Today’s crisis of civility reflects enduring anxiety about the kinds of disagreement and diversity a liberal democracy can sustain. Yet civility remains a notoriously difficult concept to define. Its meanings include politeness in the exchange of ideas, respect for rules of conduct, and even personal sacrifice for the public good. If civility’s contours are elusive, so too are those of its opposite. Incivility is thought to inflame social disparities. This course surveys canonical and emergent debates in the study of disagreement, toleration, and moral reasoning. What forms of dissent are authorized, repressed, and rewarded in claims to civility and incivility? Under what conditions do notions of the civil change? What role does law play in organizing civil speech? Should speech be subject to legal constraint and judicial review? If civility is a democratic virtue, of what should it consist?
Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Oraby.