Topic: The Humanities and Democracy

Cognitive biases, fallacious reasoning, and other truth-distorting, rhetoric-fueled tendencies threaten democracies throughout the West in numerous ways, including but not limited to their manifestation as climate change denial, anti-vaccination movements, and the support of authoritarian populist leaders.

How can the humanities address these threats?

A primary example of scholarship that does so is Plato’s dialogues. Plato portrays the critical questioning of manipulative rhetoric in numerous works. In so doing, he initiated the now 2400-year-old formal practice of unmasking falsity disguised as truth. Plato shows us how political philosophy, epistemology, and aesthetics can come to the aid of those on the front lines against the battle against sophistry. Though he does not seem to have been a fan of democracy, Plato’s work is a key example of the way in which the humanities can combat rhetoric that undermines the health of modern democracies. 

Emmanuel Levinas’s “Reflections on the Philosophy of Hitlerism” critically examines the roots of an ideology that threatened democracies around the world in the twentieth century, and Levinas’s ethics proposes a new way of thinking about the Other. In these ways, his work is an excellent example of the way in which the humanities can gird modern democracies against the threats of ideologically-driven hate.  

A distrust of formal education, motivated by its portrayal as a tool for indoctrination by liberal elites, undercuts the efforts of educators who might address the aforementioned threats. In addition to this obstacle faced by education in general, humanities fields that are highly equipped to combat such threats have been relegated to an inferior status at many colleges and universities, largely due to the popular obsession with higher education as merely a tool for landing a high-paying job or advancing one’s career.

How can the humanities be advanced, or at least allowed to exist, in democracies that now perpetuate intellectually hostile environments that may one day result in the disappearance of humanities studies? What arguments are available to those who wish to persuade politicians, administrators, and educators of the value of the humanities to modern democracies?

Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit. Why Democracy Needs the Humanities is a prominent example of scholarship that offers possible answers to these questions.



This issue seeks to publish papers that address the above, and/or that respond to one or more of the following questions:

  • How are modern democracies endangered (by rhetoric, post-truth, hatred, etc.) and how can humanities scholarship offer protection against this?
  • How can education in the humanities, at all levels of study—both formal and informal—safeguard democracy from the hatred and post-truth that threatens to undermine it?
  • What methods, or best-practices, are there for educators attempting the above?   
  • In what ways are specific humanities fields well equipped to combat threats to the flourishing of modern democracies?
  • What differences are there between the humanities and the liberal arts with regard to the formation of global citizens and the flourishing of modern democratic political communities?
  • How does the study of the humanities benefit individuals in ways that contribute to the overall health of democracy?
  • What does it mean to be a good citizen, or a good “global citizen,” and how can humanities scholarship, education, and/or political advancement foster such examples of civic virtue?
  • How can the advancement of the humanities safeguard human rights throughout the world?
  • What can political leaders do to advance the humanities, and is this in their best interest?
  • What role can the humanities play in forming political leaders who are well suited to successfully govern in modern democracies?
  • In what ways can the reputation of humanities fields be restored in the people and institutions of democratic nations that now see those fields as inferior?
  • How can modern democracies create and/or foster conditions conducive to the study of the humanities by all citizens? 
  • What is the relationship between leisure, humanities studies, and political flourishing?


Besides Plato, Levinas, and Nussbaum mentioned above, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey, Rabindranath Tagore, Noam Chomsky, and K. Anthony Appiah are a few other examples of thinkers who have produced scholarly work that offers significant contributions on this particular topic. As such, papers about such scholarship are particularly welcome.


Deadline: November 1st, 2021.



All papers must be formatted according to the guidelines.


All proposed papers must be submitted in electronic form (PDF format) to the Editor of this CFP. For further information as well as the submission of the paper, please contact:

Scientific Editor

Joseph M. Forte: