Re: inferences and leaps of faith

Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 00:03:10 -0400

On Wed, 16 Oct 1996, Beth W. Baldwin wrote:

> I suppose that many would argue that ethos is a radical self-construction
> and that what's involved in communication is always a leap of faith.
> But I wouldn't want to understate the part played in such constructions
> by social factors (culture, history, family, school, church, neighborhood,
> region, etc.) so that more often than not we can and do make similar
> inferences. We don't just "make it up as we go along" all by our
> individual selves.

Another ramification to this line of reasoning is that ethos is
both socially constructed and negotiated. I can only mean what you'll
let me mean, what you'll agree to take me as meaning. This is a constant
problem we face in the classroom, say, where because we are "the teachers,"
our words and actions are imbued with a certain set of
socially-constructed meanings practically no matter what we do.

In other circumstances (relationships with significant others or
with kids, say), we have more room to negotiate. (Sometimes I think the
whole _point_ of raising kids is to help them learn to negotiate socially
and personally acceptable meanings for themselves . . . ) But it's
always a dance. Meaning never resides in an individual, as far as I can


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program, University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd, Dearborn, MI 48128
fax: 313-593-5552