The Public Interest

Honor’s champion

Diana Schaub

Spring 2003

WE know there can be honor among thieves, but who ever heard of  honor among liberals? The word conjures up visions of liege-lords and knights-errant, of chivalry and gallantry. It bespeaks a world enchanted, both beautiful and barbaric. The modern world—democratic and disenchanted—has presumably rejected codes of honor, and it has certainly given up the point d’honneur (the practice of dueling or judicial combat). It isn’t only the forms and trappings of honor that have been lost; as Sharon Krause says in her new book Liberalism With Honor, † even “the language of honor went out of fashion with the French Revolution .... These days honor seems quaint and obsolete, even frivolous, and it makes us vaguely suspicious.” The grounds for suspicion arise from honor’s links to manliness and aristocracy; in other words, honor seems both sexist and elitist.

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