A feeling of friendliness, kindness, grace, or benevolence. These are all words that can be used to describe eunoia, our first bimonthly theme for 2022. According to the Cambridge dictionary, in rhetoric, “eunoia is the goodwill a speaker cultivates between themself and their audience, a condition of receptivity.” Such a beautiful, hopeful word, which seems like an appropriate theme at the start of a new year, to promote comity or amity among people. This is the direction the Paratext-team intends to take, moving from our last bimonthly theme of 2021 – Osmosis – into a brighter vibe. Yet, while it appears as a positive description of a feeling, when I look at the word, I find no connection to it. It feels distant, inaccessible after spending years socially distancing myself from others. The term makes me think – depressingly, I might add – about eulogies, expressing my feelings of sorrow as I crave connection again.
The word can be traced back to the Greek term εὔνοιᾰ, meaning ‘favour’ or ‘grace’, which is related to the Attic Greek εὔνοος, translated to ‘favourable’. This in turn, can be traced back ευλογία in Greek, which means ‘grace’ or ‘blessing’. However, when phonetically pronouncing this word, it sounds like evlogía, taking me, once again, back to eulogies. Funnily enough, however, the Greek word for eulogy is εγκώμιο (enkómio), which does not sound like eulogy at all.
During a further deep-dive into this graceful term, I turn to Aristotle. (How could I not when I’m talking about an ancient Greek term?). According to Dominic Maximilian Ofori[i], eunoia is one of three elements that Aristotle saw in ethos, the other two being phronesis (“good sense”) and arête (“good moral character”), “all of which are born out of a speaker’s attentiveness and responsiveness to subject matter, speech context, speech purpose, and audience” (53). A warm feeling slowly builds in my stomach: this sounds interesting. And how appropriate a discussion for Paratext! In this context, eunoia (“goodwill”) to Aristotle “means a speaker’s display of friendship and concern toward an audience” (56). In order to show eunoia, a “speaker must somehow identify with the audience” (Kinneavy & Warshauer qtd. by Ofori 56).
Talbot Brewer[ii] also briefly discusses the last element of Aristotle’s ethos, but from a different angle: Brewer starts with friendship, or rather φιλία, ‘philia’. According to Brewer, Aristotle uses this term to “pick out a broad array of human relationships, ranging from the most intimate relationships between lovers … to the relatively casual and impersonal relationships among fellow citizens” (723). But most importantly for us here is what these different forms of philia have in common for Aristotle, namely eunoia: “all of them involve reciprocated goodwill between two persons, each of whom is aware of the other’s goodwill” (723). Eunoia, then, moves not from what you want, or need, or think is best, but rather goodwill for the sake of the other person (Ofori 56).
Finally, through these loops, I have found my connection to eunoia. It now not only reads as a eulogy of a love lost, or a last goodwill to a person you cared for, but as a connection between people. This takes me back to a principle I was raised with: you treat others the way you wish to be treated. (Which, by the way, I struggle with every day; what if people don’t treat you with respect, even when you try your best to be respectful towards them?). After years of living in a pseudo-society, where distance is the norm, however necessary, I find myself now craving eunoia with an intensity.
Help us spread eunoia, by writing to or about your fellow humans, or by creating an ode to a creator who inspires you. It could be like Eunoia, an anthology of univocalics, by the Canadian poet Christian Bök, or the debut album by Invalids with the same title, who are described as a maths rock band. Show us what eunoia looks like to you. We cannot wait to see what you will come up with for this bimonthly theme. We’re constantly looking for new contributors, and we’re open to almost any (in)sane idea. So, grab your pen, pencil, camera, mobile, laptop or whatever creative accessory you need and publish something! Interested? Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Alyssa Vreeken
Brewer, Talbot. “Virtues We Can Share: Friendship and Aristotelian Ethical Theory.” Ethics, vol. 115, 2005, pp. 721-758.
Ofori, Dominic Maximilian. “Grounding Twenty-first-century Public Relations Praxis in Aristotelian Ethos.” Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 31, no. 1, 2019, pp. 50-69.
[i] A professor at the University of Ghana, who specialises in (among other things) Organization Rhetoric and Communication/Media Ethics.
[ii] Professor of Philosophy, University of Virginia