The lost art of democratic debate

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the most important courses I took in college was Justice with Michael Sandel. (These days, anyone can “take” the whole course on video.) In a TED talk, Sandel spells out a way to think about justice and a way to improve democratic discourse. Here are a few highlights from the talk:

“Look at all of the arguments we have these days: over health care, over bonuses and bail outs on Wall Street, over the gap between rich and poor, over affirmative action and gay marriage. lying just below the surface of those arguments, with passions raging on all sides, are big questions of moral philosophy. But we too rarely articulate and defend and argue about those big moral questions in our politics…

“There is a tendency to think that if we engage too directly with moral questions in politics, that’s a recipe for disagreement and a recipe for intolerance and coercion. Better to shy away from or ignore the moral or religious convictions people bring … A better way to mutual respect is to engage directly with the moral convictions citizens bring to public life … That seems to be a way to begin to restore the art of democratic argument.”

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