Assoc. Prof. Megan Laverty 

When civility works to sustain a momentary connection with another in a spirit of congenial fellowship, it reminds us that individuals are independent ‘centers of reality’ when it (Murdoch 1998, 29). With its ability to elicit and express such social virtues as courteousness, congeniality, and liberality, civility is vital to human communication and life. Although Iris Murdoch does not address civility in her philosophical writings, aspects of her thought reveal its inherently moral character and value. In this presentation, I draw upon Murdoch’s philosophy to develop a conception of civility as a modality of attention ‘at a distance.’ I argue that civility encompasses small, social rituals that express, foster, and improve attention, allowing individuals to discern appropriately responsive gestures, words, and acts. As attention is an infinitely perfectible task, so too is civility. We constantly learn what is to count as civil in the context of our interactions as much as we adapt and refine those interactions to reflect our learning. Finally, while civility might work to formalize our social interactions, its deeper purpose is to awaken us to the formlessness that underlies our existence through a realization of contingency and death.