HonorShame.com write-up of Honor in the Modern World


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The honor blog with probably the highest traffic is Honorshame.com, which “offers practical tools and training for Christians ministering in honor-shame contexts.”  As I mentioned in an earlier post, their contributors have a vast amount of real-world experience gained from evangelizing in honor cultures around the globe, and certainly have a lot to teach academics about honor psychology.

Anyway, thanks to HonorShame for their comments on Honor in the Modern World: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.


Christian visitors to this blog might be interested in their upcoming conference at Wheaton College (Chicago) next June.

“Ethics for Adversaries” blog

I just found this blog–looks great, and should be of interest to people who stumble across this one.

Ethics for Adversaries   how to play fair when you re playing to win.png

Here is what the EFA blog is about:

This blog is based on a hypothesis: that we made a slight mistake when we carved out the sub-fields of ethics and political philosophy. The blog will not, for the most part be trying to prove this hypothesis in a heavy-handed way, but hopes to make it a little more compelling by way of examples.

What was the mistake? At some point “we” assigned some scholars to work on the foundations of moral theory, and others to work on the foundations of political philosophy, and then several other mutually exclusive bands of scholars to look into the peculiar ethical challenges facing professionals working within particular kinds of institutions and professions, like business, law, politics, international relations, journalism, accounting, international relations and, say, sports.

So what’s the hypothesis? That there just may be something similar about the challenges faced in design of all the aforementioned institutions, and also in the ethical dilemmas faced by people working within these settings. And further, that the challenges of designing and justifying these institutions may strain any more foundational theories of justice that have not adequately accounted for how different these competitive institutions are from other “merely administrative” institutions. (And we suspect this includes almost all famous theories of justice — not least John Rawls’s.)

The institutions, professions, and practices that we will be exploring throughout this blog are what we might call “deliberately adversarial.” They set up highly — but never completely — regulated competitions in order (ideally, in principle, as if by an invisible hand) to benefit those outside the competitions. We do not need to use free(ish) markets to produce and distribute goods and services, but if we do so in the right way, consumers should get better value for their money. We have not always had an adversarial legal system, or democratic elections, but when we do, citizens should be less likely to face injustice. We could have events where athletes show off their individual physical talents, but we tend to find competitive sports, where they do this in an attempt to win, a more satisfying spectator experience.

When does it make sense to try to get results from competitions rather than merely by attempting to achieve them directly? Why aren’t cooperation, mutual deliberation, and professionalism more efficient and just ways to deliver services? And if we do need to structure competitive environments, how do we ensure that the system won’t be “gamed” by the players so that they benefit more than the intended beneficiaries (like consumers, criminal suspects, or the general public)?

Pinker’s three objections to dignity as an independent moral value


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IN 2008, Steven Pinker wrote a New Republic essay titled “The Stupidity of Dignity,” which slammed George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics’ report Human Dignity and Bioethics. Pinker objected to the frequent and central appeals to “dignity” in the Report’s moral rationales. The first few sections of Pinker’s essay criticize the uniquely Judeo-Christian—especially Catholic—conception of dignity the Council assumes. But later in the essay Pinker offers three objections to dignity as a “foundation for bioethics.”


In fact, Pinker’s three objections to dignity-based (or “dignitarian”) arguments in bioethics, if sound, would undermine such rationales in all areas of applied ethics. And since Pinker’s concerns are still often echoed in philosophy forums—indeed, in some recent talks these sorts of objections have been levied in reply to my dignitarian defense of gun rights—it’s still worth our time to consider them.

In this post, then, I’m going to critique Pinker’s objections to dignitarian rationales. My reply will not assume any particular conception of dignity (Catholic or otherwise), so it should be useful to all sorts of dignitarians. Nonetheless, this is a purely defensive exercise in that I don’t offer any new reasons to think dignitarian concerns should play a role in applied ethics. I simply argue that Pinker’s objections fail to show they shouldn’t.

Dignity: relative or objective?

Pinker’s first objection to the relevance of dignity in bioethics is that dignity is relative: Continue reading

“The Honor of Human Rights”

Recently published in Human Rights Review: “The Honor of Human Rights: Environmental Rights and the Duty of Intergenerational Promise,” by Richard Hiskes (Political Science, Grand Valley State).


The Honor of Human Rights  Environmental Rights and the Duty of Intergenerational Promise   SpringerLink.png


Honor in the Modern World: Interdisciplinary Perspectives



I’m happy to report—somewhat belatedly—that Honor in the Modern World is now for sale!

Edited by Laurie Johnson and me, the book is probably the most interdisciplinary study of honor yet. We are very grateful to our contributors—many of whom contribute to this blog—for their excellent and highly original essays.

After a century-long hiatus, honor is back. Academics, pundits, and everyday citizens alike are rediscovering the importance of this ancient and powerful human motive. This volume brings together some of the foremost researchers of honor to debate honor’s meaning and its compatibility with liberalism, democracy, and modernity. Contributors—representing philosophy, sociology, political science, history, psychology, leadership studies, and military science—examine honor past to present, from masculine and feminine perspectives, and in North American, European, and African contexts. Topics include the role of honor in the modern military, the effects of honor on our notions of the dignity and “purity” of women, honor as a quality of good statesmen and citizens, honor’s role in international relations and community norms, and how honor’s egalitarian and elitist aspects intersect with democratic and liberal regimes.

The table of contents can be see on Amazon, along with lots of sample viewing. Consider ordering a copy for your school’s library, as the book includes essays useful for philosophers, political scientists, historians, international relations scholars, psychologists, and military academicians.

