Cory Williams

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Calvin L. Troup

Committee Member

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Richard H. Thames


caritas, dialogic civility, individualism, love, philosophy of communication, rhetoric


The field of interpersonal communication conducts many descriptive studies. However, guidance for healthy communication within intimate relationships is more difficult to come by--a condition stemming in part from an emotivist ethical paradigm. MacIntyre (1984) describes "emotivism" as the current state of society where individual preference serves as the ethical decision making compass. Emerging from Enlightenment scholarship (e.g., Hobbes, Rousseau, sociobiology), individual preferences have become main tenets in intimate interpersonal research. In the interpersonal theories of social exchange and goal-orientation, emotivism is encouraged in the emphasis placed on self-interest and technique. This exposes itself metaphorically through descriptions of communication as a tool, an economic bartering system, and a means of gaining emotional satisfaction. As a result, communication phenomena such as love and trust in intimate romantic relationships are difficult to express due to the difficulties self-interested language has in moving beyond the dichotomy of egoism and altruism.

This interpretive study hopes to reinvigorate the philosophical ground for other-focused action in today's historical moment in regard to the study of interpersonal intimate romantic relationships. To do this, communication must first be interpreted in an active paradigm. Communicative praxis (Schrag, 1986) provides the texture for this shift, describing the subject as decentered, and thus interpreted as multiple, temporal, and embodied. In the embodied connection of word to deed (the act of being to, for, and with the other), ethical conduct can be determined, thus providing ground to pose an interpretive framework for healthy romantic relationships--a narrative of charitable acknowledgment as defined in the work of Hyde, Schrag, and Augustine. The connection between charity and acknowledgment focuses on rhetorical competence, the emphasis on connecting word to deed, and the importance of will and habit. Acknowledgment serves as a hermeneutic to open up charity to a postmodern society on an axiological level, explored through transversal interpretations of faith, hope, and charity. Charitable acknowledgment, then, is the enactment (within a nexus of will, habit, and ethic) of unconditionality, sacrifice, and forgiveness. This approach to romantic relationships opens the door for new research and future discussion on the ethical implications of the narrative shift.