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Creating a Charter for Responsible Public Debate

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Democracies pride themselves in allowing space for free political discussion as a way of peacefully working out compromises for how to live together in the context of opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and competition over scarce resources. Because of this, we need ways of disagreeing with each other and yet achieving common ground. Politics has always been a place of disagreement and debate, but recent politics – especially in the age of social media – seems to be increasingly polarised. So the questions we want to address is whether there are there better and worse ways to disagree with one another? Can responsible public debate renew democracy?

To begin to do so, the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) is today holding a workshop with politicians, media personalities, campaigners, activists and academics to share experience and propose possible principles for a draft Charter for Responsible Public Debate Charter. Hosted by Matthew Chrisman, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, the event will explore the many issues preventing healthy public debate in society, and ways people can be encouraged to disagree with one another more constructively.

Immediately following the event YAS will hold a public consultation online here and through several planned public events soon to be announced. Please have your say!

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Ellen Garland is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews. Her research focuses on animal culture and social learning in cetaceans, and in particular the cultural transmission, vocal learning, and function of humpback whale song.

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10 May 2019
Democracies pride themselves in allowing space for free political discussion as a way of peacefully ...