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We need to bring honour back

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Recently, over lunch, a fellow writer uttered a statement that surprised me. A colleague of mine described the tendency of people to publish private digital communications. Kanye West recent leaks a text message from his personal trainer, or Vox journalist decision Publish Twitter Message From Former Crypto Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried — as a glaring “disgrace”.

The idea that our actions should not be guided only by respect for the law, nor by any particular moral code, but by a sense of honor is out of fashion. Google’s Ngram viewer, which tracks how often is used, shows a sharp decline in the use of the word.honor“, “honorable” and “dishonorable” From the early nineteenth century to the present. Use of all three words decreased by approximately 90% over this period.

When members of the British Parliament hurl insults at “honorable” members sitting across the floor, or indeed on their own side, we are expected to take this descriptor seriously. not

It may be an outdated idea, but if these lawmakers had a sense that they should behave with honor, we would have much better politicians. tell the truth And even if you thought you could pull off the opposite, you’re doing the right thing.

It never happened. About 400 years ago, when William Shakespeare was writing, having a sense of honor was considered the key to living a worthy and honorable life. my honor is my lifeBoth grow into one: take my honour, and my life is over,” said Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Richard II.

Since then, however, Honor has fallen considerably from grace. Part of the reason has to do with class hierarchies. For example, the practice of dueling was deeply embedded in the culture of aristocratic honor.honor killing‘, the person who is thought to have brought ‘disgrace’ to the family (usually a woman) is killed, often by his own relatives.

“Honor is associated with these old-fashioned systems of rank and nobility…and with violence,” said a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, Code of Honor: How Moral Revolutions Happen. But to blame such things on the concept of honor itself is to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” he tells me.

Instead, we should think of honor not as a value system per se, but as a way of making sure we are behaving in a manner worthy of respect. “The psychology of honor is tied to all sorts of values, and those values ​​may or may not be good,” says Appiah. But overall, “people will behave better if you have a culture where people want to do the right thing because they deserve respect.”

Appiah argues that codes of honor do not necessarily reflect the moral codes of the society in which they operate. Honor should actually be thought of as a separate and distinct system for regulating behavior that may conflict with prevailing moral codes. However, in the same way that dueling is condemned by the church, so is Islam.

we live in a society obsessed with signal virtueThat is what we claim to believe, and that seems to be of the utmost importance. We can dishonor as much as we want by leaking communications or layering someone’s opinions on Twitter because they’re deemed too bland.

But by focusing so much on claimed beliefs rather than what we do, we lose sight of some of the core values ​​that hold society together.

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston Why Honor Matters He tells me. “Courage is a very good thing that honor motivates.”

Conducting well means doing the right thing, even or especially when it may not benefit you personally. A society that can take this approach will surely be a better place. We have to learn to honor honor again.


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