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 question 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 do begin to do so, the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland is organising a 1-day event with politicians, media personalities, campaigners, activists and academics to share experience and propose possible principles for a draft Responsible Public Debate Charter for Scotland. The event will be hosted by Matthew Chrisman, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, with the help of fellow YAS members Alice Konig, Peter McColl, and John O’Connor. Invited speakers include

Harriet HarrisUniversity Chaplain and Head of the Chaplaincy Service University of Edinburgh
Ken MacintoshPresiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and an MSP for the West Scotland Region
Stephen ReicherProfessor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews
Kathleeen Stock - Feminist Campaigner and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex
Kal Turnbull - Founder of the ChangeMyView subreddit and co-founder of ChangeAView.com
Jim Wallace - Former MP, MSP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
Kirsty Wark - BBC Journalist and Newsnight host

These speakers will discuss their individual experience(s) in discussing opinions in different fora about topics of public debate or disagreement and conclude with a proposed (even if provisional) principle for responsible public debate. General Q&A and a roundtable discussion will be used to collect feedback on the proposed principles and what following them might do for promoting collaborative discussion of contentious issues.

The workshop is stage one of the project, with further stages including a website, public events, schools outreach, and eventual publication of the charter. For more information, please contact Matthew Chrisman [matthew.chrisman@ed.ac.uk]

Our Members

Dr. Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra is a Chancellor’s Fellow at Edinburgh University School of Law and Director of the JK Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law.

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