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Civil Disagreement: Personal Integrity in a Pluralistic Society

by Edward Langerak Georgetown Univ Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 184 pages
AU$62.00 NZ$64.35
Product Status: Out of stock. Not available to order.
& Academics:
How can we agree to disagree in today's pluralistic society, one in which individuals and groups are becoming increasingly polarised by fierce convictions that are often at odds with the ideas of others? Civil Disagreement: Personal Integrity in a Pluralistic Society shows how we can cope with diversity and be appropriately open toward opponents even while staying true to our convictions. This accessible and useful guide discusses how our conversations and arguments can respect differences and maintain personal integrity and civility even while taking stances on disputed issues. The author examines an array of illustrative cases, such as debates over slavery, gay marriage, compulsory education for the Amish, and others, providing helpful insights on how to take firm stands without denigrating opponents. The author proposes an approach called ''perspective pluralism" that honors the integrity of various viewpoints while avoiding the implication that all reasonable views are equally acceptable or true.

Civil Disagreement offers a concise yet comprehensive guide for students and scholars of philosophical or religious ethics, political or social philosophy, and political science, as well as general readers who are concerned about the polarization that often seems to paralyze national and international politics.


1. Conversations and ArgumentsStates of NatureConvictions, Commitments, and Integrity Uses of ConversationFour Types of Claims Conversations and ArgumentsCivility

2. Conflicts and PluralismsDiversityReasonable Pluralism Value PluralismReligious Pluralism Perspective Pluralism Pluralism and Other Isms

3. Toleration and RespectToleration and Tolerance History of Toleration Justifications: Prudence and Principle Cooperation and Compromise RespectVariations on Civil Disagreement

4. Laws and DissentersCivil Disagreement about Legislating Laws Accomodating Dissenters

5. Civil Disagreement: ConclusionWorks Cited


Edward Langerak's book on political thought is a gem. Obviously, the author has lived a long time with one of the vexing problems in the West: how to engage in civil disagreement in a pluralistic society with personal integrity - without either unraveling the society or rivening (or silencing) the deep convictions of its participants. The book is masterfully organized, patiently clarifying where confusions (such as those among pluralism, liberalism, and relativism) would lead astray, and insightful throughout. Both the main text and the notes supply readers with a fine account of the lifelong conversations that went into the making of this splendid volume.'' - William F. May, former president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics, the emeritus Cary M. Maguire Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of Beleaguered Rulers: The Public Obligation of the Professional and Testing the National Covenant: Fears and Appetities in American Politics

This mature and philosophically sophisticated work makes an important contribution not only to the ethics of pluralism but to the even greater question of ethics - "How should we live?" - and its necessary correlate, "How can we disagree yet live together in peace?"" - Lloyd Steffen, professor, Religious Studies, Lehigh University
Edward Langerak is professor emeritus, St. Olaf College, where he taught ethics and philosophy for over four decades, holding the Boldt/NEH Distinguished Teaching Chair in the Humanities from 2000 to 2003. He has been a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson, Kent (Danforth Foundation), and National Humanities Foundation fellowships.