Honor Versus Life Essay

Honor, according to the dictionary, is “a good name or public esteem; a showing of usually merited respect; chastity, purity; a keen sense of ethical conduct; integrity. ” But this defin does not do honor justice. It fails to communicate the sanctity of honor. Thomas Gordon, in Cato’s Letter No. 7, defines it justly: “True honour is an attachment to honest and beneficent principles, and a good eputation; and prompts a man to do good to Others, and indeed to all men, at his own cost, pains, or peril. ” True honor is a desire to do that which is right. “Honor is the presence of God in man” (Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline). Life is a basic concept – “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body. ” In this context, life seems inferior to and altogether unimportant compared to honor.

Some may argue that life is greatest because, without life, there is no opportunity to even gain honor or other virtues. While this may be true, ultimately honor is greater than life. Obviously it is impossible to possess honor without ever having lived, so those who have never possessed honor nor life have no bearing on which is greater. For those who have lived, though, and possessed honor, the question should be presented: If you lost one of these two good things, which loss would affect you more?

Most would answer that losing their honor would be worse than losing their life. General Bentley Durrell, in Pat Conroy’s The ords of Discipline, said, “If was stripped of my honor, would choose death as certainly and unemotionally as clean my shoes in the morning. ” For him, osing his life would be nothing compared to being stripped of honor. Evident in the many accounts of valiant generals choosing to give their lives rather than retreat, this view is not uncommon. The loss of honor is much worse than the loss of life.

It also may be argued that that which attaches to better men is greater also that which would be chosen by a better man is greater. All men born possess life, at least for a while, yet only those worthy possess honor. A common scumbag in the federal prison certainly has life, though it may be wretched and on a path to destruction, but he has no honor. Honor only attaches itself o the men good enough to deserve it. Life comes with the package of being born. Men cannot choose to never have life, although they can choose to lose it.

Honor, also can be lost, but as Shakespeare’s Richard II declares: “Mine honor is my life, both grow in one. Take honor from me, and my life is done. Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try; In that I live, and for that will die,” if one were to be chosen by a great man, it would be honor. Honor does not only attach itself to a better man, but would evidently be chosen by one such man as well. We might adapt the proverb, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting’ to ay something more along the lines of “Life is fleeting, but honor remains forever. If a person were to choose between a gold band which would last and keep its value for centuries and stacks of money at an equal value, he would choose the gold as greater since it endures and will not lose its value. In short, that which is more secure is greater. In the same way, while life is transient and uncertain, honor lasts through the ages. Is it for his life that George Washington is remembered? No; rather it is for the honor he garnered by faithfully serving his countrymen. Honor is greater for its ecurity; it lasts, emblazoned upon history, for all to see, where life fades away.

To be without honor is worse than being without life. To be honored, one must be a great man while to be alive, one may be any type of man. To have honor is lasting whereas life is transient. By these measures, it is obvious that honor is greater than life. As said in Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy, it is “Better to die ten thousand deaths,/Than wound my honour. ” It is, in fact, ridiculous to “prefer your existence to your honor, and for the sake of life to lose every inducement to live” (Juvenal, Satires, VIII. 83). Honor is clearly greater than life.