Ethics and etiquette: Assignment 6

phonesIn class on Thursday we talked about the relationship between ethics and etiquette, in particular when it comes to the use of mobile computing devices such as smart phones.

“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.”

Listen to Karen Stohr here,

Comment on the blog explaining how Stohr thinks ethics and etiquette are connected. Give an example of an ethical or etiquette question related to smart phone use, give one resolution, and say what it makes it an ethical problem or a matter of etiquette or both. 500 words.

Due Wednesday, March 12th, by noon.


9 thoughts on “Ethics and etiquette: Assignment 6

  1. Eric Pattara says:

    Upon listening to Karen Stohr explain the connections between ethics and etiquette, it becomes clear that etiquette communicates the moral attitudes set in place by society, or the ethics of a society. She found this connection through simple observation of everyday social interactions between people. One in-depth example she uses is the matter of standing in line: It is commonly understood that when there is sufficient demand for a service, it is normal for a line to form to allow people to receive such a service in an orderly fashion. If someone were to deviate from such a fashion, such as by cutting through the line to get to the front before those who have been waiting, this breaches both the etiquette and ethics of the situation. Not only is cutting to the front of line an impolite gesture, but it demonstrates an attitude in which the cutter has regarding those they have cheated, and sets a precedent which defies the social norm. Of course, putting things into perspective, cutting in line would normally be seen as a minor breach in ethics, leaning more on the etiquette side, but the connection can be plainly seen. In short, Stohr’s thesis (stated in her book, “On Manners”) states that manners are a means by which to express one’s deeper moral beliefs.
    With regards to the ethics and etiquette associated with smart phones, much could be said to demonstrate Stohr’s points on the subject. One thing that comes to mind that could reflect on the connection between etiquette and ethics for smartphones is the matter of borrowing a phone in the event of urgent need. Based on a personal experience, I can say that my sister was less than pleased when I allowed a stranger to make a phone call using my smart phone, claiming that I was basically “handing my information over for his use,” and I’ll admit, while I didn’t see the issue at the time (I was simply doing the polite thing and letting him call someone), I can understand how a person could be lead to think that way. The smart phone has been evolving over the years, like all technology. What was once the option of email or simple internet browsing on one’s phone has become as much as being able to run multiple social networks, manage bank accounts, and pay bills through a mobile device. Personally I don’t use my phone to run my life, however, I do have social networking and a password-protected banking application on my phone to keep track of my finances, and having this information compromised would be somewhat of an inconvenience. However, with regards to smart phones, the majority of cases that could be looked at from an etiquette or ethical perspective would be held in responsibility of the user of the phone, as most information is made useable through them. Given the choice to lend their phone to someone, I feel it lies as a matter of etiquette, with some ethical considerations.

  2. Lily K says:

    In her interview, Stohr explains that rules of etiquette and the norms of good manners that we accept in our everyday interactions with others are expressions of deeper moral principles. She then continues her discussion by giving us an example of an individual who cuts the line in a coffee shop. Although this may differ across cultures, in North America, cutting the line is viewed as rude on the basis of moral principles and etiquette. Not only is the act of cutting the line rude and offensive, but according to Kant, this act would also be morally wrong because it implies that the individual who is cutting the line is more important than everybody else who is waiting. This example demonstrates how neither ethics nor etiquette can act alone, but rather, how the two concepts are constantly overlapping with one another.

    Towards the end of her interview, Stohr discusses the question of ethics and etiquette in relation to technology. She illustrates that originally, the issue of technology would not have been an ethical problem, or a matter of etiquette. Before smart phones became a crucial part of our everyday lives, one would simply ignore interruptions caused by technology. For example, if you had invited a guest to your house and were engaging in a conversation, you would typically not get up from your seat to answer the phone if it rang; because the person in front of you is supposed to have priority. This would be a matter of having proper etiquettes in front of your guest. However, if another individual approached you mid-conversation and initiated conversation, would you ignore them or speak to them as well? From an ethical and etiquette perspective, chances are that you would engage in conversation with the other individual as well, for it would be rude to blatantly ignore that person. Now, let us return to our modern day society, where the use of smart phones are prominent in our everyday lives. When an individual replies back to a text message mid-conversation, some people would perceive this to be “a total clouding of an ethical rule”, but is it really? The ways in which we think about conversations have changed. Instead, the individual receiving a text message may find it rude to simply ignore the text message, just like how it would be rude to ignore a third individual if they approached you mid-conversation. In conclusion, Stohr mentions how “some of the old rules apply and sometimes there are new rules, but if they are all motivated by same kinds of moral concerns, then there should be some continuity.”