Tony Cunningham, “Good Citizens: Gratitude and Honor”


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Great talk by Tony Cunningham (Philosophy, St. Benedict/St. John’s) on the moral importance of gifts and gratitude—even for a liberal society—from an honor perspective. This is a preview of a chapter Tony has graciously written for the forthcoming Honor in the Modern World: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Thanks for posting on your Youtube channel, Laurie!



Craig Bruce Smith: “Rightly to Be Great: Ideas of Honor and Virtue among the American Founders”



I just discovered this great lecture by honorethics.org contributor Craig Bruce Smith (he was too humble to point it out to us!), and he agreed to let me post it on this blog.


One of Craig’s book projects is Rightly to Be Great: Honor, Virtue, Ethics and the American Revolution. Here’s a short description of it.  
“Rightly to Be Great” tells the history of the Revolution through an ethical lens. It shows that a colonial ethical transformation caused and became inseparable from the American Revolution, creating a continuing moral ideology. This manuscript centers on several generations of Americans who came of age before the Revolution and climbed to prominence during it. These founders are remembered for their contributions to American independence and the creation of a nation, but while they were forming this new republic, they reflected on the ethics of their deeds. They wanted the country to succeed, but not at the cost of honor or virtue. These two concepts were at the forefront of the American founders’ minds as they traveled the precarious road to independence. “Rightly to Be Great” traces the development of honor and virtue in the lives of people such as Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and other individuals from the elite, middling and lower classes. It also incorporates groups that have historically been excluded from the discussion of honor, such as women and African Americans. Using a narrative writing style and a deep core investigation into members of these Revolutionary generations, this project traces extensive changes over time and analyzes how thought influenced action.

Mike Austin raises the issue of the postgame handshake


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Mike Austin (Eastern Kentucky) is one of the top philosophers of sport. In a recent blog post for Psychology Today, Austin notes that Kentucky high schools are now being advised to discontinue the practice of postgame handshakes.

Sports and the Postgame Handshake   Psychology Today

As reported by the Lexington Herald Leader,

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has issued a “Commissioner’s Directive” advising schools not to hold organized post-game handshake lines because of too many fights and physical conflicts.

“While it is an obvious sign of sportsmanship and civility, many incidents have occurred … where fights and physical conflicts have broken out,” according to the Commissioner’s Directive that went to schools on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the adrenaline and effort required to participate in the sport sometimes seems to deplete the supply of judgment available to participants.”

According to the missive, more than two dozen fights in the past three years in Kentucky have broken out at post-game ceremonies. Although athletic and school officials were buzzing about the order Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Julian Tackett downplayed the order, saying it was “much ado about nothing.”

There are no rules requiring the post-game handshake, and too many times, there hasn’t been enough supervision to stop conflicts during the ceremony. Students can still shake hands with other players voluntarily.

“You’re on notice, if you’re going to do this, you’re going to be accountable,” Tackett said.

Austin asks a number of questions about the handshake ritual that directly appeal to honor:
Sports and the Postgame Handshake   Psychology Today
You can contribute to the online discussion here.

David Harsanyi: “Bring Back Dueling”



Admit it: every once in a while you think it…

Bring Back Dueling





Friedrichs and Berg: “Rhodes must fall: from dignity to honour values”


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In an OpenDemocracy post published today, Joerg Friedrichs (International Development, Oxford) and Ryan Berg (currently a doctoral student at Brasenose College, Oxford) argue that the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford exemplifies the pernicious qualities of an emerging moral culture that honors victimhood, stifles speech, and privileges feelings over facts.

RMF protester

Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Friedrich and Berg’s analysis builds off of an important article by Bradley Campbell (Sociology, UCLA) and Jason Manning (Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia) entitled “Microaggression and Moral Cultures.” Campbell and Manning persuasively argue that we are transitioning from a dignity-based culture to an honor-based one of victimhood. By “dignity” culture they mean one that sees everyone as innately endowed with an unearned and inalienable moral worth. On this scheme, our basic moral equality is assumed, assaults on welfare and property are punished by a central authority, and insults are largely disregarded and thus comparatively rare. This regime replaced the traditional honor culture on which some people have more value than others, personal value could be easily lost through shame and insult, and riposte to offense had to be handled personally—the traditional honor culture.

Cecil Rhodes

“To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could; I often think of that. It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far.”

According to Campbell and Manning, the new honor culture of victimhood combines and inverts various aspects of its predecessors. Like a traditional honor culture, victimhood culture is highly stratified and is highly sensitive to insult. However, it elevates victims and demotes non-victims, which traditional honor cultures would find bizarre. Moreover, on it offenses to dignity are properly handled by authorities, not personally, as if they were “material” attacks on person or property (hence “microaggressions” and not the more accurate micro-offenses). These appeals to authority are what makes this honor culture so dangerous to free speech and inquiry. 

For their part, Friedrichs and Berg take no stance on whether the Rhodes statue should fall. What they bemoan is the way RMF activists hijack debate with the imperative of their offense and puritanical zeal. Here’s a teaser:

While students were not that supportive, the RMF movement found resonance with the media. This was due to the fact that those campaigning associated themselves, in sometimes tenuous ways, with the victims of colonialism, racism, and other forms of vicitimisation. The movement thus exemplified the move towards offense taking and the celebration of victimhood. It hardly occurred to the campaigners that an honest dialogue about Rhodes, his highly controversial legacy, and the merits and demerits of censoring history might have been more befitting of Oxford than trying to sanitize the place from anything potentially offensive and unpleasant, such as association with an ambivalent and flawed character like Cecil Rhodes.

I encourage you to read the whole post: “Rhodes must fall: from dignity to honour Values.”