Call for papers – Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio

Vol. 15, N. 1/2021 Rhetoric and health

Edited by Maria Grazia Rossi

Deadline: 20.01.2021

Words can act as a pharmakon, becoming a remedy or a poison. Considering both theoretical tenets and empirical findings, we have convincing evidence on the power of language and words in changing minds and fostering behavioural change.

In the context of health, it has been underlined how the quality of communication affect (clinical) outcomes, at the individual level (on patients) and the collective or societal level (on citizens). During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more clear that such communication effect is indirect and mediated by factors such as understanding, motivation, social assistance, trust in the system, etc. Words that are well-spoken but also, obviously, well understood can have a strong impact on the quality of our lives, concerning the clinical, emotional and social spheres. This is why the proper and effective use of words should be considered as a common ethical responsibility: it is an ethical responsibility for healthcare providers that directly take care of patients, but it is also a responsibility of public and private institutions working to promote behaviours favouring the adoption of a healthier life and the building of healthier societies, respectful of other people and more environmentally friendly. What happened from a communicative point of view to justify the need to activate a state of emergency and maintain lockdown restrictions is exemplary in this respect, also to discuss the conflict between values that is pervasive in our complex and interconnected societies. Even beyond the pandemic, many examples can be mentioned to discuss the importance of both the effectiveness and quality of communication. Take as examples social campaigns and/or advertisements on health issues related to cases such as the public debate on vaccination or antibiotic resistance, the social campaigns to combat pollution or against smoking in public spaces.

However, it is not obvious to find a consensual framework to define what counts as communication of quality, even if rhetoricians investigated heavily on this issue. Not necessarily a successful communication is also desirable from an ethical perspective. Obtaining persuasion – to be able to change attitudes and/or behaviours, it is not necessarily equivalent to do it in an ethically way. For example, implicit persuasion strategies often (but not always) can be described in terms of manipulation tools attempting to manipulate people and to change their habits. Again, this applies at the individual level within the interactions between patients and healthcare providers, with therapeutic recommendations described as genuine persuasive acts. At the collective level, it also applies to public communication, including the communication made on social networks, where fake news and misinformation spread even more quickly.

The links between rhetoric and health can be therefore analysed from two different points of view. From a linguistic point of view, the main problem is to figure out which communicative strategies are effective to persuade patients (and citizens) in changing a given behaviour and/or accepting the treatment more appropriate to a specific medical condition. From an ethical point of view, the main problem is to figure out which effective communicative strategies are legitimate, meaning they respect values defining both the patient (citizen) agenda and the doctor (political/health system) agenda. The discussions concerning the frameworks of value-based medicine and patient-centered medicine fit in this context, as well as fall in this debate the current attention given to the frameworks of narrative medicine and persuasive technology (applied to telemedicine, mobile apps, social networks, etc.).

Vol. 15, N. 1/2021 of RIFL expects to explore the links between rhetoric and health, accepting papers aim at considering the role of communication in the context of health, and papers considering persuasion from an ethical point of view – at the individual level (between patients and providers) and the collective/societal one (between institutions and citizens, between media and citizens).

Papers should be theoretical or empirical. All fields will be considered (Philosophy of Language, Classic studies, Literary studies, Linguistics, Psychology, etc.) if they are relevant to discuss the persuasive and/or the ethical dimension of communication in the context of health. Papers exploring the following areas are very welcome:

●        Words and language as pharmakon

●        Communicating science, communicating the COVID-19 pandemic

●        Doctor-patient communication

●        Persuasion, argumentation and manipulation in the context of health

●        Ethic of the medical discourse and ethics for health

●        Ethical relevance and effectiveness of narrative medicine

●        Shared decision-making between patients and providers

●        Social campaigns and advertisement for health

●        Persuasive technology and health

●        Social networks and seeking information on the web

●        Value-based medicine

●        Patient-based medicine

●        Public opinion and health

●        Visual persuasion and the role of images in the context of health

●        Linguistic strategies developed for healthcare providers

●        Emotions and interpersonal relations in the context of health

●        Language and placebo effect

We call for articles in Italian, English and Portuguese. All manuscripts must be accompanied by an abstract (max 250 words), a title and 5 keywords in English.