    To further expand on Stohr’s notion of continuity, in my opinion, a good example of ethics and etiquette in relation to smart phone use can be found within the present day classroom. Although smart phones are allowed in the classroom, is it okay to constantly use your device? Let us reflect about classroom etiquette in general by looking back at the days where smart phones were not used at all. If I was sitting next to a friend who would constantly speak to me during my teacher’s lesson, chances are we would get a warning to quiet down, or eventually get separated from one another. It was ‘rude’ to speak to one another when the teacher was talking, and it was also distracting for our peers. In university, while texting in class may not necessarily be distracting for my peers, it is still distracting for the student, and it is still rude to be preoccupied with another activity while the professor is giving a lecture. Of course, there comes a time in elementary school where someone would disrupt the class because of an emergency…And like today, you may be expecting an important call or message from another individual who will also disrupt your professor’s lecture, but in the end there must still be some continuity. The rules of etiquette would suggest that using my smart phone in class is rude, just how speaking to my classmate back in elementary school would also be rude. One could resolve this problem by telling their classmate that they can speak to them once the teacher is done speaking, just like how one can quickly respond to their friend’s text message by informing them that they are busy in a lecture.

  3. Brittany H says:

    Karen Stohr argues “rules of etiquette and norms of good manners that we accept everyday are not simply instruments for coordinating social behaviour, but rather deep moral principles.” She explains that there are ‘rules’ guiding our everyday actions that are often go beyond being polite. An example she discusses in great detail is when someone cuts a line in a coffee shop. She argues this person has not only violated proper etiquette, but has also acted unethically. She classifies this as an act against ethics because other people have been wronged by that individual’s actions. Those in line were forced to wait longer as the person’s actions communicate that they are more superior than those waiting. This results in the people waiting in line being offended, “quite rightly”, as Stohr puts it. By cutting a line, the person is directly acting against the belief that we are one amongst equals. This example effectively proves Stohr’s belief that ethics and etiquette are overlapping constructs.

    Using a personal phone while at work is an example of an action that is a breach in ethical behaviour and etiquette. Proper work etiquette is that it is rude to text or take phone calls while in a meeting, talking with colleagues, or while you are receiving instruction. This is also a breach of ethics because you are being paid by your company to have your full attention on work related activities. When a person uses their smartphone for personal matters at work, they are being distracted from their task at hand, and are not acting in accordance to what they are being paid for. Similar to Stohr’s example of cutting a line, this is unethical because others are wronged as a result of the action. The boss of the company, who is paying their employee for maximum productivity, is not getting the true value of the employee because the employee’s attention is on their personal phone.

    To make this example clearer, consider a worker paid hourly to pick apples. If they were to text on the job, their work performance would likely suffer, and they would have picked less apples by the end of their shift. This not only breaches the proper etiquette of work, but also wrongs the boss since he or she has less to apples picked for the same amount paid to the workers. Smartphones at work do not only wrong the employer, but can also effect others in the situation. Consider a grade school teacher. If a teacher were to text while students are in the classroom, her attention is shifted from what she is getting paid for, teaching, to texting or taking a call. As a result, the students suffer because they are not receiving the education they should be. In order for this issue to be avoided, it is essential that managers explain that smartphones should never distract employees from doing their job.

