Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can the Humanities Elevate Political Discourse?

The Illinois Humanities Council Debuts Its (Un)Common Good Program Series

The Humanities Council of Washington, DC often uses its programs and grants to provoke meaningful civil discourse between people with opposing viewpoints. During an argument, it is often easy to forget that the opposing party has a unique perspective constructed by their conceptions of history, ethics, philosophy, religious views, and other factors that are informed by the humanities. A discussion that takes such a reality into consideration is likely to meet with more success than one in which opposing sides are blind to perspectives other than their own. This concept is being explored in-depth by our colleagues at the Illinois Humanities Council, the Maryland Humanities Council, and Humanities Washington.

During their (Un)Common Good program series, the IHC will examine the tenor of civil discussion throughout history. They will question whether it is possible for opposing sides to argue without defamatory or violent rhetoric. The project illustrates an important way the humanities can be used to talk about issues at the forefront of public consciousness. 

“We're presenting The (Un)Common Good series because we believe there is an urgent need to re-imagine new ways to discuss issues across ideologies, to model civil debate and dialogue between people who come down on different sides of an issue, and to share information that strives to be unbiased, fact-based, and even-handed. We think that engagement with the humanities is a vehicle through which we can talk, listen and disagree. The humanities can bring fresh and unique perspectives to the complex and controversial issues. Both ethics and literature, for example, can help us understand why choices about health care reform are so difficult to make. For centuries, philosophers and writers have grappled with ideas about freedom and its limits that can help us understand why we disagree on some civil liberties issues. With their focus on reflection, meaning, and perspective the humanities might help us get to the root of our disagreements.” 

- The Illinois Humanities Council

To kick off the project, IHC created the video above, available on their Youtube channel. 
Does the video realistically portray the current state of American political discourse? Is it possible to disagree with passion, but without anger? What are the benefits of civility if it does not improve the chance of agreement? Let us know what you think about this project and this video by leaving a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this post and helping to expand the conversation!