Why Honor Matters by Tamler Sommers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Certainly the most interesting book this year. First time for years I read a book by a philosopher which I really enjoyed.
The reason was certainly partly because Sommers had really studied the subject also from outside the philosophy science:
1. The anthropology of honor cultures like the Pashtu or the Albanian high lands.
2. The evolutionary science of co-operation.
3. The social policy trials in the inner cities of US.
4. The US legal system.
Book discusses honor - instead of human rights, dignity etc. - as a basis for moral behavior. It is a kind of critique of the liberal/enlightenment view where the
a) morality is based on universal values and rationality/utilitarianism instead of particular communal local honor based norms/values
b) justice is based on blind impersonal justice with an emphasis on equal level of punishment on same crime - instead of honor based personal justice based e.g. on revenge and face-to-face reconciliation with help of trusted older community members.
It may sound radical or reactionary but Sommers is not proposing a black-and-white approach. Instead, he takes certain problems in the US and Western societies as a starting point and discusses whether we could learn something from the honor based cultures to find methods for solving those problems.
One concrete problem is the high crime/homicide rate of the inner city America. He concretely shows through some social policy trials by Non-Government Organisations how the violence rate was decreased by something like 25%-60% by instead of zero-tolerance concentrate on decreasing violence by trying to increase reconciliation with help of respected community members and decrease revenge as methods to solve problems. Kind of accept the honor based systems with revenge-based justice but reform them in a way that decreases violence in local conflicts.
In honor based cultures you are supposed to solve your conflicts without help from the state - based e.g. on revenge and based on the local traditional law systems like the Pastuan Pasthtunwali https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pashtun.... Sommers discusses the main problems of the honor based systems openly:
1. the content of honor norms may in principle be whatever - e.g. support plainly immoral behavior and non-respect for human rights.
2. if justice is based mainly on revenge, the system may escalate violence out of control.
So it is certainly nor black-and-white.
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