When engaged in democratic politics, it often strikes us that our opponents are not only wrong, but in the wrong. We tend to see them as not merely mistaken, but ignorant, corrupt, and on the side of injustice. Most account of responsible citizenship contend that we must nonetheless uphold civil relations with them. But why? When the stakes are high, why not just dismiss our opponents and work with our allies to overcome them? Why bother trying to maintain civil relations with them? In this talk, Robert Talisse draws on empirical work concerning belief polarization to argue that we must uphold civil relations with our political enemies, not because we are required to regard them as reasonable, but because in the absence of those relations our political alliances crumble.
Robert B. Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He specializes in democratic theory, with an emphasis on justice, citizenship, public deliberation, and political disagreement. Talisse is the author of over 100 academic articles and 15 books. His most recent research is focused on polarization and partisan animosity. His new book is titled Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe to the Other Side. It explores the challenges of treating one’s political opponents as nonetheless one’s equals.