Difficult Discourse: Searching for a Critical Generosity

Berkeley Institute Graduate Conference

February 26th and 27th, 2016

315 and 330 Wheeler Hall
UC Berkeley

The question of this year’s conference touches the heart of our intellectual work and our personal integrity, and points to practical challenges we encounter as academic professionals, as intellectuals and researchers. Among the ideas and arguments that we meet in the course of our work, some will strike us as unproductive, false, willfully mistaken, even offensive; influential currents of thought may seem (and sometimes really are) actively hostile toward our understanding of our field or of responsible argument, or toward other beliefs and values to which we are committed. How can we form the habit of interpreting what we dislike justly and generously? How can we seek out and learn from what is best in the ideas we most thoroughly reject? How do we cultivate this attitude of openness and justice while also being clear and rational about what is in fact wrong about them? More complexly still, how, practically and concretely, do we engage those ideas openly and nobly in the formal and informal exchanges of our professional lives? And how do we engage the colleagues who advance those ideas–engage them as colleagues, as fellow searchers for the true and the good, from whom we are willing to learn and with whom we are eager to cooperate? How do we learn to state our own positions and offer our critiques with confidence and grace? The conference will explore the intellectual questions raised by influential academic ideas we might find troubling; it will also explore the attitudes and practices that can help us be attentive and generous while also being principled and rigorous.

More info here.