Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

 See the
Conversations with History Blog

See a webcast of this interview:

Freedom of Expression, Tolerance, and Human Rights: Conversation with T. M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity; Harvard University; February 20, 2007, by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is T.M. Scanlon, who is the Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy and Civil Polity at Harvard University. He is the 2008 Howison Lecturer at Berkeley. His publications include What We Owe to Each Other and The Difficulty of Tolerance: Essays in Political Philosophy.

  1. Background ... philosophy at the dinner table ... confronting First Amendment questions ... drawn toward abstract thinking ... logic ... choosing philosophy
  2. Being a Philosopher ... the technical side of philosophy ... analysis, patience, and tolerance for frustration ... the external nature of philosophical questions ... perennial philosophical questions ... the attraction of puzzles ... creativity
  3. Moral and Political Philosophy ... relations mediated through institutions ... reason and emotion ... the effect of changing times on philosophy ... how philosophical questions recur in different forms ... citizen autonomy and governmental power ... restricting information
  4. Free Speech, Privacy, and Intervention ... protecting opportunities for advocacy ... conspiratorial communication ... judging the legitimacy of institutions ... here and abroad ... the question of intervention
  5. Philosophy and Public Debate ... finding a wider audience ... backlash to philosophers' participation in public forums ... shift in the debate on human rights ... why tolerance is difficult ... remaining committed to tolerance ... philosophical engagement
  6. Conclusions ... studying history ... studying the problem of blame

© Copyright 2007, Regents of the University of California

Site questions: Email iis_webmgr at