In 2008 and 2009, my collaborators and I stalked philosophy conferences noting instances of courteous and discourteous behavior. Our aim was to collect evidence about whether ethicists behave any more courteously, on average, than do other philosophers. We used three measures of courtesy:
* talking audibly while the speaker is talking (vs. remaining silent);Ethicists did not behave detectably differently by any of the three measures, thereby proving that they are not Confucian sages. (In fact, there was a session on neo-Confucianism among the coded sessions.)
* allowing the door to slam shut while entering or exiting mid-session (vs. attempting to close the door quietly);
* leaving behind clutter at the end of a session (vs. leaving one’s seat tidy).
We assume that disruptively yakking, littering, and slamming doors tends neither to advance the greatest good, to flow from universalizable maxims, nor to display morally virtuous character traits. Thus, these results fit with Josh Rust's and my overall finding, across several studies, that ethicists behave no morally better, on average, than do other people of similar social background.
We did find, however, that audiences in environmental ethics sessions tended to litter less.
Full details here.