Does Contempt Belong in Public Life? | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Does Contempt Belong in Public Life?

Civility; Emotions

Krista K. Thomason (NHC Fellow, 2021–22; Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Swarthmore College)

January 24, 2023

Most people agree that we have an obligation to be civil in public life. The problem is that we disagree about what “being civil” means. Does being civil mean we shouldn’t express negative emotions, even when we think someone deserves it? This talk focuses on contempt and its place in public life. Are there times when we should express contempt for others or will it do more damage to an already fragile public forum? We will examine the question of contempt in the history of philosophy and see what those debates can tell us about contempt in public life today.


Philosophy / Civility / Emotions /