mini-conference on Facts, Values, and Strategies

We are about to begin discussions of the papers listed below, in draft form. They are destined for The Good Society journal. The conversations are at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts

For me, the underlying rationale goes like this. A good person is always asking “What should I do?” That question must become plural–“What should we do?”–for two reasons: we cannot accomplish enough alone, and we must reason together to improve our opinions. Both questions integrate facts and values. Something that works but isn’t good is not what we should do. Likewise, we want to avoid something that is good but doesn’t fit the circumstances of the time and place.

The structure of intellectual life in modernity frustrates asking these questions, for several reasons. One major reason is that matters of value are assigned to certain disciplines in the humanities, while matters of fact go to disciplines that widely imitate science and present themselves as value-free.

It’s easy to call for a reintegration of facts and values (and strategy), but very hard to pull that off. Fortunately, we have traditions of thought–always contributed by many thinkers and practitioners rather than a single luminary–that do reintegrate facts, values, and strategies. Names that stand for these traditions include Gandhi, Pope Francis, Hannah Arendt, William James, Amartya Sen, Elinor Ostrom, and Jurgen Habermas. These names recur in interesting combinations in the following papers. So do certain themes: the limitations of human cognitive abilities and the positive potential of certain kinds of affect; the value of institutions for structuring deliberation; the link between work and reflection; and the value of deep, responsive uncertainty–wonder.

“Public Entrepreneurship, Civic Competence, and Voluntary Association: Self-Governance Through the Ostroms’ Political Economy Lenses” — Paul Dragos Aligica, George Mason University

“Giving Birth in the Public Square: Dialogue as a Maieutic Practice” — Lauren Swayne Barthold, Endicott College and Essential Partners

“William James’s Psychology of Philosophizing: Selective Attention, Intellectual Diversity, and the Sentiments in Our Rationalities” — Paul Croce, Stetson University

“Democracy as Group Discussion and Collective Action:Facts, Values, and Strategies in Rural Landscapes” — Timothy J. Shaffer, Kansas State University

“Social Media, Dismantling Racism and Mystical Knowing: What White Catholics are Learning from #BlackLivesMatter” — Mary E. Hess, University of Toronto

“Institutions, Capabilities, Citizens” — James Johnson, University of Rochester, and Susan Orr, SUNY College at Brockport

“Forgiveness After Charleston: The Ethics of an Unlikely Act” — Larry M. Jorgensen, Skidmore College

“Facts, Values, and Democracy Worth Wanting: Public Deliberation in the Era of Trump” — David Eric Meens, University of Colorado Boulder

“The Praxis of Amartya Sen and the Promotion of Democratic Capability” — Anthony DeCesare, St. Louis University

“A Civic Account of Justice” — Karol Edward Soltan, University of Maryland

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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