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Confident Pluralism: Living in a Deeply Diverse Society


In our country’s history and in our best
moments, we have protected the ability of different groups to pursue different ways
of life. We would not have had suffrage, we would not
have had abolition, we would not have had civil rights without the groups that preceded
those efforts, the groups of people who met in private spaces and sometimes for purely
social means to craft agendas, to form friendships, and to pursue solidarity. Confident pluralism is a response to the recognition
that we live in a deeply divisive and diverse society where our differences are not going
to be overcome. So, it’s a challenge and a question of how
we can live together peaceably despite those differences. The confidence part of confident pluralism
allows us to enter into different and sometimes even hostile spaces confident in the beliefs
that we do have. And so, we can go into spaces and groups and
people who don’t always agree with us. We can be challenged about our own ideas and
our own premises with the assumption that either our arguments will become stronger
or we’ll find other ways to realize the confidence of our beliefs or perhaps those
beliefs will change, but we go into discussions with the confidence that we are pursuing the
right paths of our beliefs. We can and must live in society despite deep
differences between us and we can do so in two important ways. The first is with the law, to protect the
spaces to disagree and the private groups that we form and join, and it also needs to
protect the spaces for us to come together and hash out our differences. And the second way is through civic practices,
by taking seriously how we speak to one another, how we treat one another, and especially how
we treat those with whom we don’t agree. If more people engage with confidence, more
people will learn the limits of their own arguments and the limits of other people’s
arguments, and sometimes we realize that public opinions change as a result of those differences. We’ll find that when we push and pull against
our own normative priors, we actually come to better solutions and better reasoning. The difficulty with the alternative of retreating
to our own echo chambers and hearing the arguments we already agree with is that we don’t become
innovative and we become subject to our own blind spots and we don’t push hard to find
real solutions to real problems.

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