Panel discussion – How can we speak more openly with those we disagree with?

A panel of distinguished speakers engaged in a lively discussion on open-mindedness and intellectual humility.

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On Monday 15th July, ResPublica and The Oxford Character Project held a panel discussion to ask what open-mindedness is and how we can develop it. Recent research has suggested that focusing on intellectual virtues, particularly intellectual humility, might be one way of developing a more open mind.

We asked how this can be cultivated in those likely to be leaders in politics, business and civil society – whose voices will be prominent in public discourse in the future – and what role universities can play in developing this. In the context of contentious issues both at universities and in wider public discourse, often leading to acrimonious debates and concerns being raised about a decline in civility, we also asked how a focus on intellectual humility in debate and deliberation might moderate a somewhat toxic British politics.

Key talking points were:
How could embedding character formation and education in Universities lead to students approaching challenging discussions with intellectual humility and open mindedness?

Why have ‘Identity Politics’ become so polarising and difficult to discuss? How can we be open-minded as we seek to draw attention to issues of justice?

What can the media do to encourage intellectual humility in contentious debates?

How can political discussions encourage intellectual humility?

How do mainstream media and social media contribute to entrenched positions on contentious issues?

What role do politicians across the political spectrum have in leading or fostering intellectually humble public debate which might improve Britain’s political conversation?


Dr Ed Brooks, Executive Director, Oxford Character Project
Prof. Quassim Cassam, Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick
Damian Collins MP, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Dr Nadiya Figueroa, Director for Leadership and Change, Rhodes House
Pamela Dow, Chief Reform Officer, Catch 22
Baroness Prashar, CBE, Member of the House of Lords
Dr Bethan Willis, Head of Thought Leadership, Oxford Character Project