116 | Teresa Bejan on Free Speech, Civility, and Toleration
Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas
Teresa Bejan - Equality and hierarchy in the thought of Mary Astell
Lectures in Intellectual History
Ever since Mary Astell was introduced as the "First English Feminist" in 1986, scholars have been perplexed by her dual commitments to natural equality and social, political, and ecclesiastical hierarchy. But any supposed "paradox" in her though is the product of a modernist conceit that treats equality and hierarchy as antonyms, assuming the former must be prior, normative, and hostile to the latter. Seeing this, two other crucial features of Astell's thought emerge: her ethics of ascent and the psychology of superiority. These, in turn, illuminate her lifelong fascination with ambition as a feminine virtue, as well as her curious embrace of Machiavelli. Astell's politics and ethics are thus doubly worthy of recovery, both as the product of a singularly brilliant early modern mind and as a fascinating but forgotten vision of "equality before egalitarianism" that sheds light on the persistent complexities of equality and hierarchy to this day.
Professors and politicians warn that we face a crisis of civility today. But is civility really a virtue, and how much civility do we really need? Those questions are addressed by my guest today is Teresa Bejan, in her book Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, published in 2017. Teresa is an associate professor of political theory at the University of Oxford.Mere Civility critiques early modern debates about civility and how much disagreement we should tolerate, analyzing the views of two well-known thinkers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, as well as Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island. She encourages us to follow Roger Williams in allowing all kinds of disagreement, including expressions of contempt, but to avoid physical violence.TranscriptHere is a transcript of this episode.Rating the ShowIf you enjoyed this show, please rate it on iTunes:* Go to the show’s iTunes page and click “View in iTunes”* Click “Ratings and Reviews” which is to the right of “Details”* Next to “Click to Rate” select the stars.See the full list of episodes of Half Hour of Heterodoxy >>
When they go low, we go...where? "We need more civility" in our political discourse is a frequent complaint lodged by politicians on all sides. Teresa Bejan, who teaches political theory at Oxford University, traces the history of civility from early modern English and American thought, especially in John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Roger Williams, the founder of the American colony that would become today's Rhode Island who is remembered mostly for advocating for the separation of church and state, and religious toleration. She explains what "mere civility" means, and how it can be the common ground for arguments over things that usually divide people, including free speech.
Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political …Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Oriel College. Her book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration (Harvard University Press) examines contemporary calls for civility in light of seventeenth-century debates about religious toleration in England and America. Many of the pressing questions facing liberal democracies today—such as what the proper scope of religious liberty should be, or how to handle partisanship and hate speech—closely recall early modern concerns about the limits of toleration and so-called “persecution of the tongue.”In this episode, Teresa talks to Elizabeth about her book, the importance of building resilience when being confronted with ideas different from our own, and why not having a thick skin when it comes to critique, might be a good thing.
Clear and Present Danger - A history of free speech
We enter the early modern age with an expert opinion featuring Teresa Bejan, associate professor at Oriel College, Oxford University and author of “Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration.” In this episode, Jacob and Teresa will discuss political thought on tolerance and the limits of religious speech in early modern England and colonial America. The episode investigates the writings of intellectual rock stars John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke and the less famous but hugely relevant Roger Williams. Among the topics discussed are: Milton’s “Areopagitica” Early colonial religious “hate speech” laws Why Hobbes found “the mere fact of disagreement offensive” The origin, development, and limits of Lockean tolerance Williams’s combination of fundamentalist evangelical intolerance and free speech fundamentalism Why political theory and practice of the 17th century is relevant to modern day controversies on free speech Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Oriel College. She is the author of Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration. You can subscribe and listen to Clear and Present Danger on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, TuneIn and Stitcher, or download episodes directly from SoundCloud. Stay up to date with Clear and Present Danger on the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages, or visit the podcast’s website at freespeechhistory.com. Email us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civility is a conversational virtue that governs how people talk to each other. How important is it in political life? In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast Teresa Bejan discusses this manner of speaking and writing and its history. We are grateful for sponsorship for this episode from the Marc Sanders Foundation and from our Patreon patrons.
Teresa Bejan: The Disagreeableness of Disagreement
Discussion with Teresa Bejan of Oriel College, Oxford about her 2017 book Mere Civility, which contrasts the views on the limits of toleration in a liberal society of John Rawls, Thomas Hobbes, and Roger Williams, and defends Williams' 'mere civility' which was based on "mutual contempt" rather than mutual respect. We also discuss recent events at Middlebury and Wellesley College, identity politics' want for epistemic humility, and 'free speech fundamentalism'.For more on Mere Civility, see this recent New York Times feature.