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Thursday, August 10, 2006 

Real honour

I'm reading a book by a pschologist about evil, where he operationally defines evil as causing intentional harm. He approaches evil from the perspective of the people who do evil in a largely (so far) successful attempt to better understand it. He also distinguishes evil in the real world from the myth of pure evil so often found in popular culture.

It strikes me as odd that I would find a succinct explanation of the concept behind real honour in such a book.

Idealism leads to evil primarily because good, desirable ends provide justification for violent or oppressive means. Evil is not likely to result when people firmly believe that ends do not justify means. If they evaluate their methods by the same lofty standards by which they judge their goals and purposes, evil will be held in check.
-Roy F. Baumeister, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty

He doesn't refer to this as the basis of honour, but it is.

It's tragic that so many of the people who speak most often about honour and who refer to honour and its defense as motives for terrible actions don't seem to have a grasp of this concept.

Or maybe they just are evaluating their means with the same standards they evaluate their ends, and their standards just kind of suck?

Okay, that's a bit of a flippant response, but that is a very good quote.

Flippant or no, there's probably some truth to it with some people.

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