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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 37, Issue 4, October 2011

Whitley Kaufman
Pages 557-573
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201137433

Understanding Honor
Beyond the Shame/Guilt Dichotomy

The concept of honor continues to be among the most widely misunderstood of human ideals. It has long been claimed that honor is an essentially external ideal, motivated by shame at one's appearance before others rather than an inward sense of guilt, the implication being that honor is a superficial moral ideal and one superseded by the higher ideal of the moral conscience. This account does not, however, stand up to scrutiny; honor is a genuinely "internal" value as much as virtue, and when properly understood cannot be understood as somehow more superficial or less morally advanced than the modern ideal of virtue.