That’s Offensive!

CRITICISM, IDENTITY, RESPECT

That’s Offensive! examines the common assertion that to criticize someone else’s deeply held ideas or beliefs is inherently offensive. This idea, Stefan Collini argues, is unfortunately reinforced by two of the central requirements of an enlightened global politics: treating all people with equal respect and trying to avoid words or deeds that compound existing social disadvantages. In this powerfully argued book, Collini identifies a confused form of relativism and a well-meaning condescension at the heart of such attitudes. Instead, Collini suggests that one of the most profound ways to show our respect for other people is by treating them as capable of engaging in reasoned argument and thus as equals in intellect and humanity.

Collini’s ideas address deep issues about identity and human agency. His maxims — do not be so afraid of giving offense that you allow bad arguments to pass as though they were good ones; and do not allow your concern for the disadvantaged to exempt their beliefs from the kind of rational scrutiny to which your own must also be subjected — offer guiding principles for dialogue in our world today.

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