  4. Spencer Page says:

    Karen Stohr, author of the book “On Manners”, explains that the rules of etiquette and the norms of good manners that are generally accepted in society, are more than ways to govern social behavior. They are, she argues, expressions of deep moral principles. Stohr states that individuals think of rules of etiquette as “conventional and culturally specific” however there is also the tendency to think of etiquette as trivial matters. Further, she points out that there is not a clear distinction between etiquette and ethics, as the territory between them is intermingled. These so-called rules of etiquette can be different across cultures, however manners typically do not vary in the same way. The principle of manners is a set of rules that essentially speak to the respect that one individual has towards another. The rules of etiquette, on the other hand, are specific conventions about how to put this into practice. This concept is exemplified when we consider what could happen while standing in line. Taking one’s place at the back of the line is the normally accepted convention when one is waiting for something to occur (admittance to a theatre or entertainment venue, waiting to pay for a product or service and the like). While this is not a rule of etiquette, it is most certainly considered rude to cut to the front of the line, just because the individual doesn’t have time to wait, or doesn’t feel like waiting. Herein the individual is making an exception for himself or herself. The success of a line-up depends on individuals accepting the normal convention by taking their place at the back of the line. By cutting to the front, the individual is blatantly communicating the attitude that they the think they are superior to everyone else. This situation demonstrates how the salient features of etiquette and ethics can overlap.
    With the rapid advancements and innovations in the technology industry, people are able to communicate with each other in a much more efficient manner through the use of smartphone devices. While the physical and conceptual distance between people may be greater (in comparison to an in-person conversation), this technology can be seen as bringing people closer together because of the practical, and far-reaching mode of communication it allows for. However, the use of this new technology raises questions around ethics and etiquette, and what should stand as normal or accepted conventions. To emphasize the point, we must consider etiquette around live conversation versus etiquette around smartphone communication. During an in-person conversation, it would be considered rude or bad manners to do anything to divert your attention from the speaker. So a ringing phone, for example, should be ignored while a conversation is in process because convention dictates that the person speaking is more important than the person who is phoning. However, this convention is beginning to wane in the presence of smartphones, because people have become used to being interrupted when having a conversation via text or smartphone, and these interruptions have become more accepted. In fact, it is becoming more commonplace to adopt this etiquette around smartphone use. Users today believe that it is rude to ignore a text in the same way, as it would be rude to ignore someone who came up to you in person, while you were conversing with someone else. Personally I believe the rules around smartphone etiquette are still evolving and there is much room for improvement. I have had first hand experience where people have offended me by their behavior with a smartphone in my presence. In my view, there is not a single solution to the smartphone problem because there are so many circumstances for its use, however since these problems are so wide spread, I believe that education is required to enlighten the public on smartphone etiquette. Through viral campaigns, formal education, and enforcement in public places regarding appropriate smart phone usage, I believe that slowly, but surely, the message will absorbed.

  5. Jitesh Vyas says:

    Karen Stohr investigates ethics, etiquette and their connectedness. Etiquette is defined as a code of behaviour that sets expectations for society and its social classes and groups. Ethics is defined as moral principles that govern a person or group’s behaviour. Nevertheless it is difficult to differentiate between the two at a small scale because both etiquette and ethics pose the question of what is correct and incorrect to do and so they have similarities.

    In differentiating, Stohr says that the etiquette is conventional and culturally specific while ethics and morals are not. Stohr goes on to say that etiquette regards small matters that ethics finds negligible such as the positioning of forks during dinner. In a larger scale, ethics can include rules against crimes that get enforced by law as well. Overall, etiquette is heavily tied to culture, and in contrast ethics span across cultures and all types of social classes/ groups.

    I find one occurrence to be particularly interesting, and I have noticed it countless times. We use our phones to turn a blind eye to things. On campus I have noticed that people turn to their phones when they want to avoid ‘awkward encounters’ with people they recognize. Back home in Toronto I see people quickly pull out their phones when they want to avoid a homeless person’s beg for money. Even when in a group setting; when friends are talking amongst each other in a circle, and a mutual friend only known to a few of the friends in the group joins the circle for a brief minute to say ‘hi’, the friends who do not know the new entrant turn to their phones to casually ‘check texts’. The individuals checking their phones are most likely waiting for an introduction of some sort, but I have been guilty of this too where I use my phone as a scapegoat to avoid interacting with people I do not know.

    Through these three examples I find it interesting how we use phones to avoid certain situations, instead of making eye contact, conversing or introducing ourselves in each occurrence. Although it is rude to ignore text messages or face-to-face conversation, we pre-emptively ignore interactions in the solace of our mobile devices and I think this is poor etiquette. I fear that we as a society are building our personalized world within our phones that make us involuntarily ‘check things’ on our phones at the expense of interacting with the world around us. If my observations are at all valid then I also fear humans developing a norm where interaction with technology overcomes interaction with people.

