Fighting the Good Fight

By DAN DEMETRIOU  |  August 25, 2010

Many philosophers mistakenly equate fairness with justice, but honor is as committed to fairness as justice is, in its own combative way. And honor, a counterpoint to justice, may be what we need more of now: justice coordinates and regulates behavior in those ventures where cooperation is called for — but honor regulates and coordinates behavior in situations where competition is called for.

It is certainly a good thing that warrior codes no longer govern, say, the relations of Finland and Norway — now nations must legitimize war by appeal to justice and the common good, and thus sanction the violence of the warrior by the same standards we apply to the policeman. But in a society where violence is acceptable only against an enemy proven to be evil, is it any wonder that we seem intent on turning all our opponents into villains — be they political or personal, theological or theoretical? In the octagon, two combatants enter with conflicting points of view. One mustn't demonize the other. He merely exercises his point of view better than the other fellow. And when they're done, they both leave, agreed. With honor.

Dan Demetriou is writing a book called Honor Among Theories. He can be reached atddemetri@morris.umn.edu.

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