In current culture, people usually discuss controversial moral and political issues only among like-minded people who do not press challenging questions. In fact, calling on people to justify their moral, political and religious views, especially in contexts where others might disagree, is widely regarded as impolite, even insulting. Moreover, asking people about their views can spur rationalizations and polarization that cause disagreements to become even more entrenched.

However, some evidence suggests that people who are regularly called upon to answer the right kinds of questions will exhibit greater intellectual humility and will be more likely to participate constructively in public discussions.

The crucial question, then, asks which questions are the right questions for encouraging humility and cooperation. This year, our Bass Connection project, How to Ask a Question, is attempting to seek answers to this question and make our findings accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Course of Action

In the course of this year-long process, our team will pursue several sub-projects described elsewhere on this site.  Also, our team will visit the Right Questions Institute and will consult with the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind as well as other scholars interested in the origins, effects, and treatment of polarization.

This project is associated with the Moral Attitudes and Decisions lab in the Kenan Institute for Ethics.