I read a passage in one of the essays of Arthur Schopenhauer that I would like all of you my friends to give me your opinions on.
He is writing on honour and identifies three types;
- civic honour
- official honour and
- sexual honour.
It would only be fair to define what he means by honour so that later on we don’t get into the issue of definitions. He writes honour is
on its objective side other people’s opinion of what we are worth; on its subjective side it is the respect we pay to this opinion.
He adds that honour really rests upon a utilitarian basis. In looking at sexual honour he divides male and female honour and says female honour is more important than the two because, he writes, the most essential feature in woman’s life is her relation to man.
He continues to write
Female honor is the general opinion in regard to a girl that she is pure, and in regard to a wife that she is faithful.
And this is based on the following considerations
Women depend upon men in all the relations of life; men upon women, it might be said, in one only. So an arrangement is made for mutual interdependence–man undertaking responsibility for all woman’s needs and also for the children that spring from their union–an arrangement on which is based the welfare of the whole female race.
He says to do this women have
to band together with a show of _esprit de corps_, and present one undivided front to their common enemy, man,–who possesses all the good things of the earth, in virtue of his superior physical and intellectual power,–in order to lay siege to and conquer him, and so get possession of him and a share of those good things.
How does he propose women do this?
To this end the honor of all women depends upon the enforcement of the rule that no woman should give herself to a man except in marriage, in order that every man may be forced, as it were, to surrender and ally himself with a woman; by this arrangement provision is made for the whole of the female race.
He continues on this path by saying
Any girl who commits a breach of the rule betrays the whole female race, because its welfare would be destroyed if every woman were to do likewise; so she is cast out with shame as one who has lost her honor.
He says it is the same doom that befalls a married woman. He writes thus
The same doom is awarded to a woman who breaks the marriage tie; for in so doing she is false to the terms upon which the man capitulated; and as her conduct is such as to frighten other men from making a similar surrender, it imperils the welfare of all her sisters.
He says such a breach is punishable and can lead as well to loss of civic honour. And continues to write on this loss
This is why we minimize the shame of a girl, but not of a wife; because, in the former case, marriage can restore honor, while in the latter, no atonement can be made for the breach of contract.
In the interest of brevity let us briefly consider what he says concerning male honour.
It is their _esprit de corps_, which demands that, once a man has made that surrender of himself in marriage which is so advantageous to his conqueror, he shall take care that the terms of the treaty are maintained; both in order that the agreement itself may lose none of its force by the permission of any laxity in its observance, and that men, having given up everything, may, at least, be assured of their bargain, namely, exclusive possession.
He writes that if a woman breaches the marriage tie, the man can punish her by separation. But he says if he condones her
his fellowmen cry shame upon him; but the shame in this case is not nearly so foul as that of the woman who has lost her honor; the stain is by no means of so deep a dye, because a man’s relation to woman is subordinate to many other and more important affairs in his life.
He writes at the end of the chapter on sexual honour,
…. men’s honour originates in esprit de corps.