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Philosophical Profiles in the Theory of Communication

With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters

Edited By Jason Hannan

Philosophical Profiles in the Theory of Communication is the first book to draw systematic attention to the theme of communication in twentieth-century academic philosophy. It covers a broad range of philosophical perspectives on communication, including those from analytic philosophy, pragmatism, critical theory, phenomenology, hermeneutics, feminism, psychoanalysis, systems theory, and more. What emerges is a vital, long-neglected story about the theme of communication in late modern academic philosophy. Each chapter features a «profile» of a particular philosophical figure, with a brief intellectual biography, an overview of that figure’s contribution to communication theory, and a critical assessment of the significance of that contribution. The clear and accessible organization of the volume makes it ideal for courses in both philosophy and communication studies.


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Foreword RICHARD J. BERNSTEIN ________________________________________ Philosophers have always been interested in communication. This is already evident with the pre-Socratic thinkers: Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Sophists. Reflections on communication are central to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—and influence all aspects of their work. We can trace the long tradition of the relation between oral and written communication back to them. They initiated the vital tradition of rhetoric that flourished from Aristotle to Vico. Beginning with Descartes and early modern philosophy, many philosophers tended to focus on how communication pertains to questions of representation and truth. But beginning in the nineteenth century we can discern a much broader and diverse approach to the varieties of communication that dealt not only with the transmission of information, but with the emotionally expressive dimensions of communication. Philosophers working in the different traditions turned their attention to a more robust and varied understanding of communication. In Germany there was a great flourishing of new thinking about the role of language in human life, stimulated by Humboldt and Herder and developed into the hermeneutics of Schleiermacher and Dilthey. This is a tradition that culminates in the twentieth century with Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, and Charles Taylor. In America, Charles S. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, envisioned a comprehensive theory of signs (semiotics) that would encompass all aspects of communication (verbal and nonverbal). Indeed, Jürgen Habermas has argued that at the end of the nineteenth century a great paradigm shift occurred—one that challenged the philosophy...

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