Honoring the Honorable

Sweet Talk

Sam’s post puts me in mind of a problem Julia Annas spells out with Aristotle’s concept of greatness of soul. By Aristotle’s reckoning, someone with greatness of soul does what is honored by people, but does not do it for the sake of being honored. Instead, he does it out of honor, the noun rather than the verb—because it is the right thing to do. But if that’s the case, then what’s the point of the honoring in the first place? Why do we need to make reference to it at all to describe an honorable person, if it comes from within rather than without?

Sam’s answer is the classic economics one—we need honorable people in the world, and if we make them take on all the costs of being honorable without any reward, there will be fewer of them. This, of course, simply casts aside Aristotle’s requirement for greatness…

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