The Reason I Don’t Believe in Civility is That I Do Believe in Civility

Civility is the academic flavor of the month. As we head back to school, university leaders are calling for it, and, as Ali Abunimah shows, Salaita’s critics—and defenders of Israel more generally—are especially hot on it.

I have complicated feelings about civility. On the hand, it’s perfectly clear to me, as these various links, particularly Ali’s, demonstrate, that the call for civility is little more than an effort to muzzle critics, to turn vibrant campuses into intellectual morgues.

On the other hand, my mother brought me up to be polite, to be considerate of other people’s feelings, to listen, to wait my turn when I speak, not to be over-bearing, not to crowd someone with my speech but to give her the space to voice hers. And occasionally my mother will send me an email or tell me in a phone call—politely, of course—that perhaps I could be a little gentler in my comments.

Now, as readers of this blog will know, and as my mother sometimes will point out—politely, of course—I don’t always live up to my mom’s standards.

But, and this is a big but, I do try, whenever I am entering someone else’s conversation—whether it’s on Twitter, a blog, Facebook, wherever—to be civil. Because I’ve still got this bourgeois thing where I feel like if it’s their conversation, or their blog or Twitter feed or Facebook page, it’s kind of like their home. And I’m their guest. So, inevitably, I preface my remarks with a series of coughs and throat clears, with a “You may have already covered this” or “I know I’m late to the conversation, so forgive me if someone has pointed out this already,” and so forth. And if I don’t know my host or her guests personally, I invariably begin with an apology along the lines of “Hi, you don’t know me, but my name is Corey, I’m a professor of political science, and I realize I’m crashing your conversation, so forgive me for the intrusion. But….” And not just as a mode of politeness, but as way of interacting intellectually and politically: I try to make sure I understand where people are coming from, I try not to impose my beliefs, and so on.

Because that’s how my mom raised me. I’m one of those of people who always feels slightly embarrassed on a picket line or in a demonstration—simply because I’m making noise. And that’s not polite. Or nice.

But here’s the thing about the people who call for civility on the internet, particularly the people who are now raising such a ruckus about Salaita and about Israel more generally: they’re completely uncivil. As in rude.

Often, they just show up on my blog or my FB page or in my Twitter feed, out of nowhere. I’ve never heard of them; they make no effort to introduce themselves. And worse, they make no effort to even understand the conversation. They just plop into the house, like Aunt Agatha on Bewitched, clambering down the chimney and making a mess, and start yelling at me or my interlocutors. Possessed by what seems to be a usually unearned confidence in their own intelligence and perspicuity, they assume they know exactly who I am, what I think, and just barrel on. Actually, I don’t sense that they’ve given me even one thought. They just plow on. And then, after I or my interlocutors make some attempt to explain where we’re coming from, to insert ourselves into the monologue, they just keep going, or disappear. Without ever saying goodbye or thank you.

Me, I would be mortified to act like this. Because that’s how my mom raised me. Because I actually, kinda, sorta, in my upper-middle-class heart of hearts, believe in civility. Them? They seem utterly incapable of embarrassment or shame. Because they don’t.

To be honest, that’s why I’m really skeptical about the call for civility: not because it’s a tool to silent dissent, but because the people who call for it almost never practice it themselves.


  1. Nurit Baytch September 7, 2014 at 11:43 pm | #

    The call for civility is not about introducing yourself on Twitter or on blogs (I’m hardly alone in not doing so!). It’s about not saying stuff like this:
    “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”

    • Bruce Baugh September 8, 2014 at 11:29 am | #

      And of course you’ve been busily supporting the firing and dehiring of people like Glen Reynolds, with their calls for genocide against Muslims, Arabs, etc? You’ve got any kind of history of supporting or even organizing efforts to keep advocates of torture out of tenured positions? You’ve gone to bat against those academics who’ve attacked opponents of this or that war of choice as traitors, fifth columnists, and enemies of America and Western civilization?

      If you have, then you get some merit for consistency. There’s surely been no general effort of that sort, though – what we’re looking at is an alleged standard that only seems to apply when it comes to people criticizing the idols of the right wing. I can find zero evidence of any sustained or coordinated effort to apply it to people being hateful and supportive of violent, abusive rhetoric against targets on the left or anywhere else.

