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Ethics and Discourse in Historical Perspective: Practice & Theory
full name / name of organization:
EMMA (Etudes Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone)
International Interdisciplinary Conference
Organized by EMMA in collaboration with CRISES and DIPRALANG (Montpellier III, France)
The Platonic critique, while denouncing certain aspects of the persuasive approach of discourse (the rhetorical and sophistic practices), introduces the possibility of a truth-oriented philosophical rhetoric (especially in Gorgias and Phedre). Following upon these critical considerations, the philosophical and rhetorical traditions have then taken two distinct directions as regards the technical use of language. One approach is focused on the danger inherent to any technical working-out of discourse, as it can degenerate into an instrument of manipulation and deceit. The other takes into consideration the moral gain that rhetoric can generate. Isocates for instance, Pato's contemporary, claimed that to speak correctly led to correct living. At the classical age, it would seem that some philosophers saw linguistic mastery as an ethical necessity. Bacon, Pascal, Hobbes and Locke indeed promoted a certain form of « language therapy » to expose various uses and misuses of words.
In the the 20th century, these questions – though dealt with in a different manner – came once again to the forefront with the development of neopragmatism in the US, (critical) discourse analysis in France and Europe (Amossy, Fairclough, Wodak, van Leeuwen, van Tdijk, Meyer, etc.), and, following Perelman's work, with the re-emergence of rhetoric. Can the revival of rhetoric thus be perceived as an ethical necessity? While Plato denounced the gap that sophistic rhetoric introduced between speech and reality, contemporary approaches to discourse aim at highlighting this gap, revealing the manipulative linguistic effects, be they conscious (spinning strategies, political use of stereotypes motivated by self-interest) or unconscious (expression of norms and stereotypes, stigmatisation practices, classifying discourse, etc.). Some of these approaches indeed seek to deconstruct pre-established classifications and renegotiate the assigned social positions for a potential reinvention of self and others. Can one therefore speak of a certain ethical progress having been made in contemporary discourse analysis?
The conference will be an occasion to confront French and foreign methodologies on topics centred on the links between ethical questioning and public discourse in a historical perspective. The proposals can be related to three major periods (ancient rhetoric, classical age, or the contemporary era) and can either take the shape of a practical analysis of discourse belonging to all genres—literary, political, media-related—or deal with theoretical aspects discussing the debates that ethical questioning has given rise to at all ages.
Among many others, one could choose to answer the following questions:
Languages of the conference: English and French
Proposals of around 300 words to be sent by September 1st 2010 to
Notification of acceptance : October 15, 2010