Saturday, May 19, 2012

Defining uncivil political behavior

From:  What Does it Mean to be Civil? by Hal Movius  |  Civil

  • People on the Left and Right weigh different moral principles as a basis for deciding what is moral and just, and what isn’t.   If we accept that differing moral instincts can guide political behavior and reasoning, and confront the reality of a splintered media landscape, it seems to me that we need a more nuanced definition of “civility”.

  • We need one that expands on the narrow notion of remaining interpersonally calm and cordial and using careful, inoffensive language.

  • An expanded view of what it means to be “civil” might require three related forms of analysis:

  • A rhetorical analysis of the politeness of the tone and language used in communications between those parties.  This is currently the most common and narrowest form of analysis.

  • A consequentialist analysis of the estimated consequences of policies themselves from different points of view (e.g. through a lens of moral principles).  This analysis would almost always require clarification of the assumptions made by parties in forecasting the effects of policies. For example, Democrats and Republicans strongly disagree on the likely effects of tax rate reductions.

  • An instrumental analysis of the good faith of disagreeing parties to negotiate with a goal of meeting one another’s most important interests (i.e., underlying goals and concerns).   If one proceeds with a multifaceted view of what it means to be “civil” then it becomes more possible to see how parties who strongly disagree might reasonably see themselves as being “civil” and see the other side quite differently.

Please read the rest of the article for details.