Civic Discourse, the Virtue of Open-Mindedness, and the Theological Ethics of Racial Justice

Dr. James Spiegel

October 4th | Dow A&B

Dr. Spiegel is a Professor of Philosophy & Religion at Taylor University. Dr. Spiegel has published broadly on a wide range of topics, and he is the author or editor of over ten books including the award-winning How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad, The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy, and Faithful Learning in Philosophy. His areas of specialization are ethics, aesthetics, apologetics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, popular culture.

4pm Lecture: "Celebration and Betrayal: Martin Luther King's Case                           for Racial Justice and Our Current Dilemma" 

4pm Lecture: "Celebration and Betrayal: Martin Luther King's Case                           for Racial Justice and Our Current Dilemma" 

Abstract: During the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s principal arguments reasoned from theological ethics, appealing to concepts of natural law, imago Dei, and agape love.  Today in the United States, with the prevailing ideal of secularized public reason, such arguments are unacceptable in the public square.  In lieu of King’s theological arguments, are there philosophical principles or values adequate to sustain the cause of racial justice, establishing both a secure rational foundation for racial justice and providing sufficient moral incentive for citizens to work self-sacrificially for this cause?  I consider this question, assessing the prospects of the major philosophical alternatives and conclude that each fails to provide the necessary conceptual resources to sustain the cause for racial justice.  This presents a disconcerting dilemma: either we readmit theological considerations into the public square or surrender hope for the achievement of lasting racial justice in the United States.

Abstract: During the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s principal arguments reasoned from theological ethics, appealing to concepts of natural law, imago Dei, and agape love.  Today in the United States, with the prevailing ideal of secularized public reason, such arguments are unacceptable in the public square.  In lieu of King’s theological arguments, are there philosophical principles or values adequate to sustain the cause of racial justice, establishing both a secure rational foundation for racial justice and providing sufficient moral incentive for citizens to work self-sacrificially for this cause?  I consider this question, assessing the prospects of the major philosophical alternatives and conclude that each fails to provide the necessary conceptual resources to sustain the cause for racial justice.  This presents a disconcerting dilemma: either we readmit theological considerations into the public square or surrender hope for the achievement of lasting racial justice in the United States.

7:30pm Lecture: "Civil Public Discourse and the Virtue of Open-Mindedness"

Abstract: Today there is a lot of anger and division about political and moral issues.  How do we demonstrate civil discourse in the midst of this?  Our natural responses to conflict are essentially fight or flight.  We either withdraw from those with whom we disagree or we challenge them to show them where they are wrong.  But neither approach is constructive because withdrawal kills dialogue and challenge makes people defensive.  In neither case is civil discourse achieved.  I argue that the proper alternative is open-minded engagement.  I affirm Jason Baehr’s definition of open-mindedness as a willingness to transcend one’s default cognitive standpoint on an issue.  A person who is open-minded in this sense displays a readiness to take seriously alternative perspectives and a willingness to welcome new evidence that could overturn their current beliefs.  In my talk I also explain how to become more open-minded, why it is a difficult intellectual virtue to develop, and why open-mindedness is actually effective for changing other people’s minds.

These lecture are open to everyone! Please contact Dr. Ian Church (ichurch@hillsdale.edu) if you have any questions. 

For more information on Dr. Spiegel and his work, please see his personal website here: https://jimspiegel.com