  2. Magid Shihade September 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm | #

    Would it be useful to add “civility” to the lexicon of western colonial history? Or, are wasting time about slogans that were only part of formality (equality, liberty….) when it comes to subjugated groups? Is this “civility” the new tool of mystification for “us” and them”?
    I hope that the next elections in the U.S is not driven by the slogan of “civility.” Otherwise, everyone should very suspicious of this slogan among other dominant ones..

  3. rly1987 September 8, 2014 at 12:03 am | #

    The call for civility is just another way to maintain elitist/imperialist dogma, in my opinion. The British imperialists (of colonial and modern times) supported the most savage aggression under the cloak of “civility” and “sophistication.”

    If someone is supporting outright murder, abuse of power, or keeping people poor unnecessarily, a normal response would be, “What the fuck is wrong with you!?!?”

    But if they dress it up in civility and call for you to do the same, a lot of normalcy and sanity can’t enter into the fray. All the while, the hawks aren’t being civil, those involved with business/media aren’t being civil, higher level state/military planners work their hardest not to be civil etc. So why the obsession with civility?

    There’s no call for civility from those same people regarding the way Israel treats Palestinians. They declare it a free for all despite Israel being the aggressor/initiator of the conflict.

  4. Christian Marks September 8, 2014 at 12:38 am | #

    On the subject of civility in the classroom, and on political circumstances under which civility is not obligatory, I recommend “The Circumstances of Civility,” by Brian Leiter.

  5. Aaron Gross September 8, 2014 at 1:21 am | #

    Sorry, please forgive me! Seriously. I’m one of those commenters who’s crashed your blog comments and just jumped right in. Serially. I honestly thought it was OK internet etiquette. I’m from the old Usenet tradition, where there were forums rather than salon-like, hosted conversations. Frankly I prefer the equality-based forum approach, but that doesn’t justify my imposing it on your comment threads.

    Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Aaron Gross, and I’m a nobody, one of the little people. Opinions expressed by me are probably poorly thought out and unsupported, but I try my best.

  6. gavinacademy September 8, 2014 at 3:04 am | #

    Your post is rather vague…..but it certainly seemed to speak to the experience of many others… 🙂

  7. Hangaku Gozen September 8, 2014 at 3:27 am | #

    Like your mother, I raised my children to be considerate and polite, to respect other people’s feelings, etc. And of course, I managed to raise my son to be an anarchist of the Evergreen State College variety: no violence, but a lot of discussion about hierarchal government and the rejection of institutions like banks, the federal government, and political parties. We also talk about Herbert Marcuse and the illusion of freedom of speech and civil discourse, especially when police aim pepper spray into your eyes and arrest you for refusing to move off of the sidewalk. (I should add, I love these conversations and am proud of this kid for taking stands on issues I never would have touched as an undergraduate in college back in the 70s.)

    I also have to agree as a woman raised in a traditional East Asian household, civility is grossly overrated and is often a mask for repression, a supposedly nice way of telling people to shut up when they appear to be “making a scene,” or a way of telling young women they’re being unladylike. Sometimes you have to make a ruckus in order to achieve justice. And if others think you’re being uncivil, so be it. I didn’t come to the protest to serve tea.

    • Escottnyc September 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm | #

      “I didn’t come to the protest to serve tea.” That’s a great line.

      I was a protester last week at a City Hall “rally” and had similar thought dualities. With voices and fists raised in unison recitation, “What do we WANT? We want ……., NOW! I halfheartly moved my lips, thinking this exuberance lacks sensibility of relative importance and more than a little selfish sounding. After all, wanting ferry service to the Rockaways and using molds forged by the human rights movement seemed way inappropriate. (to be fair, speakers for the ferry service made insightful and convincing comments otherwise).

      Might be a break-out idea; “Tea Service Public Protest” for the heart and head of issues, novel enough to attract Press coverage.

      But I digress, sorry. Enjoyed your and the other comments.

