Mind Your Manners?

This is the inaugural post in what I hope will be a series of reflections and discussions of manners.  The format will depend on readers’ interests but the basic hope is to provide a forum for considering ways to understand and effectively respond to professional challenges linked to prosaic good manners.  There are of course a number of intriguing high theoretical issues attached to manners – e.g., whether and in what sense having good manners is morally important – but my interest is in the more immediately challenging practical side of things.  Subtle and not-so-subtle variations in how ordinary mannerly conventions are practiced can encode bias, for example.  It can be difficult to know how to respond (politely or not?) to an interlocutor who appears sexist.  And being well-mannered can, in the rough and tumble of some philosophical interactions, seem disadvantageous, the polite person appearing weak.  Most generally of all, my own sense is that philosophy, as it is too often practiced, can be quite rude.  Worse, it can cloak garden variety rudeness in the noble garments of “independence of mind” and freedom from the petty conventions by which only the unimaginative herd abide.  One trouble with this is that rudeness is rarely distributed equitably and its burdens may well fall heaviest on those already marginalized or underrepresented in the profession.  This at least seems a conclusion with some support in the testimonies on the “What is it Like” blog, where bias appears often to flower heavily fertilized by a willingness to be rude.  In my own professional life at least, I sometimes find myself torn between practicing what I would count the rude (but sometimes disturbingly professionally legitimating) conventions of the discipline and maintaining my own commitments to being well-mannered. The direction of these posts, then, is simply to invite consideration of such dilemmas and how to resolve them.  To submit queries, simply use the “Contact” tab!