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The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happenby Kwame Anthony Appiah
Synopses & Reviews
Long neglected as an engine of reform, honor strikingly emerges at the center of our modern world in Kwame Anthony Appiah's . Over the last few centuries, new democratic movements have led to the emancipation of women, slaves, and the oppressed. But what drove these modern changes, Appiah argues, was not imposing legislation from above, but harnessing the ancient power of honor from within. In gripping detail, he explores the end of the duel in aristocratic England, the tumultuous struggles over footbinding in nineteenth-century China, and the uprising of ordinary people against Atlantic slavery. Finally, he confronts the horrors of "honor killing" in contemporary Pakistan, where rape victims are murdered by their relatives. He argues that honor, used to justify the practice, can also be the most effective weapon against it. Intertwining philosophy and historical narrative, Appiah has created a remarkably dramatic work, which demonstrates that honor is the driving force in the struggle against man's inhumanity to man.
"Rooting his analysis firmly in historical manifestations of honor, Appiah (Cosmopolitanism), a professor of philosophy at Princeton, offers four case studies in what he calls 'moral revolutions,' attesting to how altering notions of honor can provoke positive changes in social behavior. Codes of honor surrounding dueling, Chinese foot binding, the Atlantic slave trade, and the ongoing practice of 'honor killing' in contemporary Pakistan are all examined to reveal the various dimensions of honor as it relates to notions of respect, shame, and dignity. Appiah argues for a distinction between honor and morality that underpins how and why abhorrent practices so often continue despite their criminalization. While the author devotes too much space to basic historical narrative and not nearly enough to the complex issues of how honor relates to morality and how it can be distinguished from the constellation of notions like respect that he draws on, it is nonetheless a compelling read and represents a refreshingly concrete solution to the question of how to alter deeply objectionable, deeply intractable human practices. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
Investigating the progress of revolutions in moral practices, e.g. the collapse of the duel, the end of footbinding, and the end of Atlantic slavery, Appiah (president of the PEN American Center and a professor at Princeton U.) found that, in each case, the idea of "honor" played a central role. For example, footbinding ended after appeals to national honor and slavery ended due to ideas about the honor of workingmen far from the institutions of slavery. Connecting the idea of honor to ethics and to the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia, sometimes translated as "happiness," but used by Appiah to mean "to flourish" or "to live well," he investigates each of the above examples for what they reveal about the connection of honor to ethics and then considers these lessons in the context of the "honor killings" of women in Pakistan. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this landmark work, a leading philosopher demonstrates the revolutionary power of honor in ending human suffering.
About the Author
Kwame Anthony Appiah, the president of the PEN American Center, is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, The Honor Code, and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and is currently a professor at Princeton University.
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