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The Virtues of Dissent

February 1, 2013

As my life has progressed I have benefited *immensely* from listening—and I mean listening patiently and intensely—to well-thought-out dissent. I do not mean, of course, mere reaction or emotional kinds of disagreement. I refer rather to a kind of structured, deep-rooted dissent that you can *inhabit*, making sense of what you can and struggling with what does not resonate. Call it what you will (e.g. empathizing, contextualizing, sympathizing, or just putting yourself in the shoes of another), this is a virtue worth developing.

I confess that I did not even begin to develop this sensibility until the final few years of my undergraduate days, in my early twenties. And it derived from extracurricular reading rather than my official program of studies at the University of Missouri. Studying, researching, and writing history have helped foster the desire to swim in the waters of the other. Despite being “discovered” rather than taught, I am happy to have acquired, however imperfectly, this habit of mind.

With the virtues of reflective dissent in mind, I offer this opportunity. – TL

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