The Basis of Manners
Webcast Q&A: 24 April 2011, Question 1
I answered a question on the basis of manners on 24 April 2011. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
How do you objectively define manners? Is that even possible? What makes some action rude or polite? Is it purely subjective or based on personal values? For example, some people think that guests ought to take off their shoes in another person's house, while others don't care or even prefer shoes to remain on the feet. And some people think that putting elbows on the dinner table or feet on the coffee table is barbaric, while others regard that as fine. Since manners vary from person to person, how do you "mind your manners" when interacting with other people? Or should you not bother with that, and instead do what you please?
My Answer, In Brief: Manners are neither cultural whims, nor intrinsically good. When based on fact, they are social customs aimed at smoothing social interactions beyond demands of law and morality.
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I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
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