      • Hangaku Gozen September 8, 2014 at 11:36 pm | #

        Most peaceful protests are based on the 60s Gandhi/Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights model: the protesters take over a specific route (which nowadays has to have a permit to take place) and march while holding signs and occasionally singing or using a call and respond shoutout. (I like the “Whose streets? Our streets!” that I heard during the anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Singing “We Shall Overcome” tells you the group is mostly old Boomers.) I like that kind of civil discourse and think ferry service to Rockaway is a legit cause for marching on City Hall. These days however, everybody does it, including the Tea Party—talk about serving tea at a protest—and Right to Carry gun activists. I can almost understand why Black Block anarchists get impatient with the model and break the monotony literally with rocks and bottles. Why stage a protest if everyone around you is falling asleep?

        I also think, as democracy in this country rapidly erodes under the Citizens United ruling and corporate money buys up air time on television, talk radio, and the internet, so shall the peaceful protest. Especially after seeing what happened in Ferguson. Speaking truth to power has become particularly perilous in our time.

  8. Roquentin September 8, 2014 at 7:54 am | #

    There are plenty of texts I think more or less everyone should read. One of them is Schopenhauer’s “The Art of Being Right.” The title is also translated out of German as “The Art of Controversy,” but I prefer the more bombastic title because it captures both his pessimistic nature and his humor.

    The short version is that arguments are brawls which are inherently based on deception and getting your way. If they proceeded according to reason, there simply wouldn’t be a fight. You’d just agree on the most reasonable outcome and that would be that.

    On topic, people of Scandinavian lineage from the Upper Midwest are stereotypically averse to arguments and conflict. So I have a little of that, but I spent much of my childhood in a trashy (for lack of a better term) milieu where politeness counted for little or nothing. Sometimes you have to brawl, verbally or otherwise.

  9. Elizabeth September 8, 2014 at 8:15 am | #

    To me, the most uncivil aspect of this entire affair — by far — is taking away someone’s livelihood and career, after they have already given up their old life (job, home) to take the one you offered them, without even having a conversation with them about it. Who does that? The cruelty of it is just staggering. Can anyone really want their university to work like that?

    • Ligurio September 8, 2014 at 9:20 am | #

      No, no, no, Elizabeth. You’re getting it all wrong. You can do horrible things to people as long as you do them civilly. You, for example, send a nice note in bureacratise explaining that “Due to unfortunate events beyond our control…” or “Because we so highly pride ourselves on….” your family will now be left homeless with no income and no healthcare.

      This is all civil. What is not civil is saying things like this: “The explanation of Wise is bullshit.” You can’t say this, because the public language of the corporatocracy doesn’t admit “bullshit” into it’s official vocabulary.

      So, for example, I can bomb a hospital, or take possession of your home, or even water-board you, but if I do it in such a way that my speech remains relatively impersonal and passive, then I’m acting in a way that is “civil.” If, on the other hand, you object to my doing any of these things in a language that is too aggressive and unsightly to be included in, say, a human resources pamphlet on best practices, then you are acting “uncivilly.”

      That’s how it works.

      • Bruce Baugh September 8, 2014 at 11:34 am | #

        What’s interesting is how that first part slips away, too. It’s apparently civil to call women who need prescription medication for vascular problems “sluts”, and civil to call people who think a war unwise “traitors” and “fifth columnists”, and civil to say that people protesting together should be clubbed down until they pass out from blood loss, and so on. It turns out that civility is about having the endorsed views, not about how you express them at all.

        Saying “I disagree with the chancellor’s decision and the way she went about making it” is, in this schema, just as uncivil as saying it’s bullshit.

        Handy that, for those on the side of power.

      • Mike Huben September 8, 2014 at 11:53 am | #

        I read Corey’s article, and you (Ligurio) have written what I wished he had. I doubt that he disagrees.

        Taking it a little further, we have to point out that it is the powerful who attempt to define civility so that their freedom of action is unrestrained and the powerless have no freedom of action nor freedom of speech.

        At one time, civility meant not killing or coming to blows. Now it seems to mean that anyone in a superior position can justifiably take offense at any disliked expression.

  10. s. wallerstein September 8, 2014 at 9:22 am | #

    Years ago I read a book, A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues, by the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville.

    Comte-Sponville lists politeness or civility as the first virtue (I hope that I recall his arguments correctly since I borrowed the book from the library and do not have a copy). He is aware that politeness can be empty and merely evince the “discrete charm of the bourgeoisie”, but he feels that first of all, politeness is a path towards real virtues.

