Month: February 2017

February 28th, 2017. The Public Discourse Project Seminar: Maura Priest

Title: Epistemic Greed

Maura Priest

Abstract: My paper argues that epistemologists and ethicists have overlooked the importance of a dangerous vice (epistemic greed). I explain what this vice is and why it is a problem. In so doing my paper sheds light on the following questions: Is the behavior of epistemic elites, (a) really much different from billionaires discussing expensive wines on a millionaire dollar yacht, and (b) do epistemic elites have the same sort of (imperfect) obligation to share in their epistemic wealth as the rich have to share in their economic wealth?

Babbidge Library, 4th Floor, Room 4/209

10 Projects, 1 Audacious Goal: Find Solutions to Help Cultivate Healthier Debate and Dialogue in America


UConn’s Humility and Conviction in Public Life project announces $2 million in fellowship grants for projects that will delve into newsrooms, classrooms and the halls of Congress

Storrs, Conn. – A new $2 million fellowship grant program sponsored by the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and funded by the John Templeton Foundation will support 10 innovative projects that explore the broken landscape of American discourse and create enduring strategies to spur and sustain open-minded, reasonable and well-informed debate and dialogue.
The 10 interdisciplinary research projects focus on balancing two key features of democracy: intellectual humility and conviction of belief. Carefully curated out of an applicant pool of 110, not only for their individual merits, but also because they work in complementary fashion, each project will investigate how networks and institutions meant to connect us may be pushing people apart.
“Arrogance is easy in politics; humility is hard. These projects aim to rekindle the sense that we can learn from each other, and thus to help us restore a more meaningful public discourse,” says Michael P. Lynch, director of the Humanities Institute and Principal Investigator of the Humility and Conviction in Public Life project.
The research awards, ranging from $160,000 to $225,000, provide a substantial two-year fellowship to each grantee for an ambitious project that will put cutting-edge research to work on improving and revitalizing public discourse. In aggregate, the projects will not only examine how intellectual humility does or does not manifest in public discourse, but will also promote and assess humility at the individual and institutional levels. 
Here are the thorny issues and pressing questions the grantees will tackle:
Defusing Extreme Views: What makes us argue so heatedly over things we know little about?
Phillip Fernbach of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his team will look at how we can improve public discourse not by turning laypeople into experts, but rather by making people aware of the causes of extremism and ignorance.
Encouraging Democracy in Action: How can we make communication between elected officials and their constituents more constructive and meaningful?
Ryan Kennedy of the University of Houston and his team will work with 16 congressional offices to study how an online tool that encourages deliberation might help constituents and their representatives arrive at common ground solutions.
Tackling Caustic News Site Comments: Can online news comments sections be designed to promote intellectually humble discourse?
Graham Smith of the University of Westminster, UK, and his research team will look for technical solutions that make comments sections more conducive to intellectually humble discourse. The researchers will test the potential of the solutions by recruiting people who usually read online news and randomly assigning them to different types of comments forums.
Dismantling Echo Chambers: Which online platforms best foster public discourse, and how can we improve them?
Mark Alfano of Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, and his research team will study how content flows in online communication networks and the interpersonal dynamics that influence online conversations about fraught issues.
Leaving ‘Expert Opinion’ to the Experts: Can people become more receptive to expert opinion?
David Dunning of the University of Michigan, Nathan Ballantyne of Fordham University, and team will look at how people interact with expert opinion and work to make people more receptive to it.
How Faith and Humility Can Coexist: Are religious convictions incompatible with intellectual humility?
Elizabeth Krumrei Mancuso and her team will examine whether people of strong religious faith can be intellectually humble, and if not, will assess what biblical and non-biblical evidence might be effective in boosting their intellectual humility in public discourse.
Groupthink and Humility: How can groups and institutions become more humble and open to dialogue?
Benjamin R. Meagher of Franklin & Marshall College and Wade C. Rowatt of Baylor University will investigate how intellectual humility influences group performance and how groups can act with intellectual humility.
Humility on Campus: Can we teach students to engage in more productive dialogue?
John Sarrouf of Boston nonprofit Essential Partners and his team will develop new teaching strategies for promoting intellectual humility and constructively engaging differences in academia.
A Healthier Q&A: Can asking the right questions make political discussion more productive?
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of Duke University and his team will work to determine which questions, and which contexts, produce humility and civility in public discourse and which produce polarization and inflexibility, with the ultimate goal of finding ways to promote a culture of democratically engaged inquiry.
Eliminating the Shouting Match: How can we discourage arrogance in politics and public discourse?
Alessandra Tanesini of Cardiff University and her team will design and test practical interventions designed to combat the growth of pugilistic behaviors in public discussions, such as shouting, mocking, dismissing and rudely interrupting others. 
The Humility and Conviction in Public Life project supports interdisciplinary research and outreach on the nature of productive dialogue about morality, science and religion. Detailed information on each grantee can be found at For media inquiries, please contact Justine Morgan,

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Maura Priest

Maura Priest is a residential research fellow with the Humanities Institute’s Humility and Conviction in Public Life Project

H&C: What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?

