Social Philosophy Today 29:61-74 (2013)
Democratic civility is a core civic virtue of persons engaged in democratic deliberation. It is a complex trait that includes tolerance of diverse political views, openness regarding civic matters to reasons offered by others, willingness to seek compromise in an effort to find workable political solutions, and willingness to limit one’s individual interests for the public good when there are adequate reasons for doing so. Various writers have noted a tension between rights and civility. Insofar as rights trump general considerations of community welfare and entail claims that can be demanded, an emphasis on individual rights and standing on one’s rights can undermine the sort of civility required for political compromise. Similarly an emphasis on civility might require not standing on rights when doing so is at the expense of the welfare of the community. Notwithstanding this tension, I argue that human rights and democratic civility have a symbiotic relationship. In particular, I argue that democratic civility is important for determining the scope of human rights as they are implemented in institutional structures, and that human rights have an important role to play in shaping the virtue of democratic civility.
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