Multiple Voices, Messy Truths Rhetoricians on Ethos, Authors, and Authority

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Celeste Condit
Lisa DeTora


The following commentary follows on and flows out of an initial response to reading “Multiple Voices on Authorship and Authority in Biomedical Publications” by DeTora and colleagues (2020), which appeared in volume 3 issue 4 of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine. This response, by rhetorician of science, health, and medicine Celeste Condit, begins by situating questions about authorship and authority in biomedicine against a classical rhetorical source, Plato’s Gorgias. In so doing, Condit identifies a messy truth—that rhetoric potentially can pose dangers when applied to health and medicine. The authors then construct a Platonic dialogue that situates authorship, ethos, and authority in the context of biomedicine. Ultimately, the two authors illustrate the messiness that results when attempting to mount a discussion of these terms across intellectual registers.

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Author Biographies

Celeste Condit, University of Georgia

Celeste Condit is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia, Athens. She applies a materialist approach to explore how language and other human biological characteristics interact to shape human societies, with a focus on health, broadly construed.

Lisa DeTora, Hofstra University

Lisa DeTora is an Associate Professor of Writing Studies and Rhetoric and the Director of STEM Writing at Hofstra University. She holds a doctorate in English and an MS in Clinical Bioethics and has extensive professional experience in biomedical writing and publications management. She is also an active scholar in areas such as technical communication, theories of embodiment, and the rhetorics of science, health, and medicine.


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