An Exploration of Civility
Professor Ronald Morris
Are we supposed to be always civil? P. M. Forni asks his audience this simple question when he is considering civility’s basic rules. Before we can answer this we need to determine whether civility even has rules. For civility to have rules, there must firstly be an agreement on the definition of civility itself. There can be no rules if one party determines that civility means one thing to them while another believes it to mean the opposite. I believe that one’s idea of civility starts to form at an early age, and varies depending on his or her environment, family, culture, ethnicity, location and any other factor that contributes to the cognitive and personal development of a person. In that case, due to the thousands of different social contexts that can be found in different countries, in different cities and in different homes, it is safe to say that there is a no one precise definition of what it means to be civil. For the sake of this text and my word count, I have to presume that my audience shares my attitude towards the definition of civility. I agree with Forni when he proposes this idea of civility and what it means: Civility is a form of goodness; it is gracious goodness. But it is not just an attitude of benevolent and thoughtful relating to other individuals; it also entails an active interest in the well-being of our communities and even a concern for the health of the planet on which we live. (Forni) Now we can begin to build somewhat of an answer to the opening question: are we supposed to be always civil? I would initially answer yes. Of course we have to be always civil. However, there is nothing more difficult for a Human being than to be absolutely pure and perfect in anything (some would argue that it is impossible). So how can we be constantly and incessantly civil? Maybe we cannot, but it is then our duty as Human beings and members of...