    Saying “thank you” can be empty, but it may be the first step towards showing gratitude, a virtue. Saying “excuse me” can be a first step towards respecting the space of others, just as saying “hello” is a form of recognizing others. In fact, my personal experience is that what I learned as a child as empty forms have become meaingful with the years and that when I greet others, I no longer simply follow a formula my parents insisted that I comply with, but consciously recognize them as my equals and peers.

    Second, a world where people are polite, even formally polite, seems preferible to me to a world where they are rude. If you don’t believe that, try spending some time in an environment where rudeness rules.

    Finally, there’s a saying in Spanish: “lo cortés no quita lo valiente”, which means “being courteous does not mean you are a coward”.

  11. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 8, 2014 at 9:40 am | #

    I remember a line from the British tv series “Jewel In The Crown”, demonstrating power’s intolerance for pungent reactions to reality. It went something like this (near verbatim quote): “The elephant steps on our toes and they expect us not to cry out!”

    “Civility” politicized is grovelling obsequience or (worse) silence in the face of brutish injustice. Once politicized, “Civility” will always be required of the weak.

  12. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 8, 2014 at 10:04 am | #

    On the other hand, “civility” has to be identified by its social purpose: to allow us to live together or to silence the weak. Reactionary attempts to merge the two have given us the strange dynamic in which “civility” equals not having to bring discomfort to folks who identify with problematic socio-political projects. Their discomfort is to be avoided, and they get to choose what discomforts them. Of course when one is weak, or identifies with the interests of the weak then the barging behaviour Corey speaks of never seems to bring the more positive project of civility (to live peaceably with one another) with it. It’s name calling, red-baiting, threats of violence (especially true if you visit feminist websites’ comments sections) and just all-around refusal to “hear” you.

    I can take quite a lot of online abuse, personally. I also know that I am in Corey’s house when I comment, so that recognition is part of my project not to be “that guy”. But frankly, to the extent that politics is at the center of the discussion, I will fully assert that the attacks that Corey describes are a feature of reactionary politics in the digital age. Wicked back and forth can be found on the Media Matters comments section; but the progressives there don’t have that “mean” and arrogant touch that the righties do. The lefties there can dish it out (that is part of the fun of MM) but the righties seem to have very thin skins and it would be worth investigating what will get one a “This comment has been deleted” message….

    Or am I being “uncivil” in pointing that out?

    Corey is to be congratulated for his forebearance. I hope no jackass causes us to lose his blog. I promise not to be that guy.

    • Donald Pruden,Jr. a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm | #

      The need to edit my own sentences rears it ugly noggin.

      This: “Of course when one is weak, or identifies with the interests of the weak then the barging behaviour Corey speaks of never seems to bring the more positive project of civility (to live peaceably with one another) with it.” ….

      Should read as follows: “Of course when one is weak, or identifies with the interests of the weak then the barging behaviour Corey speaks of, which is to say that behavior which typically derives from those who oppose the interests of the weak, never seems to bring the more positive project of civility (to live peaceably with one another) with it.”

      And that is because living together in mutual respect — rather than in structural inequality and subordination — is not the positive project of those who toss the “c” word (“civility”) around.

      Sorry about my grammatic unclarity.

      Doing my bit,

      The Enemy Combatant

  13. Jerry Dworkin September 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm | #

    Dear Robin.

    Let me introduce myself. I was for more than 20 years your urban colleague in the Philosophy Department at UIC. I am a graduate of City College. I have followed your blog and am an admirer of it. I am, as the blog below says, a free-speech fanatic. When you say “the call for civility is little more than an effort to muzzle critics, to turn vibrant campuses into intellectual morgues.” without any qualifier, like “some”, you are civil, but you are mistaken. My regards to your mother. She was right.

    • Corey Robin September 8, 2014 at 7:09 pm | #

      Dear Professor Dworkin:

      Let me introduce myself. My name is Corey. I am actually not a professor in the Chicago area; I teach at Brooklyn College in the New Year area. (Or did you mean urban colleague in the sense that we both teach in cities?) Though I’m not a philosopher, I have been reading your articles since I was an undergraduate. And have admired them.

