Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In this project, I present a novel and alternative approach for considering ethics in professional and technical communication, namely the ethics of responsibility theorized primarily by phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas. To apply this new approach, I investigate a contemporary example in the rhetoric of investment bank Goldman Sachs before and during the 2008 U.S. Financial Crisis. In the early chapters, I review conventional ethical approaches—traditional and postmodern—in technical and professional communication (TPC) and consider their application to the Goldman Sachs example. This analysis reveals that these approaches, while useful in understanding the report’s general ethical framework, don’t fully describe the ethical violations that occur in contemporary circumstances, as represented by the Goldman Sachs example. Instead, the two approaches are often blended and misapplied in a way that leads to confusion and an irresolvable tension when employed in contemporary discourse about TPC. This complicated fusion produces rhetoric which promotes risk at the expense of responsibility. In response, in the second part of the dissertation, I offer an alternative approach, via Levinasian ethics of responsibility, to overcome the ethical tension of conventional approaches and offer an additional, productive means for considering elements beyond the strict application of those approaches. This alternative view has benefits for theory, practice, and pedagogy in TPC.



Committee Chair

Bridwell-Bowles, Lillian



Available for download on Tuesday, May 27, 2025