Danielle Allen’s speech norms

It is common–and a good idea–to develop norms for speech within a group, such as a classroom or a community association.

In Talking to Strangers (2004), political philosopher Danielle Allen develops a theory of speech that is helpful in a democracy, such as the United States. On pp. 157-8, she offers a list of principles for speakers and for listeners, based on this theory. These are principles for how people ought to talk in public, not specific norms that should apply in a class or an organization. However, you can review her list of general principles (see below) and ask whether and how you would make them into norms or rules for your actual group.

Related theory

  • Deliberative democracy
    A deliberative democracy is a system in which people discuss before they make decisions. In order for the system to be democratic, people must have reasonably equal power over decisions, which usually means that they each have one vote (although small groups may not using voting). In order for their discussions to qualify as deliberative, … Continue reading
  • Ideology
    The “word” ideology is used at least three different ways in different intellectual communities or traditions: It can mean the politically relevant opinions that any person holds. In that sense, we all have ideologies, even if we happen to hold few political opinions. It can mean relatively organized, coherent, and recognizable systems of political belief, … Continue reading
  • Jürgen Habermas
    Jürgen Habermas (1929-) is a German philosopher and sociologist, often seen as the leader of the intellectual movement called the “Frankfurt School” in its second generation, when he helped to shift it away from Marxism. He is often presented as a proponent and theorist of deliberative democracy, although he does not endorse all of the … Continue reading
  • Motivated reasoning
    People tend to prefer, recall, and emphasize facts that support ideas they already hold, and they doubt or marginalize facts that complicate or challenge those ideas. For example, as people obtain more education, their opinions of climate change correlate more with their political ideology. Conservatives become less likely to believe in climate change, and liberals … Continue reading
  • Propaganda
    It is possible to deploy money, talent, expertise, fame, and/or ownership of communications media (such as a television network) to influence public opinion. All such examples of well-resourced persuasive communication could be defined as propaganda, regardless of quality or purpose. Some definitions of the word build in negative connotations, so that a helpful mass message … Continue reading
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