Thursday, May 31, 2007

Apologia Versus Apology

Although the terms "apologia" and "apology" seem similar, there is actually an important point of distinction between the commonly heard term apology and the lesser-known term apologia. The term apology is used when a person or corporation acknowledges guilt and expresses regret (Hearit Crisis Management 4). Apologia, on the other hand, is a Greek term that can be defined more broadly as any speech that is given in defense of an accusation (Ryan 255-256). It’s worth noting that apologia need not be presented as a “speech,” in the strict sense of the word. Rather, an apologia may be delivered in a variety of forms, including such materials as “an autobiography, a press release, a pamphlet, a play, or a novel” (Kruse 282).

Finally, it is important to understand that although these two terms are distinct, the broader term apologia may in fact contain an apology or an acknowledgement of responsibility (Hearit “Apologies and Public Relations” 115). Conversely, an apologia may offer “a compelling, counter description of organizational actions” without any acknowledgement of wrongdoing (Hearit “Apologies and Public Relations” 115). For example, if a newspaper reports that a product is hazardous, the manufacturer of that product may issue a statement denying the charge, and citing test results that demonstrate the safety of the product. In doing so, the company may explicitly refuse to accept responsibility for an action or undesirable situation. Although such a response would not be considered an apology, it does fit within the category of apologia.

By situating the discussion around apologiae rather than apologies, critics are able to focus not merely on instances in which organizations offer an admission of guilt, but more broadly on all situations in which an individual or organization has been accused of wrong-doing and offers some form of defense in response.

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