  6. Aaron Rush says:

    Karen Stohr, is the author of a book titled, “On Manners”. In her book, as well as the interview, she discusses the world of etiquette and ethics, Her view is that the rules related to etiquette are an expressions of one’s moral views. Good etiquette is a societal norm and is a way in which society is meant to conduct itself. The way in which society conducts itself, is a result of our deep down moral principles. She then goes on to argue that the difference between both etiquette and ethics is not fully clear, and is something that is connected.

    An example discussed is one of a coffee shop line in North America. One typically never sees someone else just jumping to the front of the line and ignoring all the other patrons standing behind them. While this may not be the same across different cultures, within North America, the act of cutting a line is seen as something that is rude and goes against proper etiquette. While they might not be doing something that is “illegal” from an etiquette stand point, they are not permitted to simply cut the line. Kant explains that the act of line cutting is wrong because it makes it seem as if you are more important then everyone else who has been waiting in line longer than you.

    As the interview proceeds, it goes into the issue of technology, something that was not around decades ago but now must be discussed. A long time ago, technology would simply be ignored as one continues on with their lives but that is no longer the case. An example would be that when televisions first came out, there was only one television in every home, and when guests came over one would simply turn off the one’s television that they were watching and go talk to their guests. Now with televisions more mainstream, with people having them sometimes in every room in their house, it not so clear. In today’s society with technology being so rampant, it’s important to understand from both an ethical as well as etiquette stand point what is and isn’t allowed.

    An example would be cellphones within groups of people, when walking with a friend and your phone vibrates, do you see what notification you got or ignore it and continue paying attention to your friend. With people now getting notifications from anything on their smartphones, it can be something as simple as a game notification, but as tragic as a family emergency. Is it important for one to keep monitoring every notification they get for emergencies, or should one simply put there phone aside and continue conversing with their friend.
    Karen Stohr explains that while some of the old rules that we followed still apply, it’s important to adapt to the times and create new rules as well. However, seeing as we all are driven by the same innate morals, the roles we all create as a society should be nearly identical.

  7. Jonathan Ing says:

    Though academic philosophy has often put matters of etiquette in the background when discussing ethics, Stohr has brought them back into the forefront in her book, On Manners. Stohr believes that rules of etiquette are conventions that put ethics into practice in an everyday context, as opposed to the “killing is wrong” ethical code that we rarely encounter in real life. We can see that matters such as line cutting and civil driving are matters of etiquette which derive from one’s manners, which in turn, derive one’s core moral beliefs. Moreover, how one reacts in situations where etiquette is applied can express one’s moral attitudes. In the example of line cutting, one who cuts to the front of line can be seen as having the immoral attitude that he holds more importance than everyone else in line.

    One ethical question relating to smartphone use relates to sexting and privacy between consenting individuals. Often, unless a minor is involved, there are no laws, terms, or conditions laid out in this type of agreement, so it becomes a question of ethics/etiquette. To what extent should the recipient of this material concern him/herself with the privacy of the sender? Of course, general etiquette will indicate that there is an unspoken agreement to secrecy and that one should not release any details of the sexting to anyone else. However, in practice, many participants will disregard this principle by either telling others about the activity or exposing the material itself.

    As there are no laws preventing this from happening in many cases, the most impactful resolution would involve heavily promoting the non-disclosure of this multimedia to enact change. However, with society’s penchants for victim blaming and shaming, such a resolution would seem unlikely to be effective in the short-term. Solutions that make it harder to disclose sexting are becoming more popular with apps like Snapchat that will make images visible to a recipient for only up to 10 seconds. Though this sometimes solves the problem, the app does not resolve the ethical root of the problem, which is that people tend to disregard the privacy of others’ sensitive information.

    I would consider these to be violations of an ethical code rather than just etiquette. Individuals should be given a right to privacy and in this case, the material that is being distributed should be treated as confidential because of its sensitive nature. The fact that Snapchat is becoming more popular highlights the importance of privacy for individuals in these arrangements and shows that it should not be taken as merely a matter of etiquette. Furthermore, if we think of what type of person would distribute this type of content to others, it would be someone who is not trustworthy, possibly deceiving, and lacking in empathy, which are traits of an unethical being. The utter disregard for someone who would place an inherent trust in another person is grounds for calling this more of an ethical matter than etiquette.

