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Democracy, Diversity, and Disagreement: Stanley Fish v. Daniel Markovits

September 14 (Wednesday)

Democracy, Diversity, and Disagreement
Stanley Fish v. Daniel Markovits


The liberal democratic state contains and confronts diversity in many forms, both liberal and non-liberal. Accommodating religious norms and practices, even those with which the liberal state disagrees, has conventionally been considered a necessary part of religious tolerance. In the face of increasing diversification of society and fear of creeping fragmentation of a common social foundation, the nature and scope of ‘tolerance’ as a political value has become an important point of debate. For many liberals, tolerating – even respecting – difference is a foundational and paradigmatic liberal value. Others claim, however, that tolerating certain non-liberal ways of life undermines the values the liberal state is obliged to protect and promote.

This raises questions about the nature and scope of the liberal state, and its values. Is the liberal state directed narrowly at preventing conflict or more substantively towards fostering a common vision of the good life? Is tolerance merely a rhetorical device that allows the state to appear beneficent even while excluding many non-liberal ways of life from public recognition? Where does the line between acceptable private behavior and intolerable public action lie?

These questions and more concern the age-old question that all political orders have had to face: in the face of diversity and disagreement, how then shall we live together?


Professor Stanley Fish

Visiting Professor of Law and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Senior Fellow at Yale Law School. Professor Fish is one of the country's leading public intellectuals, as well as the author of more than 200 scholarly publications and 13 books. He also writes a widely read weekly column in The New York Times.

Professor Daniel Markovits

Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He works in the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioral economics. He has written articles on contract, legal ethics, distributive justice, and democratic theory, and is currently writing a book on toleration in politics.

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