By Karen Stohr
Routledge – 2012 – 190 pages
Series: Thinking in Action
Many otherwise enlightened people often dismiss etiquette as a trivial subject or—worse yet—as nothing but a disguise for moral hypocrisy or unjust social hierarchies. Such sentiments either mistakenly assume that most manners merely frame the “real issues” of any interpersonal exchange or are the ugly vestiges of outdated, unfair social arrangements. But in On Manners, Karen Stohr turns the tables on these easy prejudices, demonstrating that the scope of manners is much broader than most people realize and that manners lead directly to the roots of enduring ethical questions. Stohr suggests that though manners are mostly conventional, they are nevertheless authoritative insofar as they are a primary means by which we express moral attitudes and commitments and carry out important moral goals.
Drawing primarily on Aristotle and Kant and with references to a wide range of cultural examples—from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—the author ultimately concludes that good manners are essential to moral character.
"Intelligible and interesting to the lay reader; yet scholarly enough for the professional ethicist, On Manners is Karen Stohr’s elegant calling card. I trust that the other public intellectuals will return the visit by reading the book." –Howard Curzer, Texas Tech University
"Drawing on Austen, Kant, and Seinfeld, blending powerful and precise thought with graceful and inviting prose, Karen Stohr has written a book that is not only wise, but warmly hospitable. When you read it, you’ll learn just how very important that is." –James Nelson, Michigan State University
1. Introduction 2. The Link Between Morality and Manners 3. Etiquette Expertise 4. Self-Presentation 5. Polite Lies 6. Giving and Receiving 7. Neighbors 8. Hospitality and Taste 9. Conclusion Bibliography
Karen Stohr is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she is also a Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.