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Apologia (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is a formal defense of a position or action.[1][2] The word's currency derives from J.H. Newman's Book Apologia pro Vita Sua (Latin: A defense of one's own life),[3] which presented a formal defense of the history of his Christian life leading to his acceptance by the Catholic Church in 1845.[4] In modern usage, apologia describes a formal defense and should not be confused with the sense of the word 'apology' as the expression of regret.[5]


The etymology of apologia (Greek: ἀπολογία) is derived from the root word apologos (ἀπόλογος), “a speech in defense”.,[6] and the corresponding verb apologeisthai " to speak in one's defense." [3] The Greek philosophers Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle described apologia as an oratory to defend positions or actions particularly the sense of a legal defense.

The earliest English use of apologia followed from the Greek sense "providing a defense", but subsequently a parallel meaning emerged with the sense "frank expression of regret", first recorded in 1590. The parallel sense expressing regret eventually became the predominant usage until the 18th century where the older Latin meaning, first recorded in 1784, emerged, particularly since J.H. Newman's Book Apologia pro Vita Sua.[3]

Additional frameworks[edit]

Other scholars of rhetoric propose alternative conceptualizations available within the scope of apology W. L. Benoit identifies five major strategies that intersect with Ware and Linkugel.[7]

Benoit’s Postures

1. Denial: Simple denial or shifting the blame

2. Evasion of responsibility: Provocation, accident, and good intention

3. Reduction of offensiveness: Bolstering, minimization, differentiation, transcendence, attack accuser, and compensation

4. Corrective action: Offering to repair damages caused by self-action and taking steps to prevent the event from reoccurring

5. Mortification: Admitting wrongful behavior, asking for forgiveness, and apologizing

Lawrence Rosenfield’s Mass-Media Characteristics

Lawrence Rosenfield examines apologies covered by mass media. In his analysis of speeches by ex-President Harry Truman and vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon, Rosenfield described four initial characteristics of mass-mediated apologia.[8]

1. They tend to be short and sharp clashes

2. The remarks are not solely defensive messages

3. They include an extensive amount of data in the middle of the speech

4. Previously used arguments appear to be reused and combined into one cohesive message.[8]

In “The Evolution of the Rhetorical Genre of Apologia,” Sharon Downey argues that apologia has undergone significant changes because its function has changed throughout history.[9] Downey takes on a critical generic approach to the feasibility of apologia. Halford Ryan advocates that kategoria and apologia need to be understood as a linked pair. Ryan proposes that a speech of kategoria or accusation motivates a defensive response, which should be treated as a rhetorical speech set.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of apologia". Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved 23 September 2016. Apologia: A formal written defence of one's opinions or conduct. 
  2. ^ "definition of apologia". American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 23 September 2016. apologia: A formal defense or justification. 
  3. ^ a b c "apologia (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 23 September 2016. 'from Greek apologia "a speech in defense," from apologeisthai "to speak in one's defense' 
  4. ^ "Encyclopedia entry for apologia". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 23 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Synonym Discussion of apologia". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 23 September 2016. Apology usually applies to an expression of regret for a mistake or wrong with implied admission of guilt or fault and with or without reference to mitigating or extenuating circumstances" "Apologia implies not admission of guilt or regret but a desire to make clear the grounds for some course, belief, or position 
  6. ^ "ἀπολογία". Blue Letter Bible-Lexicon. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  8. ^ a b "A Case Study in Speech Criticism: The Nixon-Truman Analog." Communication Monographs 35 (1968): 435-450.
  9. ^ Downey, S. D. "The Evolution of the Rhetorical Genre of Apologia." Western Journal of Communication 57 (1993): 42-64. Print.
  10. ^ "Kategoria and Apologia: On Their Rhetorical Criticism as a Speech Set." Quarterly Journal of Speech 68 (1982): 254-261.