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Why have Objectivists written so little about manners? I am inclined to believe it is because they have accepted the common view of manners, just as Objectivists traditionally wrote little about benevolence because they had accepted the ordinary view of that virtue. And what is that common view of manners? To put a fine point on it: Manners are widely thought to involve a sacrifice of one's values and and authenticity for the sake of obeying fashions and arbitrary conventions.
One reason for the belief that decent social behavior is sacrificial and inauthentic is that conservatives who recommend it and bohemians who oppose it do so in exactly those terms. Says Stephen L. Carter, a professor of law at Yale University, "Civility, I shall argue, is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together" (Civility. New York: Basic Books , 11; hereafter Civility). On the other hand, the basketball player Dennis Rodman justified bumping his head into a referee's by saying, "I was making a statement that I was free and independent and not like everybody else" (Civility, 74).
How, on Carter's approach does one respond to a person who has no wish to make a sacrifice? Carter is a Christian and so his answers trails off into theology. For example, speaking of the need to bring civility to advertising, Carter writes:
Only a mighty effort to free ourselves from the shackles of market language will enable us to create the...
Read Article : Notes towards an Appreciation of Manners