I was chosen to be Bluffton’s Civic Engagement Day scholar for 2018 and so I’ll be lecturing about honor for Civic Engagement Day and at the Presidential Scholarship Competition next week. I had to assign a reading about honor to the prospective students who will be competing for the scholarships, and although there are many interesting books about honor, I couldn’t find anything reasonably short that is also reasonably good, so I wrote an essay for students that I’ve posted here.
The essay is about honor codes, how institutions use honor to influence individual behavior, and how moral foundations theory helps explain both why different honor codes appeal to different people and why Bluffton’s academic honor code has worked so well. I use a broad definition of honor. It is any set of social norms and the specific norms vary over time and from group to group. I contrast this with the narrow definition of some other authors who think that honor is defined as one particular set of ideal social norms. Using a broader definition enables a richer analysis of how honor is used across societies and it helps set up the most important issue of all which is to always question and seek the ideal social norms.