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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores and defends the idea that the etiquette conventions governing dinner parties, whether formal or informal, have moral significance. Their significance derives from the way that they foster and facilitate shared moral aims. I draw on literary and philosophical sources to make this claim, beginning with Isak Dineson’s short story, “Babette’s Feast.” I employ the concept of ritual from Confucius and Xunzi, as well as Immanuel Kant’s detailed discussion of dinner parties in the Anthropology. Kant’s account, in particular, helps illuminate how properly conducted dinners can enhance our understanding and promote moral community among the people who attend. I conclude that dinner parties play an important role in the moral life, and that the etiquette conventions governing them derive their binding force from their contribution to that role.

Keywords: etiquette, conventions, dinner parties, Immanuel Kant, anthropology, Babette’s Feast, Confucius, Xunzi, moral community

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