A Rhetorical Analysis Of “The Death Of Honesty”

1078 words - 4 pages

In “The Death of Honesty,” William Damon raises the concern that current apathy towards increasing dishonesty threatens democracy. In this essay taken from the online volume “Endangered Virtues ” published by the Hoover Institute in 2012, Damon initially concedes that there are situations where lying could be considered acceptable. However, with that being acknowledged, he transitions to his main premise that honesty is losing its importance in society and will lead to its downfall, and he cites examples in politics, law, journalism, and business in contemporary society where dishonesty is expected, and even, condoned. Damon finally directs his remarks pointedly at teachers and current students who accept cheating in schools. To persuade his audience of university students and academic scholars, Damon uses many rhetorical devices and styles including classical logos, pathos, and ethos, and allusions to make an ethical appeal regarding the necessity for honesty.
In his essay, Damon utilizes logos in an attempt to convince his audience of the virtue of honesty. Damon acknowledges that lying may be justifiable in certain circumstances in order to avoid greater harm, and is even expected in others, like politics (par. 2, 4). He then takes his stance that “(no) civilization can tolerate…dishonest communication without falling apart,” and that society expects all parties to participate with honest intentions (par. 5). He continues to build on his argument by alluding to historical references including the Roman goddess, Veritas, Confucius, and the Bible’s Old Testament, as well as, Abe Lincoln, and George Washington as examples of honesty (par. 6). He notes that current political, legal, journalistic, and business leaders are routinely dishonest, and see nothing wrong with this behaviour (par. 8-10). When Damon hones in on education, he presents statistics on college students cheating, Donald McCabe’s contemporary research, and investigative news reporting on teachers who blatantly support cheating, and additionally, he documents numerous details of cheating arrangements tolerated in schools today (par. 14, 16). Throughout his essay, Damon parallels these arguments of logic along with emotion to gain a response from the audience.
Damon uses descriptive words to carry the audience from acceptance, to tolerance, and then, outrage in order to convince them of the urgency to espouse to the virtue of honesty in a democratic society. Although he speaks of the need for compassion, diplomacy and protection from “unadulterated truth,” he claims that no one is naive or surprised their politicians are dishonest (par. 2, 3). Damon uses references to historical figures to invoke a spiritual and patriotic response from the audience (par. 6). He refers to Gordon Hinkley’s descriptive passage as “alarm sounding…a neglected virtue…and problematic status” to extract a response (par. 7). Damon presents a strong warning when he states that “we are reaching a...

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