Usually when I rant it’s about discourtesy, incompetence and lack of education I run across in people, But today I’m thinking about the idea of honor.
This comes about from reading “Honor Among Scholars” by Steven Kellman, The Chronicle Review, Oct 3, 2010. [link]
Although I haven’t finished the article yet, several sections have caused me to stop and think.
Kellman says that “.. [I]n Book 9 of The Republic, Plato has Socrates divide humanity into three classes: “lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.”
This immediately made me want to go back re-read The Republic. Previously I have a bad taste in my mouth because of Plato’s attitude toward music and other concepts in this work like developing entire classes of workers and soldiers to serve the Republic.
I figure I am mostly a lover of wisdom. But on reflection I think honor is also important to me. Gain, not so much.
Kellman goes on “In his new book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Norton, 2010), Kwame Anthony Appiah answers Falstaff’s question by defining honor as “an entitlement to respect.” An entitlement, to be sure, is not the same as respect itself
“One can conclude from Appiah’s definition that to be honorable is not to subordinate everything to reputation but rather to act so as to be worthy of respect, regardless of whether anyone actually grants it.
After reading this last sentence, I realized that I spend a great deal of my life attempting to be “worthy of respect” in my own eyes while at the same time noticing but trying not to take into account the fact that few people outside of my nuclear fam “actually grant it.”
I don’t exactly verbalize this way to myself. I think more that I do things for their own sake,whether that is being polite to people who are rude to me or sweating over preparation of music that will be largely ignored by people in the same room I perform. I try to be philosophical and stifle my own immature reaction when people do not “grant the respect” to me that I try to give them until they prove me wrong.
This relates to and leads to me often being underestimated in a time when people are much more concerned about appearances and perception than actual content and competence and education.
Lack of education in others arouses my compassion a bit because I think that I have witnessed a plummeting of the quality of education in the USA from bad to worse. Lack of competence is harder to forgive. But ultimately I work at trying to understand and mildly tolerate or at least be polite to people who can’t function and/or seem to not understand me or even see that I am there.
As long as I don’t see them doing serious damage.
This is where honor comes in.
More Kellman: “While we are appalled but not shocked to find fraudulent bankers and deceitful politicians, disgraceful behavior within a university is especially distressing. It is a betrayal of the trust that is essential to a community of scholars.
Ah yes. The “community of scholars.” There’s actually a book by Paul Goodman by this title.
Would that the reality come closer to this man’s vision. Instead in the many colleges and universities I have had contact with I am afraid the bad stuff often drowned out the good.
I hasten to add that the good for me was usually very good and has contributed to my abilities and my quality of life. Not a day passes that I don’t think in fondness and gratitude of some teachers I had in college. They taught me a great deal about music and also about how to live.
But I also have watched professors act in a way that was embarrassing and unethical.
I have witnessed numerous incidents in the six colleges I have been associated with (four attended, two employed by). Here are some succinct incidents with the names changed to protect the dishonorable.
A professor who humiliates his wife at a dinner with colleagues.
A professor who neglects to hand out student evals and mysteriously later is given tenure and even promoted to chair of the department.
A professor who openly hates other colleagues and works to undermine them.
A professor who professes tolerance even as he privately talks trash about the group whose repression he supposedly champions.
A professor who admitted to copying research for his published work in my presence.
If I wasn’t trying to disguise these a bit I could make them much more colorful. Indeed experiencing each of these incidents took my breath away as I witnessed the calumny.
And these are just the extreme cases.
I would imagine anyone who attends or works at a college for any length of time could probably tell similar stories.
I recommend reading the Kellman article linked above. If you have much experience with college education it will probably provoke thought. I know it is doing this to me.
Besides the Kellman article, I have bookmarked several other online articles I plan to read.
Here’s a list of links.
This one’s self explanatory.
This article is actually about China. Devine apparently contends that China is making the same mistakes that Japan made.
Summers at the heart of mistakes over and over and again.
I bookmarked this to get a glimpse of the inner life of Sofia Tolstoy and how she deals with solitude.
Mao’s little helper appears to be Western Intellectuals. In fact he was also helped at points in his “revolution” by the US government and US officials.
All of these are drawn from the excellent Arts & Letters Daily web site [link]. Recommended.