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What Is a Better Argument?

This is a short document produced by The Better Arguments Project, outlining a framework for more productive arguments. While not entirely in line with the approach of People Beyond Politics™ (for example, we make clear distinctions between debate, discussion, and dialogue—each requiring different skills and producing different outcomes—whereas this group does not), the document nevertheless highlights some useful concepts and thought-provoking ideas. (Thanks for forwarding this, Kevin!)

“The project stems from the foundational premise that America doesn’t just contain arguments, America is an argument—between Federalist and anti-Federalist worldviews, strong national government and local control, liberty and equality, individual rights and collective responsibility, color-blindness and color-consciousness, pluribus and unum.”

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Krista Tippett interviews Arlie Hochschild

Krista Tippett has been interviewing a wide range of interesting people for many years through her show On Being. On October 18, she interviewed Arlie Hochschild, sociologist and professor emerita at UC Berkeley, and author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

”What I came to feel and realize is that both the left and the right have different deep stories. So what is a deep story? A deep story is what you feel about a highly salient situation that's very important to you. You take facts out of the deep story. You take moral precepts out of the deep story. It's what feels true. The deep story – and again, we all have a deep story – it repels certain facts that don't fit it, and it invites other facts that do." – Arlie Hochschild

Click here for podcast and transcript

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Debate: Steve Bannon vs. David Frum on Populism

On November 2, 2018, Munk Debates hosts a debate between Steve Bannon and David Frum on The Rise of Populism. Steve Bannon is a “populist conservative” and David Frum is an “establishment conservative.” In other words, they are both conservative but they have vastly different perspectives on what that means.
 
The Munk Debates are held twice a year in Toronto. These are high-quality debates that can be watched in real time or anytime thereafter.

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The Flip Side

The Flip Side provides a summary of daily news items from sources on the left and the right. It’s not just about politics. For example, I learned something new when reading all of the perspectives on Amazon’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. The sources they choose for both the left and right columns provide thought-provoking commentary. (Thanks for forwarding, Brian!)

"The Flip Side is on a mission to help bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives. We're a one-stop shop for smart, concise summaries of political analysis from both conservative and liberal media. Our goal is to become a news source for liberals, moderates, independents, conservatives, and even the apolitical."

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A Mathematical Approach to Good Discussions

Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician and scientist, says that the missing ingredient from political discourse today is mathematical logic. It not only helps create better arguments; it also fosters common ground. Her newest book is titled: The Art of Logic in an Illogical World.

She recently gave a 20-minute interview to CBC Radio, in which she describes a process of exploring the context and building blocks of someone else's argument. While I come from an intercultural perspective and she uses mathematical logic as a framework, we arrive at a remarkably similar place. The interview is well worth listening to. (Thank you for forwarding this, Ingrid!)

Podcast and transcript of Eugenia Cheng’s interview

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The Mind is a Difference-Seeking Machine

Interview with Mahzarin Banaji

Krista Tippett of On Being interviews Mahzarin Banaji, a professor of social ethics in the psychology department at Harvard University, co-author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, and the creator of the Implicit Association Test.

“TIPPET: She’s helping us see how the mind is a “difference-seeking machine” – and in this way, it helps us order and navigate what could be the overwhelming complexity of reality. Yet this same gift creates blind spots and biases as we fill in what we don’t know with the limits of what we do know. This is science that takes our grappling with difference out of the realm of guilt and into the realm of transformative good.”

Click here for podcast and transcript

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Complicating the Narratives

What if journalists covered controversial issues differently  —  based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?

By Amanda Ripley / Solutions Journalism Network

This is an outstanding article about the importance of spending time to explore complex narratives, because doing so will give us a different understanding of any given issue and make us less prone to binary thinking. Thank you, Francesco, for forwarding it!

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The Right to Speak

Guy Raz, host of the TED Radio Hour, interviews four people who have a particular perspective on free speech. This is a very interesting exploration of what to do when we find some views offensive. You can read the transcript or listen to the podcast.

