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A civil conversation on politics, race, religion and character

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Cornel West and Ross Douthat
Philosopher Cornel West (left) and columnist Ross Douthat (right)
Darrell Nance | Creative Commons, Courtesy Paul Haner | New York Times

A civil conversation between two people with different viewpoints: Cornel West and Ross Douthat.

West calls for a commitment to what he calls "soul craft." Douthat says we need to live our lives courageously without falling into a "palsy of anxiety and victimization" when bravery and heroism are called for.

The two discussed who in the White House could be counted on to have integrity, in a time where there is widespread mistrust of the government.

"And I said Sean Spicer," Douthat joked which was answered with laughter, both from West and the audience of the discussion, held at the University of St. Thomas Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy on April 7.

The serious answer from Douthat was "the military."

And while West said he remains suspicious of valorizing the spirit of the American military, he appreciated the answer.

"There is something about the formation in a martial temperament that's different from commerce and commodification," West said, because once commercial culture sets in, all of an individual's actions become an act to gain more.

The two went on to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, religion and violence — then answered questions concerning racism, politics and the younger generation.

The moderator was law professor Elizabeth Schiltz.

West is professor of the practice of public philosophy at the Harvard Divinity School and the African-American Studies Department. He's the author of "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters."

Douthat is a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Times. He's the author of "Grand New Party" and "Bad Religion."

To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.

Further reading

• Counter Stories: A war in black academia

• Civil Conversations Project: Brooks and Dionne on politics and philosophy

• More from MPR News Presents

MPR News presents offers speeches, documentaries and debates — airing weekdays from noon to 1 p.m.