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Civility Paperback – March 3, 1999
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"Carter not only defends the legitimacy of religious argument but provides an impressive example of how a believer may engage in civil debate with fellow citizens who do not share his faith. . . . Stephen L. Carter [is] one of America's leading public intellectuals."-- "New York Times Book Review""Part theology, part ethics, part political science. . . . A thoughtful and provocative book."-- "Publishers Weekly""Carter's passionate plea for the 'we' over the 'me' is most welcome and constructive. . . . Such honesty is rare from an American scholar today."-- "Chicago Tribune""Civility, Stephen Carter reminds us, matters. Its foundations is in the heart and in our love and respect for our fellow human beings. Our institutions, culture, communities, and country cannot long survive the loss of this basic and essential ingredient of civilization. Nor can any of us." -- Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund"Perceptive, insightful, erudite, timely, and yet profound--books just do not come any better." -- Amitai Etzioni, author of "The New Golden Rule""Stephen Carter has become one of the most provocative analysts of American life since de Tocqueville, and one of the easiest to read." Civility" will raise hackles, but always with civility. It's the rare writer who makes you like him even when you disagree. Stephen Carter is a rare writer." -- John Cardinal O'Connor, archbishop of New York
About the Author
Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University.
Born in 1954 in Washington, D.C., Professor Carter was educated in the public schools of New York City, Washington, and Ithaca, New York. In 1976 he received his bachelor's degree with honors from Stanford University, where he majored in history, and in 1979 he received his law degree from the Yale Law School.
Following his graduation from law school, Professor Carter served as law clerk to Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., and, the next year, as law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States. After practicing law for a year, Professor Carter joined the Yale faculty in 1982. Three years later, he became one of the youngest members of the faculty ever voted tenure.
His critically acclaimed books include The Culture of Disbelief and Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby. He is currently at work on Civility, the sequel to Integrity. Professor Carter lives with his family in Connecticut.
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He makes it very clear that he values the moral consensus we seemed to have in the 50's (However with Carter having been born in `54 it is unclear how he knows exactly what that consensus was) and while he makes passing note of the problems of the fifties such as racism and sexism he still wishes to have some sort of return to the values of the fifties while retaining the freedoms of today's world.
What Carter fails to realize is that the moral consensus of the 50's was an imposed one that created the racist and sexist strictures of the 50's. It was 'the good old days' only because the opinions of large sections of the country were totally ignored. Carter's rationale in Civility suggests, rather underhandedly, that we should all be conforming to one moral code. That moral code, in Carter's writing, seems to flow directly from a middle/upper-class, white, Protestant viewpoint.
If Carter's ideas are followed, all recognition of the wonderful different ethnicities and religions that make up this country will vanish. America will again be the melting pot, a homogenous, bland mixture of nondescript gray, with no diversity, no room for freedom of speech, no room for the change that is vital to life.
This is an important book. Mr. Carter does a really good job making the case for civility and how critical it is to our civilization. He uses the metaphor of the three-legged stool to symbolize the pillars upon which our civilization has always rested. The three legs of Mr. Carter's stool are Home, School, and Place of Worship. The idea of the stool being that all three legs were required to provide a sturdy foundation (i.e. if any of the three legs were missing the stool would topple over only having two legs remaining). He argues that this stool is collapsing and along with it so goes our civil society. This is a compelling argument.
The book is full of useful metaphors and word pictures which beautifully illustrate the decline of civility in our world today. One of my favorite passages from the book is "The illusion that we travel life alone is ruining us all." There is deep meaning in that statement and he expounds on this admonition beautifully with the train ride analogy where he suggests our civilization has become much like passengers on a train who fail to recognize their fellow passengers traveling along with them. He suggests we devolved into uncivil, self-centered individuals because we tend to ignore people around us and see ourselves as traveling alone. Sadly, he's right.
I leave you with a summary of some of the quotes from the book which really spoke to me as I read through it and the pages where you may find them.
Page 8 - "The illusion that we travel life alone is ruining us all."
Page 68 - "When we are lazy about our words, we are telling those at whom our vulgarity is directed that they are so far beneath us that they are not worth the effort of stopping to think how best to insult them"
Page 109 -- "the self esteem movement in education is, in the end, deeply uncivil."
Page 199 - "The more we are able to tailor the world to our liking, the less civil we are likely to be."
Page 248 - "love is an activity, not a feeling"
Page 282 - "We must never make the mistake of supposing that democracy requires consensus."
These passages nicely summarize the compelling message Mr. Carter has labored to convey in his important book. It should be required reading for all Americans.
This book and his earlier "Integrity" announce "My idea is to write a series of books exploring elements of good character that are as I wrote [in Integrity] 'pre-political,' by which I mean that we should all struggle to exemplify them, whatever our philosophical or partisan differences." Can any body point me to his later books which continue this purpose?
Most recent customer reviews
urgent need for civility from an
intelligent and articulate law
professor. I highly recommend this book.