Honour, face and reputation in political theory

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Until fairly recently it was not uncommon for political theorists to hold the view that people cannot be expected to act in accordance with the public interest without some incentive. Authors such as Marcus Tullius Cicero, John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith, for instance, held that people often act in accordance with the public interest, but more from a concern for their honour and reputation than from a concern for the greater good. Today, most authors take a more demanding view, maintaining that people are to be just solely from a love for justice, not from a fear of losing face. In this article today's prevailing view, which sees honour as something obsolete and archaic and not as a legitimate motive, is contrasted with the older view that honour is important for both knowing what moral is and acting on it. Subsequently, it is argued that the ethics of honour, especially in the form it took in the works of Hume and Smith, can still be of value, exactly because it is less demanding.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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