Ethics of Argument in Perelman and Gadamer
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This study investigates ethical argumentation in Perelman and Gadamer to claim that the central theoretical framework in each philosophy simultaneously inflects and deflects available avenues of persuasion. I argue in each system there is a “confused notion” whose ambiguity underpins the available methods of rhetorical argument. For Perelman, the confused notion of the universal audience and its relationship to epideictic rhetoric determines the form of ethical persuasion that requires consensus in order to incite action for justice. For Gadamer, the confused notion of Vorurteil (prejudice, or fore- judgment) is used to critique tradition, Enlightenment reason, and historical hermeneutics. This mode of ethical argument suggests that open dialogue with an other is the best means for addressing prejudice in order to reach mutual understanding. I argue that by placing these two approaches to ethical argument into critical dialogue, their respective capacities, limitations, and distinctive rhetorical outcomes can be more clearly apprehended.