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20 Theses Regarding Civility (guest post by Amy Olberding)

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Too many (most?) conversations about civility begin because someone did something perceived to be uncivil. Making civility all about what other people do is in fact part of the problem, as civility is then degraded into a cudgel and its proponents into cops. Conversation about civility would be improved if sorting oneself out was the focus. The following is a guest post by Amy Olberding, the President’s Associates Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. It originally appeared at Department of Deviance. (Note: do not use the comments section on this post to call out particular individuals’ you believe have engaged in uncivil behavior. Thank you.) Katsukawa Shunchô, “Women Imitating the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” (detail) 20 Theses Regarding Civility by Amy Olberding If I could just find the door to the discourse, I’d nail these on it. Dissent does not require incivility. I would have thought this obvious but have now too often heard people voice the assumption that if you’re civil, you’re not dissenting. Civility does not, under any theoretical construction or system of practical application, require that one not dissent. Dissent can be accomplished civilly or uncivilly. Dissent is not inevitably or automatically more powerful, more decisive, or more effective when delivered uncivilly. This is especially so in contexts where incivilities are frequent and commonplace because the emotive force of incivility becomes diluted. Incivility in dissent works in part when it functions to communicate distress, moral alarm, righteous outrage, etc. If it is broadly overused, it loses efficacy in these functions as hearers’ ability to give uptake is dulled through repetition and overexposure. Civility is not about what individual people deserve and it’s somewhat dangerous to treat it this way. It is morally hazardous for each to act as moral judge in daily life, using our prosaic interactions (civil and uncivil) to. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

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