Mark Alfino
Gonzaga University
Ethicists don't discuss etiquette very much, in part because it has always seemed too close to the surface of social interaction and too ephemeral or conventional for theory. But I suspect that most people, even philosophers, would agree that social etiquette often reinforces and complements our ethical intuitions. For example, in social etiquette we draw a line between reasonable and normal questions to ask others and questions which pry, invade privacy, or otherwise embarrass them. A natural justification of this practice is that it conserves personal autonomy by helping people control information about themselves and decide for themselves how and when to disclose information. Many of the practices of "polite culture" serve similar, if less profound, purposes.
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