David Lanius

David Lanius

I am a researcher at DebateLab at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a trainer at Institute of Argumentation Competence in Berlin and the co-founder and managing director of Forum für Streitkultur (with Romy Jaster).

Populism, fake news, and hate speech

The rise of populism is currently threatening democracy in many Western societies. Populism may simply be the symptom of a general disappointment in democracy or the changes in political and societal communication brought about by the internet. But it certainly is fueled by a social divide in our societies and a lack of inclusive debate and democratic deliberation.

I strongly believe that argumentation and debate are the best means to solve conflicts, to coordinate (doxastic) differences, and to bridge the gap between people with different interests and convictions. In other words, I believe that argumentation and debate are our best chance to counter political polarization, populism, fake news, and hate speech.

My aim is to strengthen both deliberative and participatory democracy by uncovering the conditions for constructive conflict. I am particularly interested in how (and whether) people change their convictions based on rational argumentation.

Are good arguments ultimately convincing also to someone who does not share one’s beliefs already? How are we to argue with people who believe in “alternative facts?” Are there specific argumentative practices tied to modern populism? But the question that contains all the others is: How can the quality of public debates be improved? I work at DebateLab with Gregor Betz to answer this question.

Public debate and constructive conflict

I believe that we need debate, argument and constructive conflict

  • in academia to facilitate scientific progress,
  • in politics and society to recognize and respect other people’s opinions,
  • in companies to promote innovations, and
  • in private life to get along with and learn from each other.

We (again and again) need to be confronted with different beliefs, perspectives, and ways of life. Only then can we treat each other with tolerance, openness, and respect. This has tragically become evident once again in the recent rise of populism in Europe and the United States.

I am convinced that inclusive and interdisciplinary approaches in industry, society, and science are the key to the most pressing problems of our time. No single person, party, or discipline can solve them single-handedly. The (academic) study of philosophy has taught me that the way to truth is constructive conflict.


I am postdoc researcher in philosophy at DebateLab at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT),

trainer of rational argumenation and logic at Institute of Argumentation Competence in Berlin

and co-founder and managing director of Forum für Streitkultur (with Romy Jaster).

I’m also a member of the European Network for Argumentation and Public Policy Analysis  (APPLY:  Cost Action 17132 ), trying to improve the way European citizens understand, evaluate and contribute to public debate and political decision-making. Also, I’m member of DFG’s Arguing in the School  network organised by David Löwenstein .

At the moment I’m analyzing arguments used by and against right-wing populist political parties and leaders in Europe. I am especially interested in the use of fake news and “alternative facts” within populist arguments as well as the effectiveness of rational argumentation in general.

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