Civil Discourse Needed for Fruitful Debate

Friday, March 16, 2012

UT San Diego -- When Rush Limbaugh attacked law student Sandra Fluke for her support of President Obama's inclusion of public support for contraception in his national health plan and suggested that, if she were entitled to public funding for contraception, he was entitled to watch the videos of her sexual activity, he crossed a line, violating the limits of civility. Mr. Limbaugh may not merit further attention, but the line itself does. It is important to understand where and why that line about civility is drawn and why it is diminishing in importance. It is not a line enforced from above by some governmental overseer, but rather one that properly comes from below, from a citizenry concerned about the quality of its own political life. Civility is the foundational virtue of civic life.

Unconstrained public political discourse is at the heart of a democracy, the lifeblood of the democratic process, carrying sustenance to the various parts of the body politic. Without such discourse, the activities and growth of the body politic become stunted, constrained, unable to flourish. We see this in dictatorships around the world, oppressive governments that keep the aspirations for justice and democracy in check by repressing the voice of the people. (Full Article)

Lawrence Hinman is a professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego. 

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