      With regard to the nub of your argument in your blog: “As a defense of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech I find this entirely cogent. It essentially says that the government–and the First Amendment only applies to governmental organizations– cannot be trusted to distinguish sanctions based on content of viewpoints from the way they are expressed, or the strength of convictions from their insulting and demeaning character. And because of that individuals may be discouraged from expressing their strongly held convictions. But as an ideal, or even a set of constraints on institutional behavior –in particular the academic community–I find it much less plausible. The AHA seeks to extend the argument to the university community.”

      Here, I think is the source of our disagreement. As I said, I am not a philosopher; I am a political theorist. And one of my early encounters as a political theorist was with the work of Judith Shklar. Who taught me to be suspicious of both public and private authorities claiming to be in a position to apply the ideals of reason to situations of power and conflict, resources and distribution. Which universities are (among other things).

      When you write “the university community,” I think — in this context of the debate over Israel/Palestine — not of faculty and students round a table, digging deep into Mill and other texts, but of university administrators, concerned about the bottom line of donors (I have some experience with this matter) and ever fearful to cross those donors or certain bright lines of controversy. To my mind, administrators are more like government officials, and though they don’t have the power of those officials, much of my academic work is dedicated to the proposition that employment sanctions are among the most potent source of coercion in this country, particularly coercion of political belief. Like Shklar, and like the theoreticians of the First Amendment as it applies to government, I simply do not trust that the sorts of deliberations you have in mind, and the upholding of the ideals you speak of, can or should be put in the hands of administrators. Your closing puzzlement about what it is that distinguishes a quote from Heine from a tweet from Salaita is precisely the crack through which, in a charged context like this one, an entire not altogether wholesome agenda can be pushed. (Whether and how that agenda gets worked out at the faculty level, particularly department chairs, is another issue. While I’m dubious that the faculty won’t also be vulnerable to similar sorts of pressure, it’s a trickier problem there, so I’ll table that for now.)

      It is for that reason, and really for that reason only, that I would wish to keep such discussions out of the university in their capacity as employers. Not because I don’t think it’s possible, in an ideal situation, to adjudicate what is and is not discrimination based on a viewpoint versus “slurs, obscenities, and threats” — though I would encourage you to examine the ever changing roster of reasons that have been cited by Salaita’s critics, both inside and outside the academy; you’ll see that the discussion has hardly settled upon slurs, obscenities, and threats (I also don’t see any of Salaita’s tweets as the issuance of a threat) — I have no reason to believe that political animals like university presidents and chancellors, who often have their eye on higher office or a position in the executive branch of government, would be willing to apply the strictures of pure reason in their efforts to make that distinction. As the Salaita case has revealed.

      While you think we have perhaps read too much into the Salaita case, I take the opposite position: the Salaita case is, to my mind, but one incident of many. Norman Finkelstein made no statements like the ones you cite of Salaita’s, yet he found himself without a job, denied tenure, and now unemployable in the academy. In that very similar context of donor pressure (and Dershowitz-mania), the distinctions that you think can be rationally adjudicated were lost. You as a philosopher have the luxury — I mean that in the best sense — of adjudicating the difference; I as a political theorist do not. When it comes to the political reality of Israel/Palestine in today’s academy, there is no difference between Salaita and Finkelstein (or, a name you may not have heard of, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct in my department who was fired for entirely academic statements he made in an entirely academic paper). If we lived in a different world, I might be more sympathetic to the argument you proffer in your blog. But we don’t. For that reason, I find the ideal and the set of constraints on institutional behavior that you find “much less plausible,” not only plausible, but absolutely necessary.

      All that said, my mother will be very pleased to know that you think she’s right.

      • Escottnyc September 9, 2014 at 11:13 am | #

        Corey, the call for “Civility” is too often used as a club to stun and silence opposition, I agree
        I’d say further, it’s an effective weapon. We make judgements based more on image and the appearance of civility than merit, our doubts soothed by the deep and fallacious notion that we Americans are wise, plain spoken and forthright.
        Hence, “Civility” has become a weapon of manipulation for air heads who understand only their image in the eyes of others.(Rousseau’s definition of “bourgeois”)
        This, of course, belabors what you already said, perhaps shedding a little more light on the contradictions of the title you gave this blog headline. Civility is a virtue, yes. But like other virtues it’s used otherwise.

