Sharon R. Krause


On her book Civil Passions: Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation

Cover Interview of June 18, 2009

In a nutshell

Civil Passions is about how we deliberate about justice, and specifically about the role the passions play in this process.  The dominant views of deliberation rightly emphasize the importance of impartiality as a cornerstone of fair decision-making.  But they wrongly assume that impartiality means being disengaged and passionless.  This is the central puzzle of the book: How can we be passionate and impartial at the same time?

Drawing on resources ranging from 18-century theories of moral sentiment to recent findings in neuroscience, Civil Passions shows how passions, emotions, and desires can generate an impartial standpoint on questions of justice and other important political issues.

This new account of affective but impartial judgment calls for a politics of liberal rights and democratic contestation.  It requires us to reconceive the meaning of public reason, the nature of sound deliberation, and the authority of law.  It also demands a fundamental rethinking of who we are, both as citizens and as human beings.