The manuscript must be prepared using the journal template Download template. All submissions must be prepared by the author for anonymous evaluation. The name, affiliation to an institution and title of the contribution should be indicated in a file different from that which contains the text. The contribution must be sent in electronic format .doc or .rtf to

Instructions for authors:

Maximum contribution length:

40000 characters (including spaces) for articles (including bibliography and endnotes).

Deadline 20.01.2021

Publication: June 2021

O grupo NOVAsaúde Doença Crónica e Infeção vem por este meio convidá-lo(a) a participar na III Conferência Internacional, com o tema “Infection, Cancer and Global Health ” que se realizará no próximo dia 9 de outubro, via Plataforma online, entre as 9h00 e as 12h10.

O Programa segue em anexo.

Agradecemos que efetue o seu registo, até ao próximo dia 6 de outubro, aqui.

A pragmatic agenda for healthcare: fostering inclusion and active participation through shared understanding

Sarah Bigi, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore(Italy)
Maria Grazia Rossi, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal)

Practical information for submission:
– deadline: October 25, 2020
– abstracts should be min. 250 words and max. 500 words (including data and references) – abstracts should be submitted through the conference website (, indicating the panel when prompted to do so in the submission procedure at the ‘Topics’ step. 

In many studies on communication in healthcare, asymmetry is identified as one of the primary causes of suboptimal professional-patient interactions. Rather than seeing asymmetry in itself as a problem (Dingwall & Pilnick 2020), we consider ‘knowledge translation’ as the biggest challenge for healthcare professionals. When this fails, the implications are serious: burnout and frustration for healthcare professionals, lack of adherence to healthy behaviors and worsened health for patients. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown a particularly painful side of the ‘medical communication issue’, with governments struggling to get correct and complete information to the population in order to contain the infection and to indicate the most appropriate preventive behaviors. Clearly, communication styles that are unable to address the challenges posed by ‘knowledge translation’ favor non-inclusion and reduced access to care.

In this panel, we claim that in healthcare ‘shared understanding’ is a precondition for inclusion and active participation (Rossi & Macagno 2019; Tzanne 2000). We also assume that the micro-level of dialogues between professionals and patients, and the macro-level of institutional communication are linked and interdependent: on the one hand, a well-informed citizen is more likely to be a well-engaged and responsible patient, who knows how to access healthcare services and make good use of the opportunities the system can offer. On the other hand, patients and healthcare professionals who can develop trusting and constructive relationships with each other are more likely to find creative ways of supporting patients’ wellbeing, allowing in return professionals’ own satisfaction.

We would like to further discuss the idea that the achievement of shared understanding through appropriate communication would trigger a virtuous circle leading to more accessible, inclusive, and sustainable healthcare systems. Therefore, we invite presentations that address questions such as the following:

-at the micro-level of analysis:
• which are the greatest challenges in multilingual and multicultural dialogues in the healthcare settings and how can they be overcome?
• which are the dialogical mechanisms that mostly favor or hinder the creation of common ground between participants in a dialogue?
• is it possible to describe indicators of misunderstandings/disagreements in healthcare dialogues?
• how and under which conditions can technological devices favour inclusion and active participation?

– at the macro-level of analysis:
• which are the main challenges for public discourse concerning health in view of achieving shared understanding between institutional actors and the population?
• how should the language of healthcare institutions change in order to foster active citizenship?
• how can pragmatic analyses and findings contribute to the preparation of high-quality teaching materials for medical students?

Finally, is it possible to outline virtuous processes that would allow the micro-and macro-levels of communication in the medical context to support each other towards more inclusive healthcare services?

Dingwall, R., & Pilnick, A. (2020). Shared decision making: doctors have expertise that patients want or need.BMJ, 368.
Rossi, M. G., & Macagno, F. (2019).Coding problematic understanding in patient–provider interactions.Health Communication, 1-10.
Tzanne, A. (2000).Talking at cross-purposes: The dynamics of miscommunication. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing.