Civility & Community
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Author: Dr. Brian Schrag
Narrator: Cliff Robertson and Robert Guillaume
Length: 3 hours (Unabridged)
Format: Encoded Windows Media
© 2006 Blackstone Audio Inc
Civility, which comes to us from the Latin word for citizen, includes not only the
notions of courtesy and politeness, but also such matters as social relationships and proper conduct in human
relationships. For some, civility is the essential glue that holds society together, and it involves such important
issues as friendship, altruism, responsibility, dignity, and justice.
Aristotle saw civility as a form of friendship, which he understood as a mutual feeling of good
will. Aristotle believed that humans are capable of promoting another persons interest without regard for our
own, and he ranked friendships according to their degree of intimacy and commitment. Character friendship may
be purely selfless; advantage friendship is a mixture of self-interest with perhaps some altruism, and this is
the basis of civil interaction.
By contrast, Thomas Hobbes believed that humans are incapable of
sympathy with the interests of others; he said that we are ultimately motivated by self-interest in all of our
acts. But recent experiments and theoretical developments have supported the view of David Hume, who believed
that humans are naturally sympathetic, with our benevolence (or willingness to act selflessly) guided by such
things as reason and custom.
Amid many wrenching claims that todays society is marked by
lawlessness and a collapse of moral values, its important to reduce sweeping historical generalizations to
specific comparisons of time and place. Colonial America, for example, was viewed in retrospect as a coarse age
by the more proper nineteenth-century Americans yet these same nineteenth-century Americans exhibited a great
deal of intolerance, and they experienced lawlessness especially in mob violence (e.g. lynching). In general,
specific historical comparison, makes it clear that lawlessness, intolerance, and standards of decorum tend to
fluctuate in complex and interdependent ways.
Modern American society is marked by a high degree of mobility, a
decline in voluntary civic activities, and an emphasis on rights (i.e. what others owe me). The result is
rootlessness and detachment from family and friends. Higher crime rates, chiefly among youth, show a strong
statistical correlation with lack of self-control. And moral disputes are often marked by dogmatism, the
inability or unwillingness to see the moral force behind another point of view. In response, the possibilities
for improvement include (1) reinvigorating our civic associations, (2) developing and inculcating self-control,
and (3) demanding higher levels of mutual respect and tolerance in the way we speak to and treat one
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beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the
source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion
is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt
in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
"Seek and 'ye shall find,
knock and the door will be opened, ask and it shall be given
"The true understanding of
both the Creator and the creation is considered to be the
transcendental or metaphysical knowledge."
"For every action there is
an equal and opposite reaction."