibility, which received the 2006 Everett Lee Hunt Award from the Eastern Communication Association.


“This important volume provides a deep yet accessible foray into the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and its importance for rhetoric and communication. Scholars will gain a richer and more nuanced understanding of the work not only of Levinas but also of a constellation of theorists and thinkers. No other volume can offer such a comprehensive and engaging view of one of the most important Continental thinkers.”—Pat J. Gehrke, coeditor, A Century of Communication Studies: The Unfinished Conversation [changes must be approved by endorser]
Levinas’s Rhetorical Demand is an important book that will find an interested audience among Levinasian scholars; those interested in communication ethics, communication theory, and rhetorical theory; and scholars and practitioners of dialogue.”—Paula S. Tompkins, author, Practicing Communication Ethics: Development, Discernment, and Decision-Making
“Ronald C. Arnett’s latest book constitutes an essential, high-impact resource for any scholar interested in Emmanuel Levinas’s work and its implications for communication ethics. In this key volume, Professor Arnett brilliantly shows why Levinas’s ideas should be understood as a communication ethics in action, an ethics that endows us with the infinite responsibility we have toward others. By exploring the multiple obligations demanded of us by ‘the face of the Other,’ this book shows why Levinas’s ethics resists any a priori metaphysics that would demand a code or procedure to be followed.”—François Cooren, professor, Université de Montréal, Canada

"Arnett paints a convincing picture of Levinas making “the Other which holds the ‘I’ hostage” as both the starting point of his philosophy and a challenge to the “originative ‘I’” of the West. Levinas is also rightly described as following Immanuel Kant in identifying a need to temper the inclinations of the ego but as going much further than Kant in denouncing the tyranny of reason. Arnett clearly shows Levinas’s awareness that “one cannot control the self-centered focus of the ego with an enlightened reasoning” (121)."--Nicholas O. Pagan, Universiti Malaya