Modern Day Sophistry: A Case Study

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Reading Response #3
This week’s readings and discussion gave me a lot of insight on Sophistry, especially in regard to our current era. The question arises whether or not professional communication can be considered modern-day Sophistry and if someone can act ethically right when acting in accordance with a Sophistic notion of truth.
To begin with, I want to stress several factors from the readings that indicate potential ethical problems that arise when assessing the Sophistic notion of truth. Most importantly, Sophists “insisted that persuasive arguments can always be made on either side of an issue” (p. 47) indicating that truth emerges through an exchange of arguments and counterarguments that would “yield a better view of the truth” (p.
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In my opinion, one can only answer this question when deciding on an approach to the term ethics. As we learned in our previous class, there are several approaches to ethics. One popular approach is the universal understanding of ethics that implies that our actions “should be the basis for action by everyone every time” (Ch. 3 Duties, p. 39) and basically indicates that it is unethical to lie. Therefore, lying in order to achieve something, such as marketing goals, would be considered unethical in accordance to the universal approach. Kant expands this approach: “Whenever you manipulate others for your own ends, you are using them as a means to get your way, not treating them as uniquely valuable individuals” (Ch. 3 Duties, p. 40). I am uncertain if one can assess the work of a PR or Marketing specialist as unethical, because they are not telling the truth (lying) to potential buyers – Companies do not necessarily recreate the truth. However, they sure do manipulate people’s buying decisions by persuading them of a/the truth through the use of strategic communication. Therefore, I believe that professional communicators cannot act ethically right in consideration of the universal approach to ethics. Even if professional communicators do not always recreate the truth, they are still manipulating potential buyers through persuasive language (strategic communication), just like the

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