#7: On etiquette

From the October 8th, 2018 issue of the New Yorker: (accents are mine)

The question of how we ought to comport ourselves in the public sphere has preoccupied philosophers for millennia. Confucius’ teachings address etiquette, as, arguably, do Plato’s, in “Laws,” when he catalogues how various types of guests from abroad should be treated. And if Jesus walks through our world in disguise, rudeness is un-Christian. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” the New Testament warns. Various theories of etiquette’s purpose have been posited over the centuries. Erasmus had a magnanimous conception when he wrote, in 1530, of the rustic’s duty to “compensate for the malignity of fate with the elegance of good manners,” whereas the Victorians saw the role of etiquette as something closer to a behavioral amulet capable of protecting one from the polluting forces of vulgarity and vice. The social anthropologist, classicist, and etiquette historian Margaret Visser wrote, in her canonical 1991 book, “The Rituals of Dinner,” that manners “do not constitute virtue, but they do set out to imitate virtue’s outward appearance.”