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 their own worldviews – both spiritually and practically. In this endeavor, citizens identifying with the political left or right are guided to name and challenge narratives, assumptions, pieties, and biases within their own ideological circles – and afterwards, to meet and engage their counterparts from the “other” side for mutual learning. The Devil’s Advocacy Initiative is a collaboration between the Aspen Institute’s Program on Citizenship and American Identity and the Fetzer Institute. 

Context
In this age of fragmentation and polarization in our political culture, a great deal of work is underway to get the political left and right to talk and search out common ground. We at the Aspen Institute and the Fetzer Institute applaud such efforts, but we also believe there is a deeper need going largely unaddressed: for people on each side to push their own side and to deactivate the triggers and reflexes their own side succumbs to when encountering people of differing worldviews. This set of skills and dispositions, both spiritual and practical, is the necessary precursor for any lasting reckoning and reconciliation in civic life. If you want to help end demonization in civic life, learn to think and act like devil’s advocates!

Our Approach
We are creating a workbook, designed to be used individually or with a group. Part one of this workbook, “Articulating Worldview”, will focus on unpacking your core beliefs and assumptions about the world. Part two, “Playing Devil’s Advocate”, will involve challenging your own worldview. Part three, “Making Commitments” will include reflection and decisions about how you want to move forward. We approach the polarization in American democracy as a spiritual issue, and throughout the workbook, there will be time for contemplative practices and reflections to help users understand themselves and others more deeply.

Interested in being involved?