Moderation: A Difficult and Forgotten Virtue
The event will take place at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work (Schitu Măgureanu, no.9), Council Room, starting at 3.00 PM.
Moderation is the touchstone of many contemporary democratic political regimes, since no regime can properly function without compromise, bargaining, and moderation, and the proper functioning of our representative system and institutions depends to a great extent on political moderation. And yet, among major concepts in political theory and history (justice, liberty, equality, natural right, or will), moderation is unique in being understudied and underappreciated. The conventional image of moderation is that of an ambiguous principle, whose genealogy and history are too vague to be properly defined or analyzed. As such, moderation challenges our imagination and appears as a fuzzy concept which defies universal claims and moral absolutes and which is very difficult to theorize in the abstract (unlike, for example, justice or liberty). Not surprisingly, we tend to misrepresent or distort the true meaning(s) of moderation, often regarded as the virtue of tepid, middling, shy, timorous, indecisive, and lukewarm individuals, incapable of generating heroic acts or great stories.
In my own work, and especially in A Virtue for Courageous Minds (Princeton, 2012) and Faces of Moderation (Penn, 2017), I have trid to offer a novel way of examining this complex concept. The questions that I propose for our roundtable discussion are: What does it mean to be a moderate voice in political and public life? What are the virtues and limitations of moderation? What are the characteristics of the moderate mind? How do moderate minds operate compared to more radical spirits? What are they seeking in politics and how do they view political life? To what extent is moderation contingent upon the existence and flourishing of (various forms of) political radicalism? What do the moderates have that others lack? Is moderation primarily a style of argument that varies according to circumstances? Or does it imply a strong ethical-normative component? If so, what distinguishes it from other forms of argument? Are there any common elements of the “moderate” style? Or, as its critics have often maintained, is moderation merely a matter of background and personal temperament?
Aurelian Craiutu is Professor of Political Science (Theory) at Indiana University, Bloomington where he also directs the Tocqueville Program. A native of Romania, he studied in France at the University of Rennes I (1990-91) and earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1999. He has published extensively in the field of modern French political thought from Montesquieu to Raymond Aron. Professor Craiutu’s publications include Liberalism under Siege: The Political Thought of the French Doctrinaires (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), Tocqueville on America after 1840 (2009; with Jeremy Jennings),America through European Eyes (Cambridge, 2009, with Jeffrey C. Isaac), A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830 (Princeton, 2012), and Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes (Penn Press, 2017) as well a newly revised English edition of Madame de Staël’s Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (Liberty Fund, 2008). He has received awards and grants from several institutions including the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Ioan Stanomir is Professor of political science at the Bucharest University. Interested in the history of ideas, comparative constitutionalism and the study of communism. Former Executive president of the Romanian Institute for the investigation of communist crimes and the memory of the Romanian exile ( ICCMER), 2010/ 2012. His latest book is a volume co-authored alongside Angelo Mitchievici, “ Comunism inc. Istorii despre o lume care a fost”, ( Humanitas, 2016).