The Possibility of Error

May 23, 2017

A conservative professor from Princeton and a liberal professor from Harvard walked into a bar….

 

Sounds like a good setup, right?! Well this is no joke.

 

In March of this year, two professors from vastly different ideological perspectives joined forces to publish a statement on the indispensable value of civil discourse and respectful dialogue.

 

Conservative professor Robert P. George of Princeton University and Liberal professor Cornel West of Harvard University authored the statement in response to the climate of hyper-partisanship and intellectual incivility which they recognized as a significant danger on college campuses and American culture at large.

 

The statement, entitled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression,” posits that “the pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth.”

 

It extolls the value of healthy debate and decries the increasingly common tendency to stifle opinions that are not popular or conforming to one’s prior perspective.   It defends the right to peacefully protest, but suggests that engagement will lead to greater understanding.

 

Citing social and political theorist John Stuart Mill, the authors argue that “a recognition of the possibility that we may be in error is a good reason to listen to and honestly consider—and not merely to tolerate grudgingly—points of view that we do not share, and even perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous.”

 

If decorated educators from two of our finest institutions of higher learning can admit their own possibility of error, then it certainly behooves all of us to question our assumptions, to recognize our fallibility, and to give ear to those with whom we disagree.

 

Evidently, there are many who find this suggestion resonant and timely. The authors invited any and all who agree to sign as a public signatory, and to date thousands of educators, leaders, and private individuals have included their name and endorsement.

 

Click here or on the image above to read the original statement.

 

Send your name, title, and affiliation to jmadison@Princeton.edu if you would like to add yourself to the list of signatories.

 

 

 

 

 

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