  8. Aaron Macrae says:

    The culture and society we have grown up in has meticulously shaped our behavior and moral outlook on particular situations and how we should act upon them. Making every day choices based off of these cultural norms we have adapted to, some right and some wrong. Simple etiquette can be quiet obvious, such as not cutting in front of people in line at a coffee shop, similarly this should be in our code of morals to not do this as well. Karen Stohr talks about how these two choices may be overlooked, not to be classified as similar by individuals and society but consequently they are.

    In the interview, Karen Stohr talks about her new book On Manners, and explains the relationship and rules of etiquette and ethics. She speaks of the two objections to the notion that etiquette and ethics are connected in a similar context. Though most individuals don’t consider these two to be thought of in the same context because they think of extremes when classifying them. Stohr notes that may refer to morals by using extremes that often are reinforced by law, such as murder. Stohr believes that although individuals classify theses two using extremes, there is a subjective area between morality and etiquette. The actions of individuals are often reflective of their subjective ethics. Consequently, it is possible to understand the ethics of an individual through their etiquette because etiquette communicates morals.

    In the latter part of the interview the ever so talked about issue of technology is presented. Something that was not always discussed but now being such a large part of our society is always the main focus.

    An example would be cellphones within my group of friends, anytime really when we are all talking you may look around the group and notice that at least one individual is totally secluded from the conversation and plastered to their phone. Why is this? Why can’t teenagers now days give 100% focus to other individuals without thinking about social media or their texting with other friends or wanting to avoid a conversation? It’s highly disrespectful I find that an individual cannot put their phone down for a short period of time and continue conversing with their friends.

    To add on to my example above I mentioned how people use their smartphone devices to avoid awkward situations. I will even admit that I have done this numerous times. I will notice my friends pulling out their phones and pretend to be texting while they walk past their ex or an individual they don’t want to make eye contact or start a conversation with. These situations happen daily for teenagers and I’m sure in some cases adults.

    I find it interesting through these examples I have presented that smartphones are used in numerous ways to block individuals or awkward situations out of their lives. I fear that this may become a social norm as when we have kids they will learn from our actions and our society will become much less conversational based.

  9. Sam Horton says:

    When defining the differences between ethics and etiquette, many issues can arise. Many things we see ethical may also be what we believe to be good etiquette’s, or vice versa. Karen Stohr looks at ethics and etiquette from a cultural standpoint, and states that in different cultures, etiquette and ethics can change, and cause confusion for say foreigners when in other countries. Ethics and etiquette therefore can merge, and become one in the same in many scenarios. For example, when walking down the street, it would be ethical to not be staring at your phone due to potential dangers such as walking into traffic. On the other hand, it may be bad etiquette if you begin walking into people because of your lack of focus, thus becoming a not just a danger to yourself, but a danger and inconvenience to others. Of course one may ask, how do we find solutions to such issues? Passing laws against such activity would encourage many to abide. For example, In Abu Dhabi, chewing gum has been made illegal. This is cause chewing gum can lead to citizens spitting it on the neat streets of the city, which of course is bad etiquette. Ethically, having gum on the neat streets of a city is of course disgusting. Thos governing Abu Dhabi found not other solution to the problem other than fining those caught chewing gum, ultimately eliminating the issue. Such an example is a prime example of what Karen Stohr is trying to explain when she speaks about the issues revolving around ethics and etiquette in other cultures. This also shows us the power governments have over how ethics and etiquette are shaped, and therefore a law against walking while using a mobile device becomes a more plausible solution to such a socially sensitive and technology driven issue. But, if laws that are placed into effect don’t work, than what is there to stop people from unethical wrong doings, or bad etiquette. Downloading music illegally is of course illegal, but because the law fails to monitor the majority of it, people continuously practice such crime. The law of course is in place because it is seen as an unethical thing to do, but because the law can’t do anything to stop it, than does that make it an ethical act in the eyes of society? Smoking marijuana is seen as bad etiquette in society, and unethical in the eyes of Canadian Law, yet society still continues to accept it more and more. Thus, society’s view on things has a play on what is considered good etiquette, and what is considered ethical, and as times change, society’s influence on what is good etiquette and what is ethical changes as well.

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