Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

English

First Advisor

Erik W Doxtader

Abstract

American politicians are often urged to be more civil in their discourse in order to establish more unity even though civility does little to develop and sustain civic relationships. In the face of political violence, when civic relationships seem most vulnerable, the attempt to purify uncivil words is an inappropriate response to the rhetorical problem, a fractured kinship between citizens. This project attempts to revise that response, and through Aristotle's theory, focuses on the foundation of civic friendships: kindness. What is kindness's role in civic friendships and how does this relationality influence political discourse? Working from Aristotle's Rhetoric and Nichomachean Ethics, I argue that kindness is a disposition comprised of goodwill (eunoia) and kindliness (kharis), which motivates one to serve the other. It is the beginning and the vitality of friendship. For a democracy then, which, according to Aristotle, relies on the presence of civic friendships, kindness is not only possible, but promised. As kindness is fundamental to political relationships, and as such relations are fundamental to a democratic state, kindness should be considered the unspoken first-foundation for our politics. It at the very least contributes to a more understanding deliberation; more significantly, it assures a commitment to fellow citizens resilient to violent speech and action.

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