The Modern Man’s Honor Code


Since primeval times man has kept for himself various codes of conduct. The first codes of conduct, or honor codes, were very simple and had a clear reason for existing: be strong and courageous so that the tribe may survive. The first honor codes were codes designed for survival, but there have also been codes based upon virtue, morality, and conformity.

In general, honor codes have been designed to promote a common interest. The first codes were designed for the pure, raw survival of the tribe or village. Later codes were designed to not just instruct men in the ways of common defense, but to give guidance and motivation to conduct oneself in a way which will bring about the common good.

However, in modern times men have questioned truth, whether we can know what is good, and whether good even exists. It is largely because of the falling away from a standard of what the common good is that we no longer have any honor code. If we cannot agree upon what we ought to do, how can one be compelled to act in a way that achieves that end? If we do not know the end which we seek, how can we reach that end?

Although we “modern” men may not agree on the common good, our recent ancestors were able to do so to a certain extent. They understood that men should hold to a moral lifestyle, live courageous yet humble lives, and they believed that men should defend their sacred honor even with force.

Only a few centuries ago duels were a normal part of life. Yet while men may have fought each other vigorously when they thought themselves wronged, they believed that they should be gentle and kind to their equals.

Nowadays this sort of honor code, which one can find existing in the very near past, seems very primitive. Our modern lives are based upon something that is very nearly the antithesis to our grandfather’s honor code. We are told to encourage tolerance and diversity; we should not use physical force upon each other; we can by no means force our beliefs upon others; and we should respect everyone equally.

199px-Ghent_Altarpiece_E_-_Knights_of_ChristThe modern man sees himself as the product of reason, scientific advancement, and social progress. The modern man no longer needs to defend his values by force, and the modern man should not consider his ideas any more valid than the next man’s.

Traditional honor, and indeed all honor, is based upon the constant evaluation of each man by his peers with regard to his conformity to the code, respect for those who adhere to the code, and shaming of those who disrespect the code.

Of course, we are now taught that we should not judge each other’s conduct, all men are due equal respect, and it is despicable to put someone to shame. However, if you were to break this honor code, the ones who so adamantly claim that we must be tolerant will judge you to be intolerant, they will not respect you, they will scorn you, and they will do what they can to humiliate or shame you.

We have never gotten rid of the honor code; we have simply created for ourselves a new code, one based upon the rejection of all honor codes. Our current honor code is a paradox, it is a contradiction. How rational, how scientific, how progressive we are!

Is this not despicable? Is this not a blatant rejection of reason? Is this not unscientific and unprogressive?

It should be clear that our current honor code is a fallacious and incomplete standard for social conduct. It is time to replace it, or, at least, amend it.

With what then should we replace the Tolerance Code? I do not have a full or complete answer, but in the area of scholastic endeavors, academic study, and rational discourse, we must have some better honor code.

The code which I propose is a simple one, it does not require a large amount of study or contemplation to understand, and it is one that any rational being should be able to recognize as self-evident.

The modern man conducts himself in a rational, scientific, and just manner, he does not allow himself to be swayed by mere passions, his beliefs are not contradictory, they are logically sound, and they are academically honest. The modern man is humble enough to accept defeat when his case has been refuted, he will acknowledge his defeat if he has been bested, and if he will not be persuaded to change his position, he will rethink his case, rebuild it, and continue the debate.

To this code any intellectual should be able to adhere. When one finds someone in violation of the code, call him out and ask him to explain his error. If it is indeed an error, compel him to change his position. If he will not be persuaded, realize that he has violated the intellectual honor code; he has forsaken his credibility as a thinker.

Although honor codes may have changed over time, for the man who values reason, this code of honor, the code of reason, cannot be ignored. We, as thinkers, must be humble enough to realize when we have been had. We should also be proud enough to refuse to budge from our code.

Note: For further reading on the history of honor codes, I would recommend reading this blog series on which lays out a fairly comprehensive history of honor codes throughout the ages.

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