Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Vanhoozer on the Ethics of Communication

As I'm working on my dissertation, I'm re-reading a number of books. Yesterday, I worked through Dale Allison's The End of the Ages. Today I'm working through Kevin Vanhoozer's wonderful book First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

Here's Vanhoozer on the ethics of communicative action:

"What Wittgenstein and others have shown us is that words do not do one thing only--say represent the world--but that we can do many things with words. Speaking and writing may therefore be deemed to be forms of what I shall call communicative action. Furthermore, if using language is a form of action, we would do well to think about the ethical implications of doing things with words. Both speakers/authors and listeners/readers have communicative responsibilities. Communicative agents have a responsibility to make good on their claims. Yet recipients or observers of communicative actions are responsible for doing justice to the words of others. In an age that has celebrated the birth and the creativity of the reader, it is not hard to see how authors figure among the marginalized voices of our times. Doing justice to an author--arguably the most marginalized other in postmodernity!--means recognizing what the author has said and done in a text, rather than foisting one's own opinions and ideas onto the text. I take this to be an implication of both the Golden Rule and the ninth commandment: 'Thou shalt not bear fase witness'"(First Theology, 34).

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