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Educating for Democracy (Boston College, 2017)


Educating for Democracy:

Philosophy and Society at the Crossroads

Boston College, November 7-10, 2017

The nature and structure of the democratic form of government has come under increased scrutiny and pressure in recent times. There are number of reasons for this, both theoretical and practical. These include the phenomenon of pluralism, particularly in modern Western societies, which has made it increasingly difficult to reach consensus on defining questions of morality, law, politics and society. There is also the difficulty, after Rawls, of providing an objective, non-partisan philosophical defense of the democratic system. The place and role of religion in the public square has also become contentious, especially with the recent emergence of secularism as a major cultural player in democratic societies, a philosophy of life that is mostly defined in opposition to religion and that is overtly seeking more political influence in the shaping of culture and society. Another contributory factor to the scrutiny of the democratic form of government is the controversial role courts and the legal process play in deciding defining issues that reasonable people disagree on, especially in the U.S. context.

There are also important practical factors that raise serious questions about the nature and direction of democratic society. These include the marginalization of many people from the democratic process, a growing gap between rich and poor, government partisanship and corruption, at both local and national level, an intolerable level of dysfunctional behavior in what are the most economically privileged societies in human history, issues arising from racial disparities and multicultural diversity, and a failure of educational programs to speak to the needs of modern citizens. There is also the phenomenon of the increasing gap between the establishment classes and the working classes, as reflected in recent elections in a number of countries.

This conference – an initiative of both Boston College and the «Conférence Mondiale des Institutions Universitaires Catholiques de Philosophie» – is motivated by the belief that we need to think carefully about these and many related themes in an attempt to understand better where we are, where we have come from, and what way we might think best about the future with regard to these themes, with a goal of producing more reflective, informed citizens for the modern world. The conference is also inspired by the conviction that philosophy can play an important role in thinking through these challenging topics, and indeed is uniquely placed at Christian, and more specifically, Catholic institutions to engage what many would regard as some of the defining issues of our time. In particular, the resources of the Catholic intellectual tradition – which include the complementary relationships between faith and reason, and between faith and science, the social teachings of the Church, an emphasis on reason in the discussion of religion, and in the debate between worldviews, the belief that religious views of reality have a legitimate and important role to play in pluralist societies – all offer rich avenues to help us work through the challenges facing, as well as to realize more effectively the potential of, modern democratic societies.

The Conference is being prepared under the assumption that nature and process of the democratic form of government has come under increased pressure in recent times around the world. The many causes include features or implications of pluralism, secularism, competing claims among religions, economic inequality, racial and gender disparities, and partisanship. The Conference will coincide with the Regional Meeting of COMIUCAP for North America and papers are invited on any topic connected to the current crises facing democracy, with particular interest in work that explicitly brings the questions of religion, race or gender, and social justice generally, into contact with the intellectual resources in the philosophical and Catholic traditions both to understand the contemporary situation and to educate students and the public at large in ways that strengthen civic engagement and democratic institutions. As the Program will include multiple sessions comprised of shorter papers, we invite contributions of 20-25 minutes in length related to the main topic of the Conference. Interested scholars are kindly invited to send Abstracts of 300-500 words to the following email address by September 15, 2017: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Keynote Speakers at the conference will be the following Professors: David Campbell (University of Notre Dame); José Casanova (Georgetown University), Charles Mathewes (University of Virginia), Eduardo Mendieta (Pennsylvania State University), Charles Taylor (em. McGill University), Candace Vogler (University of Chicago), George Yancy (Emory University), Judith Green (Fordham University). – Among the topics to be considered for paper presentations are the following: The Role of Education in Democracy; The Vision of A. de Tocqueville and Other Thinkers; Jacques Maritain and Other Catholic Proponents of Democracy; Church and Democracy vs. Democracy in the Church; Populism and Other Dangers for Democracy; Democracy and the Information Society, etc.

We expect to see in Boston delegates from many Catholic Universities from across North America with Programs in Philosophy; scholars from around the world may wish to join as well. For further information, please, contact us.