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Philosophical InterventionsReviews 1986-2011$
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Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199777853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199777853.001.0001

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American Civil War

American Civil War

STEFAN COLLINI (2010), That’s Offensive! Criticism, Identity, Respect

(p.405) Chapter Thirty-Five American Civil War
Philosophical Interventions

Martha C. Nussbaum

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews the book That's offensive! Criticism, Identity, Respect (2010), by Stefan Collini. It comments on Collini's defense of rigorous criticism and his failure to appreciate the virtue of civility as well as the special demands it makes when a majority is discussing traditionally stigmatized groups. Collini values the no-holds-barred give-and-take of argument and believes that open debate of this sort is a valuable ingredient in political life. According to Collini, we have entered an era in which people shrink from challenge and want to be surrounded only by the like-minded; or those who will not subject the cherished beliefs others hold to searching criticism. Particularly when beliefs are bound up with a religious, ethnic, or other group identity, people expect to be able to shield them from criticism, and would-be critics have learned to silence themselves. Collini maintains that we are all the worse for this self-censorship. He also argues that the threat of violence should never be used as a device to stifle debate: a climate in which people fear violence if they give offense is incompatible with an open political culture in which all receive equal respect.

Keywords:   debate, That's offensive, Stefan Collini, criticism, civility, argument, political life, identity, self-censorship, violence

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