Rebuilding Democracy (Part 2): Disagreement and Civility, with Robert Talisse

In this two-part podcast, we speak with Bob Talisse about rebuilding democracy today, putting civil disagreement at the heart of our efforts.

S1 E14: Rebuilding Democracy (Part 2): Disagreement and Civility

“Democracy runs on disagreement: it is by means of citizens hashing out their differences that democracy can achieve better political outcomes.”

In Part 2 of their podcast, Turi and Bob Talisse follow on from their discussion of Equal Citizenship (and why polarization strains that ideal), to discuss Disagreement and how we build democratic ‘Civility’ to make sure disagreement is working for, not against, democracy.

Disagreement is central to the democratic aspiration. Not only does it enshrine the right of individuals to participate in the democratic process, but it is epistemically useful - it helps us discover and articulate new ideas. But how can we argue properly when all our instincts push to defeat the other side rather than build with them?

Bob Talisse explains that we’re programmed to argue (a good thing) but that we must remind ourselves to do so within the bounds of ‘civility’. Not ‘civility’ in the 19th Century sense of the term, but rather ‘Civic Friendship’ - anchoring our argument in the idea that we’re all building the same civic project together, that our disagreement is precisely what makes our collective experience so much better.

Listen in to understand:

  • Deep Disagreements: the kind of differences no reasoning or logic will ever succeed in bringing together
  • How (and why) we privilege winning arguments over learning from them.
  • Performance Debating: why we love to argue, and why we’re so bad at differentiating real debate with playing to the gallery.
  • Why politicians play to their bases rather than try to convince the other side.
  • How we’ve merged the notion of fact and opinion.
  • Civil Discourse: what it means and how we can work to build ‘Civic Friendships’.
  • And whether COVID-19 might just bring us back together as societies…

“The informational environment seems directed at dissolving the distinction between knowing what happened and having a judgment about what happened.”

Robert Talisse

Robert Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, USA, where he specializes in contemporary political philosophy, with particular interest in democratic theory and political epistemology. His two most recent books are Overdoing Democracy and Political Argument in a Polarized Age


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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020 at 13:09 UTC