        Jerry, who you dispute, I think correctly interprets Salaita’s tweets about placement of a shiv and the settlers going “missing”. For me, this definitely suggests Salaita leaning towards the speech of a leader rallying the troops, expressing the emotions that surrender to our inner beast and erases civility ( the virtuous kind) and results in the suffering mostly of the innocent sheep.
        In any case we all agree. You and Jerry agree on Salaita’s hiring. And I agree with you both.

      • djw September 9, 2014 at 11:42 am | #

        This is a very good post, but this comment is much better. Very nicely said.

      • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm | #

        A critique of pure reason?

        [I’m sorry; I could not resist]

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm | #

      I read your thoughtful post and I just wish to respond to just one passage in it. I would offer that you suggest a counterfactual that does not get at the point of Salaita’s comments.

      You write:

      “If you are doubtful about the classroom claim I invite you to think about your reaction if the statements uttered in class were the following.

      “You may be too refined to say it, but I am not: I wish every fucking black in Ferguson would wind up like Michael Brown.”

      “Obama’s statement on Michael Brown should have ended at the point of a shiv.”

      “If you’re defending Michael Brown right now, you are an awful human being.”

      These statements are a possible ground for termination not because they are expressions of a certain view-point. One is free in the classroom to defend the actions of the Ferguson police as legitimate, and to argue that Brown was a criminal who deserved what he got. But one is not free in the classroom to urge the murder of people who disagree with you, or to categorize those who disagree as awful human beings.”

      This characterization has been one of the most used defenses of the shabby treatment of Salaita: that his “anti-Semitism” is analogous to anti-Black racism. Swap out certain words in exchange for others and the case against Salaita practically writes itself.

      How about this:

      “You may be too refined to say it, but I am not: I wish every fucking cop in Ferguson would go missing.”

      “Romney’s statement defending Officer Darren Wilson should have ended at the point of a shiv.”

      “If you’re defending Darren Wilson right now, you are an awful human being.”

      I would suggest that these statements would more correctly observe the real social and historical relations that would inspire the kind of outbursts we find in Salaita’s comments. This is because Salaita’s actual comments suggest the real social relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. That is the true source of their “offensive” pungency.

      Israeli Jews are not analogous to American Blacks. Palestinians are not analogous to White American police officers.

      Now Salaita’s comments make more sense. If your people had been dispossessed of their homes and forced to live under an illegal military occupation, you too would likely wish that your peoples’ dispossesors (civilian and otherwise) would “go missing”. In such a case the dispossessed would, should the wish be granted, then get their homes back.

  14. uh...clem September 9, 2014 at 12:24 am | #

    Isn’t the charge of “incivility” just another form of ad hominem argument? Rather than answering the specific argument being made, it is easy to dodge it by responding to the “tone” of the speaker.

  15. Will Shetterly September 9, 2014 at 6:28 am | #

    Civility is not bourgeois. Working class people of all hues know the meaning of “Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?” Bourgeois civility expects obeissance, but simple civility expects equality, and equals don’t treat anyone as inferiors, which is the essence of incivility.

    When I think of what’s civil, I think of civitas and civil disobedience and the example set by the civil rights leaders, including Malcolm X, who said, “Respect everyone.” He believed you should be prepared to send anyone who laid a hand on you to the graveyard, but he never suggested you should stop respecting others even then; he only said you should be prepared to stop them. If I had a time machine, I would arrange a meeting between Brother Malcolm and Citizen Tom Paine. I think they’d agree about a great deal, including the way we should treat each other.

  16. Will Shetterly September 9, 2014 at 6:39 am | #

    And thinking about that a bit more, I googled some Paine quotes, and found this: “Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.” Clearly, Paine thought you should be moderate in temper and immoderate in principle.

  17. dave September 10, 2014 at 8:56 am | #

    I think this is the definitive take on this issue:

  18. Joseph Ratliff September 11, 2014 at 11:19 am | #

    I tend to think of “civility” as a starting point for communication between strangers (not just conversation, but any form of communication). You start in a socially defined “civil” manner, but then you are free to proceed in whatever manner you deem necessary for the particular communication (as does the other person[s]).

    It’s the second part of that (“free to proceed”) I think some of society has a problem with. We want to categorize the whole interaction (or set of interactions) as “civil.” All actions must be civil. I totally disagree with that.

Leave a Reply