The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UConn-UCHI) director and HCPL co-PI Michael Lynch joined MSNBC's Morning Joe and company to talk about his new book "Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture." His book examines the predominant way that social media is deployed in today's culture. Facebook and Twitter are not necessarily used to share facts, knowledge, or accurate information, but are rather avenues for us to express our public courage at those who do not share our convictions. Social media, arrogance, and personal convictions are the ingredients for an addictive drug that fans the flames of our public divisions and grounds us in our tribal affiliations: white nationalism and authoritarianism to the right, and identify politics and arrogant liberalism to the left. What's the solution? Perhaps a dose of humility. Michael Lynch is also the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of philosophy at UConn.
“Risky Talk: Public Deliberation Across Deep Divides”
April 19, 4:00-5:30 Babbidge Library, UCHI Conference Room
Rachel Wahl is an assistant professor in the Social Foundations Program, Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She is also a Fellow and member of the Council Trust at UVa’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and an affiliate of the University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute. Her research focuses on how state officials respond to human rights efforts to prevent torture as well as on learning through public deliberation between people on opposing sides of political divides.
Description: Trump voters and Clinton voters. The police and people of color. Supporters and critics of immigration. The deepest divisions have roiled the American political landscape, cutting so deeply as to include fundamental questions about whose lives matter. Often these divides seem to foreclose any possibility of mutual understanding. Yet calls persist for a more civil civic culture where competing views are exchanged. Many people worry however that such civility will cloak continued oppression by dominant groups. Others may feel it is a waste of energy better spent on political resistance. But what actually happens when deeply divided groups sit down together to talk?
This presentation will report on findings from two studies: one of deliberative dialogue in the most challenging circumstances, occurring between groups who occupy unequal positions and concerning the highest of stakes: police and communities of color. The second study examines deliberative dialogue between university students who voted for opposing candidates in the 2016 presidential election. The presentation examines whether and how people learn from each other in these exchanges, as well as the political and ethical implications of asking people to learn from their adversaries through deliberation.
“Dogwhistles and Figleaves: Techniques of Racist Linguistic Manipulation”
April 5, 4:00-5:30 Babbidge Library, UCHI Conference Room
Jennifer’s primary interests are in Philosophy of Language, Feminism, Philosophy of Race, and Philosophy of Psychology. Her most recent book was Lying, Misleading and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics (Oxford University Press 2012). Currently, she is working on racism in political speech. In 2011, she received the 2011 Distinguished Woman Philosopher Award in Washington, DC; she has also been chosen as Mind Association President for 2019-20.
Abstract: Until recently, it was widely believed that explicit expressions of racism would doom a political candidacy in the United States. Yet nonetheless racism was a frequently used tool that won many elections. This talk examines one of the methods, the dogwhistle, that allowed such racist electoral victories. It then turns to the present day, in which explicit racism is proving remarkably successful. Here I explore a different linguistic technique, the fig leaf, which I take to have enabled this success.
Sanford Goldberg “Your Attention Please! (The Ethics of Address)”
March 26, 4:00-5:30 Babbidge Library, Heritage Room (4th Floor)
Sandy Goldberg (PhD Columbia University, 1995) works in the areas of Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind. Goldberg’s interests in Epistemology include such topics as reliabilism, the epistemology of testimony, the theory of epistemic justification, social epistemology, self-knowledge, and skepticism. In the Philosophy of Mind and Language, his interests center on the individuation of the propositional attitudes, externalist theories of mental content and linguistic meaning, the semantics of speech and attitude reports, and speech act theory. A good sample of his work can be found in his four recent books, Anti-Individualism (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Relying on Others (Oxford University Press, 2010), Assertion (Oxford University Press, 2015), and To the Best of Our Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 2018).
There are various ways through which we try to capture another person’s attention. One of these ways – a particularly sophisticated way! – is to address them. After trying to highlight what it is to address another person, I argue that doing so generates a reason (for you, as addressee) to attend to the act. When the act of address is a speech act, matters are further complicated by the expectations parties bring, and (I argue) are entitled to bring, to an (anticipated) speech exchange. The upshot is that speakers who address an audience have a defeasible claim on the audience’s attention. To fail to attend to a speaker who addresses you and whose claim on your attention is not defeated, I argue, is to disrespect her as a rational subject. That this is an underexplored topic in social epistemology is unfortunate, since if I am right addresses form the foundation of most, if not all, attempts at joint action, including those that arise in the course of our attempts to share information with one another.
People on all sides of the political spectrum often view their opposites as arrogant know-it-alls—as not really being willing to listen to alternative voices. The goal of this workshop is examine the role that a certain kind of arrogance—arrogance about one’s view or beliefs—plays in divisive, polarized political debate. Is arrogance or perceived arrogance a consequence or a cause of polarization? Could promoting a more open-minded or intellectual humble attitude help make politics less divisive? A dozen researchers from around the world will gather in Hartford to discuss these questions and the broader issue of whether reasonable, constructive public dialogue is even possible in our political moment – and if it is, what concrete interventions and/or strategies might be helpful in addressing this problem.
The workshop is sponsored by Humility and Conviction in Public Life(HCPL), an applied research project funded by the John Templeton Foundation and the University of Connecticut, which aims to shed new light on how democracies can balance the value of strong moral conviction with the need for citizens to dialogue with one another, to have some sense of humility about their own values. The hope is that the workshop will be a launching pad for future collaborations and practical interventions.
Trystan Goetze “Moral and Epistemic Responsibility for Conceptual Ignorance”
March 1, 1:00-2:30 Babbidge Library, Heritage Room (4th Floor)
Trystan is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, and a Visiting Research Scholar in the Ph.D. Program in Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research interests lie at the intersection of epistemology, ethics, and analytic feminism. His dissertation is a novel investigation of our moral and epistemic responsibilities concerning the concepts we use.
HCPL was pleased to be a prominent sponsor of the inaugural “summit” of the Connecticut Civic Ambassadors. Overseen by the Hartford-based organization, Everyday Democracy, and supported by state governmental officials, the Civic Ambassadors program brings together citizens committed to strengthening our communities, institutions and overall civic health. Dana Miranda (who led HCPL’s partnership) and Brendan Kane were inducted into the first cohort of CT Civic Ambassadors; the following members of the Initiative on Campus Dialogues also assumed leadership roles at the event: Arianna Diaz, Richard Frieder, Mark Overmyer-Velazquez and Taylor Thompson.
Thursday, November 16th, from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM in the UCHI conference room
José works primarily in critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, political philosophy, communication theory and social epistemology. His current projects focus on how social perception and the social imagination contribute to the formation of vulnerabilities to different kinds of violence and oppression. These projects also explore the social movements and kinds of activism (including what he terms “epistemic activism”) that can be mobilized to resist racial and sexual violence and oppression in local and global contexts. Current book projects include Racial Violence and Epistemic Activism and Theories of the Flesh: Latin-American and US Latina Feminist Theories (with Andrea Pitts and Mariana Ortega).