Civility and Formality
22 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2013 Last revised: 8 Oct 2013
Date Written: October 2013
Civility is a distinctive virtue in social and political relations, not an all-embracing one. In this paper, I suggest that civility is also a "chilly" virtue, associated more with formality than with niceness; that is, I argue that its importance is best accounted for on this basis. I pursue the theme of formality in a number of different areas: formality in market relations; formality in political inclusiveness; formality in the willingness to listen and "stay present" for the articulation of views to which is utterly opposed; and formality in democratic deliberations. So defined, civility is not everything and it may need to be balanced against other principles and requirements of politics. But the account I give of its relation to formality enables us to see it in the distinctive importance that it has, even though its importance may not be absolute.
Keywords: civility, disagreement, difference, formality, legal rights, legislation, markets, inclusiveness, toleration
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