We rarely stop to notice that our everyday social interactions are governed by a highly complex system of rules. Though often only implicit, there are rules governing how to board an elevator, how close one may stand to another when in conversation, when to bring a gift to a party, and how to maintain one’s privacy. These rules are simply taken for granted, and when we regard them at all, we typically see them merely as instruments for social coordination, ways of keeping out of each other’s way. Yet when others flout the rules—say, when someone cuts a long line that we have been waiting in at the coffee shop—we we feel not only that cooperation has broken down; we also tend to feel that in cutting the line, the cutter wronged us in some way. And so it goes for many of the rules pertaining to etiquette and manners, they have moral content.
In On Manners (Routledge, 2011), Karen Stohr examines the morally complex world of etiquette. She maintains that rules of etiquette and manners are expressions of deeper moral principles. Considering a broad range of kinds of social contexts, Stohr develops a compelling account of the nature and philosophical significance of having good manners.