Abstract

It does not seem terribly unfair to say that studies of both rhetoric and dialogue have tended, by and large, to pass over listening in favor of speaking. In scholarly as well as quotidian parlance, it would appear that both rhetoric and dialogue are principally concerned with speech, banishing listening to the silent subservience of rhetoric's other. Whichever way it is glossed—as rhetoric, dialogue, language, or argumentation—the Western conception of logos emphasizes speaking at the expense of listening (Fiumara 1990). And the problem with conceiving of logos in terms of speech and speaking is not only that it ignores the importance of listening but also that it obscures how listening makes the ethical response possible. Drawing on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, this article examines the ethical exigency of the face and its relation to primordial discourse in order to disclose the otherwise hidden ethical significance of listening and its vocation as a form of co-constitutive communicative action that can “listen persons to speech.”

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