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May 23, 2022

Scholar Clearly Defines Popular Phrase

There’s been a lot of talk about civil discourse lately—and how we’ve forgotten how to do it. In a recent conversation with Public Discourse, author Teresa Bejan notes that there is a lot of confusion about the meaning of civil discourse. Bejan is a Professor of Political Theory and a Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford.


1 A civil discourseShutterstock photoIn the Public Discourse article, Bejan unpacks the phrase by defining it clearly, along with the other virtues it is often confused with: politeness, decorum, and respect. Civility is marked by three things. It pertains particularly to disagreement and the idea that our words and disagreements should be constrained in order to keep us from physical fighting (the opposite of civility being martial or military action). Civility also is marked by a minimalist attitude; it is the lowest possible expression of character that one must express. Finally, civility is implied for people who live within a civitas together. Civility should be expected and sought after among people who live together in a local society.

After establishing this basic definition of civility, Bejan explores how our culture has seemingly walked away from this baseline of social interaction. Civility, in particular, is a virtue we need in the midst of disagreement, but in an age of social media and arguments that are happening virtually and across local communities, civility is disappearing. 

Christian Union places an emphasis on cultural and intellectual engagement with university students so that they might be trained in the ways of Christ while also gaining skills to engage their peers and culture with thoughtful discourse. 

Read the full article here.