The Devil’s Advocacy Initiative

The Devil’s Advocacy Initiative

The Devil’s Advocacy Initiative explores how to counter polarization by empowering Americans to critically assess our own worldviews, while still honoring our own truths and lived experiences. This initiative is collaboration between the Aspen Institute’s Program on Citizenship and American Identity, created to help promote a shared sense of national identity and civic purpose, and the Fetzer Institute, whose mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world.

Around the country, you may have noticed a great deal of work underway to get people who disagree to seek common ground. We applaud such efforts, but we also believe there is a deeper need going largely unaddressed: for each of us to push ourselves, and those with whom we do agree, to deactivate the triggers and reflexes we succumb to when encountering people of differing worldviews. These types of skills and dispositions are the necessary precursors for any lasting reckoning and reconciliation in civic life.

We believe we each have power to reduce demonization and to counter polarization by critically assessing our own worldviews. Importantly, this practice is not designed to change your mind, or to dismiss your lived experience. Rather, it provides space and structure to tend to your worldviews in a way we are typically not afforded in our everyday lives. 

Our Approach
We create opportunities for participants to counter polarization by critically assessing their own views. In these experiences, participants first unpack their core beliefs. Next, they are guided to challenge their own beliefs by clarifying statements, identifying assumptions, providing evidence, considering alternatives, and evaluating consequences. Finally, participants reflect and make decisions about how they want to move forward. These experiences involve contemplative practices to help participants understand themselves and others more deeply.

Join us for our first public opportunity: The First Step Seminar. This special seminar combines an interactive workbook with the Aspen Seminar method of moderated, text-based dialogue. Over the course of three seminar sessions, participants will take the first step towards countering polarization in the company of other thoughtful people doing the same.

Interested in being involved?