The virtues of our vices : a modest defense of gossip, by Emrys Westacott

By Emrys Westacott

Are there occasions whilst it is correct to be impolite? do we distinguish among reliable and undesirable gossip? Am I a snob if i believe that NPR listeners usually are higher educated than devotees of Fox information? Does unwell humor do someone any stable? am i able to imagine your ideals are absurd yet nonetheless admire you?

In The Virtues of Our Vices, thinker Emrys Westacott takes a clean examine very important daily moral questions--and comes up with excellent solutions. He makes a compelling argument that a few of our most typical vices--rudeness, gossip, snobbery, tasteless humor, and disregard for others' beliefs--often have hidden virtues or serve unappreciated yet beneficial reasons. for example, there are occasions whilst rudeness could be essential to aid a person with an issue or to exhibit an incredible message. Gossip can foster intimacy among pals and decrease abuses of strength. And doubtful humor can alleviate existential anxieties.

Engaging, humorous, and philosophically refined, The Virtues of Our Vices demanding situations us to reconsider traditional knowledge in terms of daily ethical behavior.

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These categories are not exclusive. The simplest cases that fall into this category involve someone speaking abusively to someone else, perhaps calling him a jerk, or telling him in salty language to go away. In such cases, the statement is usually about the person being addressed, but sometimes the speaker’s primary purpose is to communicate her own state of mind. Whether or not one considers the rudeness justified depends on one’s general position regarding explicit rudeness and the specific circumstances surrounding the incident.

Smith is likely to be more serious; but it may not be. And the fact that blackmail is illegal seems irrelevant, since this could easily not be the case. indb 33 7/30/11 10:55 AM Chapter 1 to meet but which is met by these other harmful acts. Perhaps it is possible to tighten the definition of rudeness in this way; but in the absence of plausible suggestions, it is reasonable to be skeptical. Acceptable intentional rudeness John Henry Newman wrote, “[I]t is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain”18 (to which some wit wickedly added—“unintentionally”).

In such situations, thoughtful people can be genuinely torn between not wanting to embarrass or offend anyone and wishing to comport themselves in accordance with their beliefs. When the latter motive prevails, it is important to recognize that their rudeness may be a sign of both intellectual autonomy and integrity. A well-known, probably false, but still wonderful anecdote about Beethoven illustrates several of the points just made. The composer was walking through a park with Goethe, twenty years his senior and the most celebrated German author of his time.

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