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Coming Up on Interchange – Do You Bite Your Thumb At Us, Sir?


Next time on Interchange: “Do you bite your thumb at us, Sir?”
What is Civil Discourse and why do politicians and pundits seem to resort to admonishment when discourse gets messy and less than civil. Also, what is civility in the first place and who gets to define it? I’ll talk with author Teresa Bejan about her book Mere Civility, who’s hero espouses radical Tolerance. But doesn’t tolerance imply a kind of superiority and condescension for the tolerated? As Thomas Watson, an English, Nonconformist, Puritan, in the mid-1600s said, Civility is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse.”Civility is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse.”

Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Oriel College. Her new book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, sheds light on our predicament and the impasse between “civilitarians” and their opponents by examining early modern debates about religious toleration. As concerns about uncivil disagreement achieved new prominence after the Reformation, seventeenth-century figures as different as Roger Williams, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke could agree that some restraint on the war of words would be necessary. But they recognized that the prosecution of incivility was often difficult to distinguish from persecution.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

“Do you bite your thumb at us, Sir?” next time on Interchange, Tuesdays at 5:30 on WFHB.

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