A Rhetorical Analysis of “The Death of Honesty” by William Damon

Decent Essays
In “The Death of Honesty,” William Damon raises the concern that current apathy towards increasing dishonesty threatens democracy. In this essay taken from the online volume “Endangered Virtues ” published by the Hoover Institute in 2012, Damon initially concedes that there are situations where lying could be considered acceptable. However, with that being acknowledged, he transitions to his main premise that honesty is losing its importance in society and will lead to its downfall, and he cites examples in politics, law, journalism, and business in contemporary society where dishonesty is expected, and even, condoned. Damon finally directs his remarks pointedly at teachers and current students who accept cheating in schools. To persuade…show more content…
14, 16). Throughout his essay, Damon parallels these arguments of logic along with emotion to gain a response from the audience. Damon uses descriptive words to carry the audience from acceptance, to tolerance, and then, outrage in order to convince them of the urgency to espouse to the virtue of honesty in a democratic society. Although he speaks of the need for compassion, diplomacy and protection from “unadulterated truth,” he claims that no one is naive or surprised their politicians are dishonest (par. 2, 3). Damon uses references to historical figures to invoke a spiritual and patriotic response from the audience (par. 6). He refers to Gordon Hinkley’s descriptive passage as “alarm sounding…a neglected virtue…and problematic status” to extract a response (par. 7). Damon presents a strong warning when he states that “we are reaching a dysfunctional tipping point” when honesty becomes the “loser's way of operating,” and lying is tolerated (par. 8-9). He also advances that it is “most troubling” that there is current lack of honesty amongst young people due to the inconsistent implementation of standards within schools (par. 11). He goes on to use words like sympathize, excusable, motivate, encourage, vacillate, half-hearted to address the response to cheating in schools (par. 15,16,18, 20). He pulls on the heartstrings of his audience when warning of the implication of our current moral decline on children in their formative
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