MP: I received my PhD and Master’s Degree in philosophy from the University of California, Irvine. I received my BA in philosophy (political science minor) from California State University, Fullerton.

H&C: What is the project you’re currently working on?

MP: I am currently working on two projects. The first is a mix of epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. I seek to understand how ethical virtues function at the group and collective level. I focus in particular on intellectual humility, epistemic greed, and disagreement. I am also working on a project on manipulation. I want to define manipulation and explain the different variants of the character trait. I then explain how this trait can cause epistemic and moral harm in interpersonal relations. Lastly, I look at manipulation in respect to both private and governmental institutions. I am particularly interested in political manipulation and manipulative advertising.

H&C: How did you arrive at this topic?

MP: I have always been interested in the intersection of ethics, politics, and epistemology. I believe that the epistemic enterprise is an ethical enterprise, and that political institutions are bound by ethical and epistemic constraints. Hence ethics, epistemology, and political theory interact in important and underdiscussed ways. We cannot, for instance, fully understand moral virtue unless we understand epistemic virtue. Neither can we form moral and just political institutions without a clear understanding of the ethics of epistemology. This is because political institutions are highly epistemic in nature, i.e., electing the proper governing officials and creating just and fair laws supervenes on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

H&C: What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

MP: I think my work is particularly relevant given the current political environment. For instance, although this might seem a time for academics to become cynical about the public and their ability to make just democratic choices, it is important to remain humble and listen to the perspectives of those with whom we strongly disagree. Unfortunately, at times like this, it is especially tempting to throw epistemic norms to the wayside for what might seem like the greater epistemic and moral good. However, a world in which manipulation and epistemic dishonestly become common in and around the university is a world even worse than the one we live in today. It is important to not let despair impede intellectual humility at the individual or group level. It is also critical that we are able to recognize vices like manipulation and epistemic arrogance for what they are. With this recognize such traits can be justly condemned by persons who refuse to stoop to the same level.

From the community Hartford Public Library, UConn and Atheneum Launch Encounters, A New Discussion Series, Feb. 4

What’s in a name? The creation of the United States of America made us a democracy and a republic. That creation story and the players in it are very much with us. “Hamilton,” is one of the biggest Broadway hits and presents founders Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr as flesh and blood men. With their flashes of brilliance and crippling personal deficits they invent a new government.
Politics has occupied public attention for the past year as we elected a new U.S. president. So a deeper dive into documents created by our founders is especially timely.
The Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute, are launching a community engagement partnership with a new discussion series called Encounters. The partners will provide discussion leaders to engage in topics aimed at strengthening our ability to know ourselves and one another through respectful and challenging dialogue. This February and March, Encounters will focus on the fundamental documents that define our democracy.

go to the full article

February 7th, Political Theory Series | Nancy Fraser

The Crisis of Care

Nancy Fraser, The New School

  • Paper workshop, 2/7/12, 1:30-3pm. UCHI Conference room, Babbige Library 4th floor.
    Please contact Fred Lee <> for a copy of the paper.

From Exploitation to Expropriation: On Racial Oppression in Capitalist Society

  • Public Lecture, 2/7/17, 3:30-5pm, Class of 1947 Room.

Abstract: Exploitation-centered conceptions of capitalism cannot explain its persistent entanglement with racial oppression. In their place, I suggest an expanded conception that also encompasses an ongoing but disavowed moment of expropriation; in so doing, I disclose (1) the crucial role played in capital accumulation by unfree, dependent labor and (2) the equally indispensable role of politically enforced status distinctions between free, exploitable citizen-workers and dependent, expropriable subjects. Treating such political distinctions as constitutive of capitalist society and as correlated with the “color line,” I demonstrate that the racialized subjection of those whom capital expropriates is a condition of possibility for the freedom of those whom it exploits.

Nancy Fraser is Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor at the New School for Social Research and is Vice-President and President-Elect of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division. She is also Professor II at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo and holds the Chair in «Global Justice» at the Collège d’études mondiales, Paris. Her most recent books are Domination et anticipation: pour un renouveau de la critique, with Luc Boltanski (2014); Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: Nancy Fraser debates her Critics (2014); and Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013).

Sponsored by the Political Theory Workshop, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Asian/Asian American Studies, Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology, and the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute.

February 14th, 2017. The Public Discourse Project Seminar: Catherine Elgin

Date & Location: February 14th, 2017, UCHI seminar room, Babbige 4th Floor.

Title: Deweyan Democratic Deliberation

Abstract: According to Dewey, democracy is not just a form of government: it is a way of life– a way of interacting with one another to promote our common ends and resolve our differences.  Democracy thus extends beyond the political arena into all areas where we reason and act together. The mode of deliberation proper to Deweyan democracy is non-adversarial. We should see those who disagree with us not as opponents to be bested in argument, but as resources whose diverging perspectives extend our epistemic range. To engage in democratic deliberation requires a variety virtues that are at once moral and epistemic.