A broader understanding of the ethics of listening: philosophy, cultural studies, media studies and the ethical listening subject

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Abstract

This article recognizes the importance of traditional, empirical research on listening but questions whether that research is adequate to ground a theory of ethical listening. By focusing on listening as an activity and cognitive process, that research undermines our recognition of listening's role as a practice in the ethical constitution of the subject. This essay looks at philosophical history (e.g., Foucault, 1997), cultural studies of sound (e.g., Schafer, 1977, revised 1994; Corbin, 2003; Smith, 2001) and of music (e.g., Adorno, 2001; Wong, 2001; Botstein, 1992) and media and communication texts (e.g., Finucane & Horavath, 2000) to articulate the ways that listening structures our subjectivity and yields limited agency to the individual in constituting our own ethical being. That research in listening is used to refine Ratcliffe's metaphorical model for Rhetorical Listening with reference to the empirical experiences of the ear. The essay closes by generating five key choices we all make in ethical listening, choices that are the basis for evaluating the ethics of our communicative practice: the choice to listen individually, the choice to listen selectively, the choice not to listen, the choice to listen together, and only then the choice to listen to each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-20
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Listening
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

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