The Problem of Polarization | National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

The Problem of Polarization

Social Philosophy; Democracy; Politics; Political Polarization

Robert Talisse (Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University)

October 13, 2020

Democracy is such an important social good that it seems natural to think that more is always better. However, we also recognize that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In this webinar, we will analyze current findings regarding political polarization to argue that, as important a social good as democracy is, it is nonetheless possible for citizens to overdo it. Today, our everyday activities are increasingly fused with our political profiles: commercial spaces, workplaces, professions, schools, churches, sports teams, and even public parks now tend to embody a particular political valence. When politics is permitted to saturate our social environments, we impair the capacities we need in order to enact democracy well. In a slogan, when we overdo democracy in this way, we undermine it. The solution is to build venues and activities where people can engage in cooperative activities together in which their political identities are neither bolstered nor suppressed, but simply beside the point. If we want to do democracy well, we need to put politics in its right place.


Political Science / Social Philosophy / Democracy / Politics / Political Polarization /