(1) The practice of courtesy, of encounter with the other’s space and values, of tact and good humour, of acute observation, of listening to what a person is saying and—if really necessary—even reading what he has written before disagreeing with it. Manners spill over benignly into adjacent fields, directed not only towards the other person, but to the natural environment and to oneself.

(2) The whole behaviour of people—their thought and action, the way they go about things, the defining qualities of a person’s existence.


The word “manners” has an early history in the ancient Sanskrit word manu, meaning “thinker”. In due course it came to mean “hand”—as for instance in the Latin (manus) and French (main)—because “thinking”, when applied, means doing something with your hands (or getting someone else to do so).

But thinking-and-doing is what makes a person, so the same word surfaces again in “man”, meaning “people”, as in the Germanic (manna) and Alemannic (itself meaning “all [or at least a wide alliance of] tribes”). And the root of “human” is the Latin homo (man).

If we trace through the tangled threads of inference that make language, man and manners turn out to be the same thing: the craft of thinking.


Related entries:

Introduction > Manners, Politeness, Civility, Conversation, Encounter, Deference, Logic.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!