Fighting Fair: The Ecology of Honor in Humans and Animals

In Jonathan Crane (ed.), Beastly Morality. Columbia University Press. pp. 123-154 (2015)
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This essay distinguishes between honor-typical and authoritarian behavior in humans and animals. Whereas authoritarianism concerns hierarchies coordinated by control and obedience, honor concerns rankings of prestige determined by fair contests. Honor-typical behavior is identifiable in non-human species, and is to be expected in polygynous species with non-resource-based mating systems. This picture lends further support to an increasingly popular psychological theory that sees morality as constituted by a variety of moral systems. If moral cognition is pluralistic in this way, then the question of moral agency is better considered in terms of particular moral modes, one of which will be “honor-agency.” The universal principles of honorable conduct suggest a handful of criteria for counting as an honorable agent (human or otherwise), and these criteria can be specified without commitment to any particular account of what it takes to be an agent in general.
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