Alison Reiheld is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women's Studies at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville. Dr. Reiheld's research interests include civility, feminist philosophy, epistemic injustice in the patient-provider relationship, food ethics, diversity and inclusion in STEM, and the ethics of memory. While seemingly far afield, these are all bound together by careful considerations of power, vulnerability, and attributions of responsibility including blame and praise. Dr. Reiheld is of the considered opinion that philosophy is a life skill and thinking is fun. She came to her PhD in Philosophy from a Bachelor's in Biology by way of Bioethics. In her spare time she coaches a middle school robotics team and edits, as well as occasionally writing for, the scholarly blog of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. To put it simply, she self-identifies as an enormous nerd who feels the need to share the joy of nerding out with others.
"In a morally diverse society, norms of civility allow us to disagree vehemently with each other and nonetheless work together, be neighbors, be fellow citizens, and generally not set each other on fire. Civility constrains our discourse in productive ways. Traditional ways of interpreting civility mean that we must “keep a civil tongue in our head”, must not “rock the boat”, and must put the continuation of a stable civil society above our own personal concerns and certainly above emotional displays. Norms of civility thus gain normative dominance. As I have argued elsewhere, while civility is valuable, understanding civility as fundamentally about respect for persons rather than about continuation of a stable civil society leads to Acceptable Exceptions to the norms of civility. We should be allowed to violate the formal norms of civility so long as we are motivated to do so by respect for persons. It is just such a kind of disruption that civil disobedience and street protests seek to produce. We've seen this in our own community, most recently in Ferguson after the killing of Michael Brown and in the St. Louis Metro area after the acquittal of Jason Stockley in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Yet all too often, such protests are condemned as "uncivil" and the anger of protesters is used to dismiss their speech. This talk examines justified anger in the face of ongoing injustice which violates respect for persons. Such anger and its vehement expression, I argue, are acceptable exceptions to norms of civility. Yet, the very expression of justified anger may itself be silenced, even used as an excuse to silence precisely because it is commonly viewed as a violation of norms of civility. I consider what constitutes justified anger, why anger is an appropriate response in certain circumstances, and the mechanisms used to silence justified anger. This includes the way that audiences sometimes conflate the speaker’s angry critique of an unjust system with an angry critique of those who benefit from it, thereby allowing themselves to accuse the speaker of an even higher level of incivility: personal attack. Using the norms of civility as a basis for silencing those who express justified anger both happens, and is a gross misuse of civility".