• Lauren Swayne Barthold


Given the recent rise and increased intensity of political polarization in the United States, how are we to engage in public discourse? If, as political theorists have argued, the norms that once governed political discourse are no longer respected and utilized, if “facts” differ according to one’s political lens, if polarization renders agreement a seeming impossibility, is it even reasonable to expect those who differ to be able to talk with one another? This book opens with a close reading of the first scene in Plato’s Republic in order to show the efficacy of dialogue for the public square and to help set the stage for distinguishing dialogue from persuasion-oriented discourse. Dialogue’s strength lies in its ability to help connect facts to meaning—which John Dewey insisted was crucial for successful civic discourse. I then address Hannah Arendt’s emphasis on the way that Socratic dialogue affirms the finitude and plurality of human existence. I conclude by arguing that the encounter in the opening scene of the Republic teaches us that the ideal city is to be founded on neither violence nor persuasion, but rather dialogue.


Dialogue Polarization Plato Socrates Hanna Arendt John Dewey Persuasion Public square 


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Swayne Barthold
    • 1
  1. 1.Liberal ArtsEndicott CollegeBeverlyUSA

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