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What is the intersection between civility and ethics?

That was a comment posed as a question on the Values to love post.

Civility has to do with being a good citizen, a good neighbor.
Civility is derived from the Latin civitas, translated as state, city-state, city, citizenship.
Wikipedia defines civic virtue as the “cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. The term civility refers to behavior between persons and groups”.

Ethics deals with morals.
Wikipedia again: “a major branch of philosophy, the study of values and customs of a person or group and covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility.”

The Closer to Truth series
on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) brought together leading scientists, scholars and artists to debate today’s fundamental issues. A segment “Whatever Happened to Ethics and Civility?” appears to have aired in 2000. These excerpts from the transcript of that show:
Moderator: What's the difference between ethics and civility, and why are they important today?

Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., professor of Christian philosophy and ethics): Ethics concerns issues of right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice. And civility is subsumed within that. The word "civility" comes from the Latin civitas, for city. To be civil is to know how to get along in the city--how to treat people who are different from you, who have different beliefs or ethnic background. Civility, then, is public politeness, toleration, all the kinds of things that are important to maintain good citizenship and facilitate interactions in the public square.

The religious scholar Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, points out that often people who are civil don't have strong convictions and people who have strong convictions aren't civil. The real challenge is to have convicted civility. We must learn how to engage in that high-level discourse, to treat other people as having value even when we seriously disagree with them. That's the challenge. We need to state our convictions honestly and listen to each other genuinely.

The family meal is a wonderful workshop in civility, where we learn to hang in there with people with whom we're irritated and don't agree.

John McWhorter (professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley): It would help if more people accepted that there are certain issues--abortion being one of them--where unfortunately there will always be fundamental disagreement over fundamental principles. A comfort with agreeing to disagree is something often sadly missing.

A civility and ethics issue on campus now

Iowa State’s Greek Week officials have decided to not be affiliated with the campus blood drive this week.
Blood bank officials say blood supplies are short.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule prohibits men who have had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood.
The American Red Cross and others have lobbied the FDA to make changes in the rule.
Gays at ISU say the FDA rule is outdated because there are new ways to test for HIV.
The FDA says there is a risk in testing the donations and removal of contaminated blood.
In past years, Greek Week awarded points for participation and a trophy to the fraternity or sorority with the highest participation.

Wouldn’t it be civil to donate blood, providing you are eligible under current guidelines, without entering the scientific debate and without expecting the donation to count towards a reward? What do your ethics tell you?

So now what do you think is the intersection between civility and ethics?
Forni, cofounder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, says "Civility belongs in the realm of ethics."
Gonthier in her book 'Rude Awakenings' places ethics as a 'property' of civility.

Transcript of the PBS show: http://www.closertotruth.com/topics/technologysociety/110/110transcript.html

“In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics.”
Earl Warren, Governor of California and 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1891-1974)


I do think it would be civil to donate and stay out of the fray - and perhaps some greeks are doing that. I also think it is appropriate to withhold support from the blood drive if it is in conflict with your personal moral convictions.

Taking time to donate at another location would be my best option, in this particular scenario.

Thanks for such an enlightening piece on the civility/ethics intersection. I am certain there are many ways to be civil in appearance and remain unethical in action and that it is possible to behave ethically when no one is looking and to be less than civil in company...

I have concluded that is the difference to me - one is what you do when others will know and the other is what you do when others may not

I agree that "agreeing to disagree" is a part of civilized discourse that is seldom practiced in many households. In its place, we have putdowns and name-calling. We have parents who believe they must always be right, siblings who jockey for position, spouses who cannot discuss differences of opinion. We do not know how to value different points of view and learn from them. I would like to hear and see more civil debate/discourse on radio and television in place of the empty labels, name-calling, and putdowns that characterize so many shows. I believe in staying true to one's values and ethics, but we do not need to go to war at the dinner table to stand up for our ideas. Democracy depends on civility. Someone once said that we are always one generation away from the death of democracy. And it was Patrick Henry who said, "I may not agree with another man's opinion, but I will defend to the death his right to speak it." We need to value other people's opinions as much as our own, encourage civil discourse, and model civil discourse in our homes.

I think civility is a REactive word, marking the way we react to others' actions.

Whereas Ethics is PROactive. Ethics determine our actions toward others.