Civility and Decency

March 22, 2009

There is an interesting discussion going on right now at Evolving Thoughts concerning “civility” in intellectual discourse. The argument is being made that civility is an intrinsic good.

It is worth pointing out that calls for “civility” are frequently used to silence those who seek to reveal the indecency of statements or actions of others. Those who behave indecently can fuck right off with their whiny-ass whining about civility. And those who are, themselves, decent, but who seek to direct attention to “civility” are playing into the hands of the indecent.

15 Responses to “Civility and Decency”


  1. I don’t see civility as an intrinsic good; I see it as a tool that I can choose to deploy, or not, depending on whether or not it will help me accomplish my goals.

    In, say, a lab dispute, one might find some uses for both incivility (which communicates the significance and severity of the problem) and civility (which signifies that the speaker is a rational human being, and calms down the discussion to where some agreement might one day be reached. Or not.)


  2. Jekyll – how Machiavellianly awesome of you! When I first read this post, I thought “of course civility is good.” Then I read the linked post and some comments, and I realize the point CPP is making, and I thought of Stephanie Zvan’s post on skeptics vs. denialists. Denialists are idiots, and there’s no reason to beat around that bush. This doesn’t mean they are always bad people, but they’re idiots. There’s no crime in saying that.

    So, in the end, CPP, I agree with you :).


  3. [...] away (also why I haven’t been responding to comments with my usual rapidity), go talk with Comrade Physioprof about civility in discourse, a subject on which we have spoken before. (Although I’m not sure I completely agree with my [...]

  4. jc Says:

    The “be polite” trope from asshole in charge to lower status woman royally pisses me off, and I am purposely not polite when dealing with assholes. Polite is submissive. fuck that.

  5. Toaster Says:

    I actually think that the English language needs more swear words. Think about it. All we’ve got to work with are shit, bitch, damn, cock, fuck, and cunt. Only 6 words!

    German has more! Spanish has more! Shit, even Finnish has more!

    Therefore, I propose the following new curse words:

    1) Plinker
    2) Gloddleflop
    3) Omen
    4) Flim.
    5) Noodle.

  6. Toaster Says:

    I actually think that the English language needs more swear words. Think about it. All we’ve got to work with are shit, bitch, damn, cock, fuck, and cunt. Only 6 words!

    German has more! Spanish has more! Shit, even Finnish has more!

    Therefore, I propose the following new curse words:

    1) Plinker
    2) Gloddleflop
    3) Omen
    4) Flim.
    5) Noodle

  7. Toaster Says:

    Noodle flim!

    Sorry for the double post.


  8. someone who whispers sweet nothings is a lover

    CPP, I am amused by your definition.

    At the heart of the matter, I agree, civility can be overrated in certain circumstances. Like when I’m threatening to break people’s arms if they touch my buffers. Like when I’m arguing with my husband. How boring our arguments would be in they if they were always civil.

  9. Isabel Says:

    Help CPP,

    Thanks to you I’m under attack over at the ET blog. That Kevin Beck guy is MEAN. And here I thought I had done my homework after reading your post; especially after the JLK sex-survey conflicting-results discussion, I decided to go back and read the original material before commenting – I ended up having to read a number of linked posts and a whole Nisbet book chapter (I’d never heard of the guy before). But alas my integrity is now being questioned because I failed to uncover a single obscure fact, that Richard Dawkins ex-wife died in 1999. Is that fair???????

    I’m sure glad this Kevin Beck guy was not on my orals committee.

    Isabel

  10. Isabel Says:

    Toaster,

    http://sonic.net/maledicta/

    is my favorite website for curse inspiration. The best curses are always from the most religious societies – see atheists! that is ANOTHER good thing about religious societies.

    I like how the Maledicta guy is collecting international versions of the following. The list cracks me up…it’s so all-purpose!

    Kiss my ass! — Shut up!
    You asshole! — Oh, shit!
    Goddamn it! — Jesus Christ!

  11. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    How about just calling them un-American, or is that out of style now?

  12. whoever Says:

    I find “Fuck you” to hit the spot on occasion.

  13. DuWayne Says:

    You fucking goddamned uncivil motherfuckers!!! How fucking dare you mean motherfucking jerks act so fucking, err, mean!!! Fuck you all and the mean motherfucking miniature pigs you rode in on!!!

    (Ok, DuWayne will stop commenting after taking his pills for the night….)


  14. [...] Physioprof is really on a roll lately, putting out some extremely good posts. There’s a reason I say this dude is my favorite blogger. Well, now he throws down on the [...]


  15. Civility is good because it allows everyone to take part. Some of us were born in the 50s; some of us are working class females who were taught never to talk shit to “our betters”… and when the hyperactive cussing and name-calling (verbal pissing matches) become ubiquitous in a thread, we take our leave. It’s like blasting people out with loud noise, eradicating thoughtful conversation.

    To me, incivility is the territory of the educated frat-boy who doesn’t have to worry about losing his job, or what people think of him. At least, in my real-life observation, that’s who usually propagates incivility. When I encounter such behavior online, I assume it’s the same privileged group, raised to say and do whatever they please.


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