Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Proper Dining Etiquette

I’m reading Kimberley Brownlee’s Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2012) by way of taking a brief break from Jonathan Israel (!) and so as to say some halfway intelligent or at least provocative things in a forthcoming blog post about civil disobedience. I think the book is quite good (‘thank God’ for ceteris paribus clauses and universal pro tanto moral judgments). Here’s a taste: In her analysis of “sincere moral conviction” by way of the “communicative principle of conscientiousness,” Brownlee discovers four conditions for this principle, in short: consistency, universality, non-evasion, and dialogic. In a discussion of the “non-evasion” condition, she states that

“It requires that we bear the risk of honouring our convictions, which means that we do not seek to evade the consequences and, in some cases, take positive action to support our convictions. It is through our consistent non-evasion of the costs that we signal we are neither inconstant nor hypocritical. This condition is, of course, broadly context sensitive. It is often important to stand up for our beliefs in a public forum. But, for reasons of respect or sympathy [or, as we used to say, good manners!], it’s not usually important to stand up for our beliefs when we’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner.”  

 
Images: Wallace Shawn and André Previn in My Dinner with Andre (1981) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), with Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Beah Richards, and Roy E. Glenn.

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