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Communication Ethics and Tenacious Hope

Communication Ethics and Tenacious Hope

Contemporary Implications of the Scottish Enlightenment

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Ronald C. Arnett with Foreword by Thomas M. Lessl


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


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About the Book

Tenacious hope, the heart of a just and free society 
During the Enlightenment, Scottish intellectuals and administrators met the demands of profit and progress while shepherding concerns for self and other, individual and community, and family and work. Communication Ethics and Tenacious Hope captures the “unity of contraries,” offering the Scottish Enlightenment as an exemplar of tenacious hope countering the excesses of individualism. Ronald C. Arnett reveals two stories: the struggle between optimism and tenacious hope, and optimism’s ultimate triumph in the exclusion of difference and the reification of progress as an ultimate good. 
In chapters that detail the legacies of Lord Provost George Drummond, Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Reid, George Campbell, Adam Ferguson, and Sir Walter Scott, Arnett highlights the problematic nature of optimism and the ethical agency of tenacious hope. Arnett illustrates the creative union of education and administration, the ability to accept doubt within systems of knowledge and imagination, and an abiding connection to local soil. As principles of progress, free will, and capitalism swept Europe, proponents of optimism envisioned a world of consumerism and absolutes. In contrast, practitioners of tenacious hope embraced uncertainty and compassion as pragmatic necessities.
This work continues Arnett’s scholarship, articulating the vital importance of communication ethics. Those seeking to discern and support a temporal sense of the good in this historical moment will find in this timely work the means to pursue, hold, and nourish tenacious hope. This insightful theorization of the Scottish Enlightenment distills the substance of a just and free society for meeting dangerous and uncertain times. 


Ronald C. Arnett is professor and chair of the department of communication and 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 over a hundred scholarly articles and twelve books, the coeditor of seven books, and the recipient of eight book awards, including recognition for Levinas’s Rhetorical Demand: The Unending Obligation of Communication Ethicsand Communication Ethics in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt’s Rhetoric of Warning and Hope


“Drawing directives from the Scottish Enlightenment, Ronald C. Arnett provides a stunning analysis of the related phenomena of optimism and hope and their role in securing the well-being of one’s personal and communal existence. The analysis serves as a foundation for a theory of communication ethics. As in the past, so in the present; Arnett breaks new ground in the scholarship of this specific field of inquiry.”—Michael J. Hydeauthor of The Interruption That We Are: The Health of the Lived Body, Narrative, and Public Moral Argument
“Not just hope, but tenacious hope presupposes my immemorial responsibility toward the life of the Other. Hope, not optimism, tells of necessary engagement, unending participation, co-implication with the Other, of inexorable responsibility towards that Other. ‘If not me, then whom?,’ asks Ronald C. Arnett, evoking Emmanuel Levinas—in the face of the Other there is no shelter, no escape. This study by Arnett showcases major figures from the Scottish Enlightenment, with its local context inspiring his own communication ethics meditations on the implications for the human condition at large, calling forth social change for today.”—Susan Petrilli, author of Sign Studies and Semioethics: Communication, Translation and Values

“Ronald C. Arnett’s splendid new book affirms Buchan’s judgment that the Scottish Enlightenment was ‘crowded with genius.’ It offers the reader two gifts. First, it takes this crowd of genius and, with great clarity, identifies its leaders and its north star: tenacious hope. Second, it sets forth tenacious hope as a lens the modern reader can use to avoid naïve optimism and rhetorical pessimism. Communication Ethics and Tenacious Hope belongs on the bookshelf of scholars and the public.”—David A. Frank, coeditor of Rhetoric in the Twenty-First Century: An Interactive Oxford Symposium
“In his wonderful book on the contemporary implications of Scottish Enlightenment, Arnett shows us how to remain vigilant in a world that we are actively contributing to destroy. In response to the danger of optimism, which he associates with the blind belief in the deceptive myth of unchallenged progress, Arnett proposes what he calls the absurdity of tenacious hope, a form of hope that invites us to acknowledge and cultivate the unity of contraries where the pursuit of competing goods—concern for self and other, individual and community, economy and environment—always requires reflection and caution. A must-read for whoever wants to better understand how communication ethics could help us rebuild our world one interaction at a time.”—François Cooren, author of Action and Agency in Dialogue: Passion, Incarnation and Ventriloquism
“In this exhaustively researched book, Arnett extends his larger historical investigations into modernity’s confrontation with communication ethics to the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment. Arnett explores a diverse range of scholars whose work emerges in tandem with the astonishing rise from devastating Scottish poverty to 75 percent literacy in less than a century. The resulting communication ethic, which Arnett calls ‘tenacious hope,’ creates a unity of contraries that mitigates the self-righteous assurance of materialist progress with reluctance and concern about its social consequences. Far from lionizing these thinkers, however, Arnett also examines the dark side of this movement, which includes its provinciality, racism, and an unquestioned faith in markets. Arnett’s text is a welcome reminder of alternative ethical pathways for our half-blind current historical moment, with its inveterate faith in technological innovation and the next newest thing.”—Lisbeth A. Lipari, author of Listening, Thinking, Being: Toward an Ethics of Attunement 
“The Scottish Enlightenment is too often ignored in philosophical and rhetorical circles. Ronald C. Arnett’s detailed study represents the finest engagement to date of the Scottish intellectual scene and its intersection with rhetoric, communication, and ethics. Arnett persuasively demonstrates to us that this neglected period has much to teach us about our contemporary conundrums with tradition, diversity, and hope for a better future.”—Scott R. Stroud, author of Kant and the Promise of Rhetoric