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Intellectual Humility and Recognition of the Other: Evangelical Public Discourse with Muslims

Religion, Humility, and Democracy in a Divided America

ISBN: 978-1-78973-950-3, eISBN: 978-1-78973-949-7

Publication date: 5 August 2019


Philosophers and political theorists have long warned of the “perils of dogmatism” for public discourse and identified intellectual humility as a necessary corrective. Sufficient intellectual humility encompasses at least four elements: openness to error, recognition of bias, recognition of intellectual parity in interlocutors, and avoidance of recourse to authority. Religions seem to present obstacles on all four fronts, particularly when actors embody more conservative renderings of a given religion’s repertoire. As such, a case involving different groups of religious exclusivists engaging one another on topics that directly interact their deepest faith commitments and political visions presents a useful test case for our theories of intellectual humility. This chapter considers conservative protestants engaging in public discourse with Muslims about whether or not Muslim and Christian understandings of “loving God” and “loving neighbor” have sufficient overlap to support political cooperation. The results of the dialogue effort were a mixture of controversy and cooperation. For evangelicals, the engagement produced sharp conflict and yet helped to shift the community’s plausibility structures, opening further the possibility of fruitful public discourse and strategic action in cooperation with Muslims. The analysis suggests a conceptualization of practical intellectual humility that emphasizes recognition of the other.




I am grateful to the other participants in the consultation on Religious Conviction & Intellectual Humility in Public Life at the University of Connecticut for their productive critique of this chapter in its earliest stages. Special thanks to Ruth Braunstein, University of Connecticut, Jonathan Wyrtzen, Yale University, William McMillan, University of Connecticut, and the blind reviewers for their critical engagement and helpful comments.


Hartley, J. (2019), "Intellectual Humility and Recognition of the Other: Evangelical Public Discourse with Muslims", Religion, Humility, and Democracy in a Divided America (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 75-99.



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