His address, “On the Pretense of Consent,” is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program. In his address Schmidtz will explore how many political theories that represent justified political authority are grounded in the consent of the people. But if we start from there, according to Schmidtz, we end up spending our time defining consent in abstract ways in service of a lame pretense that we live under justified consent-based authority.
In contrast, Schmidtz will contend that, “If we start with actual politics, that is, from the idea that disagreement is an inevitably central feature of our lives together, then the objective becomes to make it safe to disagree, and at very least not ensure that politics is war by other means.
“The point of politics,” he will conclude, “is to create realms where the operative virtue is nonthreatening diplomacy — realms in which people are not a threat to each other. In practice, seeking consent is our most important way of keeping the peace and of treating each other with respect, but it is not the moral foundation of keeping the peace or of mutual respect. Its importance is derivative, not foundational. When we do not acknowledge the actual role of consent, we fail to take it seriously.”