Michael Sandel is the much celebrated Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University. His famous lecture series on Justice enjoys a crowd of 1000 students each class. Earlier this year, he was invited to give a presentation at the TED Conference 2010. This is what he thinks about the art required in public discourse:
"There is a tendency to think that if we engage too directly with moral questions in politics, that's recipe for disagreement and, for that matter, a recipe for intolerance and coercion; so better to shy away from, to ignore the moral and the religious conviction that people bring to civic life.
It seems to me our discussion reflects the opposite. That a better way to mutual respect is to engage directly with the moral conviction citizens bring to public life rather than to require that people leave their deepest moral conviction outside politics before they enter. That, it seems to me, is a way to begin to restore the art of democratic argument."
(Michael Sandel, 'The lost art of democratic debate' presentation at TED2010 Feb 2010)