Competitive Communication: A Rhetoric for Modern Business

By Barry Eckhouse | Go to book overview

6
ETHICS IN ARGUMENT Classical Fallacies

We are all of us preachers in private or public capacities. We have no sooner uttered words than we have given impulse to other people to look at the world, or some small part of it, in our way. Thus caught up in a great web of intercommunication and interinfluence, we speak as rhetoricians affecting one another for good or ill.

-- Richard Weaver, Visions of Order

It is customary in the study of logic to reserve the term "fallacy" for arguments which, although incorrect, are psychologically persuasive. We therefore define a fallacy as a form of argument that seems to be correct but which proves, upon examination, not to be. It is profitable to study such arguments, for familiarity and understanding will help keep us from being misled by them.

-- Irving Copi, Informal Fallacies

Once a discipline struggling for recognition and acceptance, business ethics is now well established as an important subject of study among management scholars and as a topic of considerable concern to practicing managers. 1 However, it is still relatively new as an area of interest in the field of management communication, where discussions of business ethics are only now beginning to appear routinely in books and journal articles, and at professional conferences. 2 While an examination of ethics within this field appears to have been welcomed by everyone, the extent to which ethics has been considered so far has been very limited. Discussion has focused primarily on popular notions of good and bad business behavior, and often those reported dramatically by the press. Thus, concerns are organized around Beech-Nut selling infant apple juice that contains no apple, E. F. Hutton committing two thousand counts of mail and wire fraud, and Johnson & Johnson profiting by using the trade secret of one of its rivals. 3 While all of these instances certainly invite discussion of appropriate behavior, what is missing here is a way of defining ethics so that it has a particularly relevant meaning for those who study management communication as well as

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