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ERIC Number: ED082259
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1973-Nov
Pages: 12
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: N/A
"And By Opposing, End Them." The Genre of Moral Justification for Legal Transgression.
Erlich, Howard S.
Public utterances that defend illegal actions on moral grounds which supersede legal grounds display distinct rhetorical features. Rhetorical criticism of Thoreau's "Plea for Captain John Brown" (1859) and the Antony Towne and William Stringfellow letter in defense of the Berrigan brothers (1972) reveals five similar rhetorical strategies. These strategies tend to define the "genre" of discourse called "moral justification for legal transgressions." One line of argument is a defense of illegal actions by the invocation of higher moral law. Other approaches include the acknowledgement of the inevitability of and disregard for the punishment which ensues from the illegalities; an assailing of the government agency which precipated the events leading to the illegal acts and punishment; the identification of the accused with morally superior beings, using religious imagery as supportive argument; and the proclamation that the illegal acts measurably aid a good cause. These rhetorical approaches for the justification of illegal actions are in concurrence with earlier observations by rhetorical critics, especially Edwin Black. (CH)
Publication Type: N/A
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: N/A
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Assn. (59th, New York City, Nov. 8-11, 1973)