Read / listen

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George Saunders’ Convocation Speech

These are pearls of wisdom, expressed in a way that makes a lasting impression. George Saunders is a gifted writer because he writes about familiar ideas in new ways. This is George Saunders' convocation speech at Syracuse University for the Class of 2013. Watch the video of his speech or read the transcript. It is well worth the time. Thank you, Cindy, for forwarding it!

“Do all the…ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers… — as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”

Watch video

Read transcript

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What You Practice Grows Stronger

In this TEDx Talk, Shauna Shapiro, psychologist and researcher, discusses the neuroscience behind mindfulness. Extensive research on the brain now shows that “what you practice grows stronger.”

She also points out that shame never works, whether applied to others or ourselves. “Shame literally robs the brain of the energy needed to do the work of changing.”
 
Finally, she emphasizes the importance of kindness in all we do. “Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention with kindness.”

Watch TEDx Talk

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You Aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions – Your Brain Creates Them

This is a fascinating TED Talk by Lisa Feldman Barrett, neuroscentist and psychologist. It will forever change how you think about emotions.

For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research – and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.

Watch TED Talk

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Zachary Wood – Testimony Before The U.S. Senate On Free Speech

June 20, 2017

Zach Wood explains the importance of hearing and debating controversial ideas, even those we find offensive. He gives an important and eloquent 5-minute speech before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

“For me, free speech is not about grinding a partisan axe or advancing any set of enduring ideological preferences. I care deeply about my education and I value the freedom to interrogate all manner of contentious ideas and beliefs in hope of gaining a deeper understanding of the world and using that knowledge to one day make a positive difference in the lives of others. Free speech and intellectual freedom matter to me because they are among the founding principles that animate the vibrancy and ensure the sustenance of our democracy.”

Read transcript

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Do Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground?

Debate hosted and sponsored by Intelligence Squared. Debaters for the motion: Howard Dean and Melissa Harris-Perry. Debaters against the motion: David Brooks and Robert George.

[The two debaters against the motion are well known for their lucid, eloquent, and cogent arguments.]

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What Moderates Believe

David Brooks writes that moderates “… believe creativity happens when you merge galaxies of belief that seem at first blush incompatible. They might combine left-wing ideas about labor unions with right-wing ideas about local community to come up with a new conception of labor law. Because they are syncretistic, they are careful to spend time in opposing camps, always opening lines of communication. The wise moderate can hold two or more opposing ideas together in her mind at the same time.”

[No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this short article is well worth reading. Very thought-provoking.]

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The Psychology of Self-Righteousness

Krista Tippett (host of On Being) interviews Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “The surprising psychology behind morality is at the heart of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research. He explains “liberal” and “conservative” not narrowly or necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types — ways of moving through the world.”

[Among his many important contributions, Haidt highlights the extent to which emotions drive our rational thought.]

Listen to podcast and read transcript

Democracy at the Crossroads

Read these international perspectives from The Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland, a European graduate school and think-tank. “…democracy continues to be acclaimed everywhere, but indicators of political and civic freedom show it to be in deep trouble. This paradox of democratic success but liberal decline calls for a more fine-grained analysis…”

[Always refreshing to step out of a U.S.-centric perspective on global affairs and see issues through a different lens.]

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Viewpoint Diversity on Campus

A panel discussion among four professors from four different American universities, hosted at New York University and sponsored by Heterodox Academy, FIRE, and So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. “What can we do to break this cycle, to reduce the fear, and to help American universities return to their historic missions of education and research?”

[Interesting discussion about tensions on American campuses and how to shift the dynamics.]

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Listen to Podcast

America’s Changing Role in the World

Washington University in St. Louis hosted the first in a series of debates on America’s changing role in the world, convened by the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and the Charles Koch Institute. “The goal of these debates, to be held in cities around the United States, is to foster a vigorous, civil, and constructive national discussion on the future of American foreign policy.”

[The debate includes both an American and European perspective.]

Visit website to view list of speakers, moderator, and a video of the live-streamed event.