Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Review: Civility by Stephen L. Carter

The universities or 'progressively minded' as a whole will natural be somewhat hostile to Carter’s text. The religious underpinnings by which he develops his philosophy of civility will be seen as a negative influence instead of an enlightened one. He will be laughed at, scoffed at, and largely discounted by certain segments in the university community who claim he’s a "right winger." If the text is sufficiently implemented and thoroughly discussed, it will be the hostile audience which will best benefit. Carter’s arguments bring out the very best of what classical liberalism has brought the modern age: unrivaled religious liberty, tolerance, and the immense value of human life. Although any author on civility may claim to be representative of these ideals, Carter can articulate their necessity with a more powerful confidence. Liberty, kindness, and civility are moral imperatives for Carter which are essentially demanded from up on high to the whole of humanity. He continually quotes segments from the Gospels, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Carter. 162). He explains that this commandment "requires us to act with love toward others" and that it "demands of us a hard discipline." This is what sets apart the Carter text. In few other modern etiquette commentaries will we find etiquette as being a "command" which "demands" and "requires" specific action. Any single paragraph holding the words "God" and "demand" is sure to create some controversy among academicians, namely the secular progressive crowd. However, upon further reflection the text should prove enlightening for the entire university community.

Carter believes that we can best treat each other with love only if we "conceive doing so as a moral obligation that is absolute, something we owe others because of their personhood, bearing no relation to whether we like them or not" (101). Therefore civility, kindness, and ultimately love should be accorded to every soul for no more complex a reason than because another’s distinct "personhood," therefore "humanity," implicating wholeness with "God’s creation."
For the benefit of the university community the Carter text will prove valuable to shed light on how the millions of religious in the world view the unity of civility and divinity. These two realities are interconnected for many in the current age among the major religions of the world (not just Christianity). Having a single voice (Carter) to thoroughly and expressively explicate this relationship from one religious discipline brings to life this phenomenon, helping to understand it historically, cross-culturally, and hopefully more sympathetically.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.