Give attention, if you will, to the virtue of civility. In this essay I want to define civility, then give a bit of its history, continue by predicting something of its future, and conclude by explaining civility's true ground, at least as I understand it.
We are not here interested in politeness or courtesy, though those meanings of "civility" may be ancillary to our topic. We are thinking instead about the political realm, and we are aware that many voices have been raised to decry the mean-spirited and vicious nature of politics, both in attaining and using public office. \Vise people warn us that democratic governance depends on a kind of self-control, by which the participants in the process guard it against internal meltdown. We ought to give careful attention to civility, for democracy may depend on it.
Readers may find much to which they object in this essay, but they will agree that it marks off an interesting topic for discussion. Suggested corrections, at any point, are welcome. The most important thing comes last, for I hope readers will approve of what I say about the ground of civility even if they disagree with my account of what it is, what its history has been, or what its future may be.
Smith, Phil D., "A Basis for Civility" (1996). Truth's Bright Embrace: Essays and Poems in Honor of Arthur O. Roberts. 18.