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Director's Lecture

Elizabeth Anderson, “Can We Talk?: Communicating Moral Concern in an Era of Polarized Politics”


Event Summary

Photo by Max Herman

Political discourse in the United States today is distorted by practices of trolling (insults, “owning the libs”) and shaming (“political correctness”). Both practices displace consideration of urgent first-order moral concerns of justice with second-order concerns of competition among identity groups for moral and social superiority. Yet how can we communicate first-order moral concerns without resorting to blaming and shaming those who resist? In this lecture, Elizabeth Anderson suggested alternative ways in which testimony and empathy can be mobilized to communicate moral concern so that those who resist shame and blame can come to share such concerns.

Related Media

“Are Bosses Dictators?” (Podcast interview with Ezra Klein on her recent book: Private Government: How Employers Rule our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It), The Ezra Klein Show, August 18, 2019)

”The Philosopher Redefining Equality” (Profile of Elizabeth Anderson exploring the contemporary relevance of her political thought, The New Yorker, January 7, 2019)