Searching for Benedict de Spinoza in the history of communication: His influence on Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays

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Some ideas crucial for the development of communication as a field are both contemporary and also based on classical philosophical thinking. An example of this is philosopher Benedict of Spinoza's ideas on the power of images and the importance of emotions to explain human behavior. This article delves into how Spinoza's ideas have been transmitted to classic public relations authors such as Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays through the works of their masters and their mentors: George Santayana, who was one of Lippmann's philosophy professors at Harvard, and Sigmund Freud, an uncle of Bernays whose psychoanalysis theory shaped Bernays’ approach to persuasion. In contrast to these public relations masters of persuasion who had a pessimistic view of the human condition, Spinoza's Ethics is based on a positive anthropology of man that squares well with contemporary and more ethical relationship-building approaches to public relations.


This article was originally published in Public Relations Review. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Public Relations Review


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