Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
Congrats are due to Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE and Program friend, who was recently appointed as the Lincoln-Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Service and as a research professor in the School of Arts & Sciences philosophy department at Tufts University. If that’s not enough, Peter also has a forthcoming book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America (Oxford University Press, September 2013). In the book, he explains how—and why—we should work together to renew civil society:
“Civil society functions best when many kinds of people bring their experiences into a common conversation, and then take what they’ve learned back to their work, in an iterative cycle,” he said. “If individuals constantly rely on the same small number of foundational beliefs, it quickly becomes impossible for them to converse or engage. It’s easier to talk to someone with many interests, commitments, and ideas, because each of those is a point of contact, like an organic molecule with lots of surfaces where other molecules can bond.”
…“A strong network does not rest on a single node,” he said. “Its many pathways allow many routes from one node to the next. Yet, in real functioning networks, all the nodes do not bear equal importance: the most vital 20% carry 80% of the traffic. That’s true for the Internet, the brain, and, I think, civil society. A moral mind works like a robust network.”
Levine thinks that this network model of the moral mind captures both how deeply interconnected we are, and how social our processes of reasoning are.
“Each person’s network is at least slightly different from everyone else’s,” he said, “but any two networks share at least some of the same nodes. So we can think of the whole community as one elaborate interpersonal moral network, full of tension as well as consensus. Civic engagement is a process of enriching and enhancing that shared network.”