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The link between civility and ethics: an opinion from a college chair in ethics and moral values

Michael Brannigan, the Pfaff Endowed Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. started a column in the Sunday Times Union in Albany.

Excerpts from Brannigan’s opinion used with his permission:
Civility represents the quality of our behavior with others in our collective household. This is serious business, for how we treat others signals who we are and what we value. Moreover, since the essence of ethics lies in how we are with others, civility and ethics are intricately linked.

Let us clear up some misconceptions. Civility is not peripheral to ethics, dealing merely with manners. True, civility does manifest itself in good manners, proper etiquette and politeness. But it also runs deeper and is more profound. Simply put, civility requires restraint, respect and responsibility in everyday life. Without these, we can never act ethically.

Ethics deals fundamentally with how we treat each other on a daily basis. Indeed, our small acts of civility and incivility constitute the heart of morality.

Sadly, countless displays of rudeness, unprofessional behavior, disrespect and anger litter corners of our lives: roads, airports, workplace, online, malls, restaurants, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, etc. In 2002, a Public Agenda Research Group reported that nearly 80 percent of respondents consider "lack of respect and courtesy a serious national problem."

Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption. By putting ethics into practice in our day-to-day encounters, civility is that moral glue without which our society would come apart.”

I put some sentences in bold because those are ones I think are superb. However, I’m not as convinced as he is that civility and ethics are so intricately linked. I’ve tried to answer two questions for more than a year----
Can you be civil and not entirely ethical?
Can you be ethical and not terribly civil?

The full opinion piece, Civility the basis of society, is at


No, I don't think you can have one without the other. I think civility and ethics are two sides of the same coin. Both require self discipline and paying attention. In my mind, ethics is how you are in terms of beliefs, values, being accountable, awareness of self/others/situations while civility is how those things play out in how you treat others,property, professionalism etc.