Unspeakable Conversations

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Critical Reading: “Unspeakable Conversations”

Could the killing of an unborn disabled child be considered acceptable in today’s society? Selective infanticide is a very controversial topic that many have argued about over past years. In her article “Unspeakable Conversations” disabilities activist and lawyer Harriet McBryde Johnson demonstrates her viewpoint on this issue. She writes this article as a story, with herself being the narrator. It follows her journey as she feuds with Peter Singer, a Princeton University professor, who has an opposing perspective regarding the killing of unborn disabled children. With this in mind, Johnson reveals her point of view using the strategy of a Rogerian argument and the rhetorical elements of ethos and pathos.
Using the model of Rogerian argument, McBryde Johnson’s intent was to provide the audience with her position in a respectful manner while degrading her opponent, Professor Singer, in the process. “Rogerian argument is a conflict solving technique based on finding common ground instead of polarizing debate” (Wikipedia). It emphasizes a "You win and I win too" solution, one where negotiation and mutual respect are valued (Winthrop). Throughout the article, it is noticed that while McBryde Johnson’s view is different from that of Singers, she shows empathy towards his thoughts. This is shown through her need to dislike her opponent by disagreeing with the thoughts of Singer. As their professional relationship grows, the audience is able to notice a change in her respect towards his views. “I’ve come to believe that Singer actually is human, and even kind in his way” (McBryde Johnson 9). This illustrates that she strives to dislike her opponent. Through the remainder of the article, Singer’s caring manner towards Johnson makes a difference in how she presents her argument. Singers view on the issue is completely opposite of hers, though she is more open to what he has to say. “ Within the strange limits of this



Cited: Johnson, Harriet McBryde. “Unspeakable Conversations”. The New York Times. 16 Feb. 2003. Web. 22 Feb. 2011 “Rogerian Argumentation.” Winthrop. n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www2.winthrop.edu/wcenter/handoutsandlinks/rogerian.htm>. ‘Rogerian Argument.” Wikipedia. 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogerian_argument>.

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