Dialogic Civility in a Cynical Age

Community, Hope, and Interpersonal Relationships

By Ronald C. Arnett & Pat Arneson
Foreword by Julia T. Wood

Subjects: Communication
Series: SUNY series in Communication Studies
Paperback : 9780791443262, 352 pages, September 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443255, 352 pages, September 1999

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Table of contents



Part I. Interpersonal Praxis: From Communicative Crisis To Narrative Action

1. Introduction: Beginning the Conversation

An Overview
Horizon of Significance
The Conceptual Key

2. Voices of Cynicism and Hope

Routine Cynicism
Interpersonal Suspicion
Language Disconnected from Action
Listening to Two Sides of Cynicism
Routine Cynicism as Debilitating
Cynicism as Survival Tool
The Wedding of Cynicism and Hope
Pain and Joy
Hope within Limits

3. Historicality and Presence

A Foundation for Communicative Change
Missing the Historical Moment
Meeting the Historical Moment
Dialogic Limits
A Dialogic Perspective
A Practical Dialectic
Interpersonal Praxis as Historical Common Sense
Interpersonal Commonplaces

4. Common Ground: Interpersonal Narrative

Opening Narrative Structures
Narrative Background
From Metanarrative to Therapeutic Culture
Historical Mismatch—The Therapeutic Metaphor
An Overextended Metaphor
Walter Lippmann's Warning
A Narrative Ethic for Interpersonal Discourse

Part II. Interpersonal Voices

Section 1. Narrative Decline: Interpersonal Dialogue and Self

5. Carl Rogers: A Voice of Pragmatic Optimism

Significance of Carl Rogers's Life and Practice
A Founding Voice
Scope of Carl Rogers's Influence
The Quiet Revolutionary
Communicative Focus
Historical Grounding
An Optimistic Listener
Central Concepts in Carl Rogers's Work
Innate Wisdom of the Human Organism
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

6. Abraham Maslow: Science, Values, and Additive Change

Significance of Abraham Maslow's Science/Values Project
Additive Approach to Science
Additive Education
Self in Service to the Other
Central Concepts in Abraham Maslow's Work
A Science of Interpersonal Health
Human Values
Self-Actualization and Earned Self-Esteem
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

Section 2. Narrative Confrontation: Interpersonal Dialogue and Crisis

7. Martin Buber: Attending and Response Between Persons

Martin Buber's Common Center: The Between
Horizon of the Between
The Existential-Phenomenological Nature of the Between
Ambiguity, Story, and Guidance
A Communicative Poetic
Central Concepts in Martin Buber's Work
The Great Character
Focus of Attention
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

8. Carol Gilligan: Gender and Moral Voice

Historical Context: A Window for Cynicism
Moral Voices
Central Concepts in Carol Gilligan's Work
Female Adolescence
Re-Connection and Care
Responsibility in Relationship-Grounded Caring
A Dialectical Dance
A Morality of Care
Voice and Inclusion
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

9. Paulo Freire: Dignity and the Limits of Inclusion

Interpersonal Pedagogy
Affirming the Other
The Limits of Inclusion
Central Concepts in Paulo Freire's Work
Rejecting a Culture of Silence
Narrative Sickness
Critical Consciousness
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

10. Sissela Bok: Crisis and Ethical Imagination

Ethics and Postmodernity
Communication without Ethical Coherence
Central Concepts in Sissela Bok's Work
Common Values
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

11. Viktor Frankl: Meaning, Displacement, and Courage

Lived Life as Thoughtful Action
Central Concepts in Viktor Frankl's Work
Pragmatic Spiritualism
Meeting Disappointment and Suffering
Discovering Meaning
Tripod of Meaning
Tragic Triad
Problematic Assumptions
Contrary to the Pleasure Principle
Choosing Meaning
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

Section 3. Narrative Construction: Interpersonal Dialogue and Story

12. Nel Noddings: Re-Storying an Ethic of Care

Re-Storying Ethics
Missing Stories
Caring as Story
Moral Education
Central Concepts in Nel Noddings's Work
Reducing Evil
An Ethic of Caring
Caring in Relation
Risks of Caring
Intuition and Interpersonal Reasoning
Intuitive Capacities
Complementary to Reason
Meaning and Story
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

13. Robert Bellah: Re-Storying Broken Covenants

The Practices of Identity
Therapeutic Limits
Characters of Modern Life
Central Concepts in Robert Bellah's Work
Broken Covenants
Tacit Understanding of a Problematic Story
Communicative Background—The Common Good
Inviting Community
Historicality and Dialogic Civility

Part III. Dialogic Civility

14. The Interpersonal Praxis of Dialogic Civility

From Privatized to Public Discourse
A Minimal Foundation for Dialogic Civility
Respect and Civility
Civility and the Other
A Call for Dialogic Civility
From Unreflective Practice to Praxis
Our Historical Problematic
Practical Philosophy of Dialogic Civility
Conclusion—Dialogic Civility

Works Cited


Offers insight and practical guidance for people interested in improving their interpersonal relationships in an age of rampant cynicism.


Dialogic Civility in a Cynical Age offers a philosophical and pragmatic response to unreflective cynicism. Considering that each of us has faced inappropriate cynical communication in families, educational institutions, and the workplace, this book offers insight and practical guidance for people interested in improving their interpersonal relationships in an age of rampant cynicism.

Ronald C. Arnett is Chair and Professor of the Affiliated Departments of Communication and English at Duquesne University. He is the author of three books: Dwell in Peace: Applying Nonviolence to Everyday Relationships; Communication and Community: Implications of Martin Buber's Dialogue, for which he received the 1988 Book Award by the Religious Speech Association; and Dialogic Education: Conversations About Ideas and Between People. He is also the coeditor of The Further Reach of Dialogue and Community Ethics in an Age of Diversity. Pat Arneson is Associate Professor of Communication at Duquesne University.


"It is a rare pleasure to read a scholarly book that offers a realistic basis for hope about the possibilities for enriched communication. In their book the authors offer hope—hope for human thought and action and, most especially, for human communication praxis. " — From the Foreword by Julia T. Wood

"Dialogic Civility in a Cynical Age provides a dialogue with some common sense voices of reason, civility, caring, and interpersonal relations. It is truly a praxis—applying theories of dialogic communication and civility to our moment in history. How timely in this age, which places emphasis on recognition of diversity and yet also includes skinheads and hate groups. The book doesn't give a naïve view of the world. It takes a realistic look at dialogic communication and its possible role in countering much of today's unenlightened, unreflective cynicism about our communities and the future of our society. " — T. Dean Thomlison, University of Evansville, Indiana