Incivility in our public discourse is limiting our ability to get things done as a nation and preventing us from expressing ourselves in workplaces and classrooms for fear of offending those with real or imagined historical grievances or even merely strongly held views. If you agree with that, then Adam J. MacLeod
’s book The Age of Selfies: Reasoning About Rights When the Stakes Are Personal
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) is the book for you. Alternatively, if you think such fears are overblown and just a nefarious argument advanced by a self-serving elite to justify a return to establishment rule this is likewise the book for you. Why both audiences? Because this important volume is all about how to go about thinking and reasoning and the role morality plays in those processes.
In his book, MacLeod argues that due to the decline in moral education young people he dubs “selfies” have entered academia and the workplace without moral cores and are so riven with narcissism and a sense of entitlement that they are unable to think of the common good and are quick to take umbrage at any sort of questioning of their own personal preferences.
According to MacLeod, a return to a larger place for openly moral arguments will enrich American life and enhance governance. To MacLeod, the misguided view of past decades that morality should play no part in policy making and that strict neutrality should be observed in the public square has only resulted in an acrimony-generating impoverishment of ideas and options. He suggests that the legal and philosophical concept of natural law can heal the ailing body politic and help soften divisions--or at least clarify, in a civilized way, what is at stake.
In short, he wants us to learn how to “disagree well.” Give a listen.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.