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accordingly been called a debt of honor. In all other kinds of debt you
may cheat Jews and Christians as much as you like ; and your knightly
honor remains without a stain.

The unprejudiced reader will see at once that such a strange, savage and
ridiculous code of honor as this has no foundation in human nature, nor
any warrant in a healthy view of human affairs. The extremely narrow
sphere of its operation serves only to intensify the feeling, which is ex-
clusively confined to Europe since the Middle Age, and then only to the
upper classes, officers and soldiers, and people who imitate them. Neither
Greeks nor Romans knew anything of this code of honor or of its princi-
ples ; nor the highly civilized nations of Asia, ancient or modern.
Amongst them no other kind of honor is recognized but that which I
discussed first, in virtue of which a man is what he shows himself to be
by his actions, not what any wagging tongue is pleased to say of him.
They thought that what a man said or did might perhaps affect his own
honor, but not any other man's. To them, a blow was but a blow and
any horse or donkey could give a harder one a blow which under certain
circumstances might make a man angry and demand immediate vengeance;
but it had nothing to do with honor. No one kept account of blows or
insulting words, or of the satisfaction which was demanded or omitted to
be demanded. Yet in personal bravery and contempt of death, the
ancients were certainly not inferior to the nations of Christian Europe.
The Greeks and Romans were thorough heroes, if you like ; but they
knew nothing about point d 'honneur. If they had any idea of a duel, it
was totally unconnected with the life of the nobles ; it was merely the
exhibition of mercenary gladiators, slaves devoted to slaughter, con-
demned criminals, who, alternately with wild beasts, were set to butcher
one another to make a Roman holiday. When Christianity was intro-
duced, gladiatorial shows were done away with, and their place taken,
in Christian times, by the duel, which was a way of settling difficulties by
the Judgment of God. If the gladiatorial fight was a cruel sacrifice to the
prevailing desire for great spectacles, dueling is a cruel sacrifice to

52



THE WISDOM OP LIFE. 313

existing prejudices a sacrifice, not of criminals, slaves and prisoners, but
of the noble and the free. '

There are a great many traits in the character of the ancients which
show that they were entirely free from these prejudices. When, for
instance, Marius was summoned to a duel by a Teutonic chief, he
returned answer to the effect that, if the chief were tired of his life, he
might go and hang himself ; at the same time he offered him a veteran
gladiator for a round or two. Plutarch relates in his life of Themistocles
that Eurybiades, who was in command of the fleet, once raised his stick
to strike him ; whereupon Themistocles, instead of drawing his sword,
simply said : Strike, but hear me. How sorry the reader must be, if he is
an honorable man, to find that we have no information that the Athenian
officers refused in a body to serve any longer under Themistocles, if he
acted like that ! There is a modern French writer who declares that if
anyone considers Demosthenes a man of honor, his ignorance will excite
a smile of pity ; and that Cicero was not a man of honor either ! * In a
certain passage in Plato's Laws, 3 the philosopher speaks at length of
oc.iM.ia. or assault, showing us clearly enough that the ancients had no
notion of any feeling of honor in connection with such matters.
Socrates' frequent discussions were often followed by his being severely
handled, and he bore it all mildly. Once, for instance, when somebody
kicked him, the patience with which he took the insult surprised one of
his friends. Do you think, said Socrates, that if an ass happened to kick me,
I should resent it t> 4 On another occasion, when he was asked, Has not
that fellow abused and insulted you /> No, was his answer, what he says is
no* addressed to me.' 3 Stobaeus has preserved a long passage from
Musonius, from which we can see how the ancients treated insults. They
knew no other form of satisfaction than that which the law provided, and
wise people despised even this. If a Greek received a box on the ear,
he could get satisfaction by the aid of the law ; as is evident from Plato's
Gorgias, where Socrates' opinion may be found. The same thing may
be seen in the account given by Gellius of one Lucius Veratius, who had
the audacity to give some Roman citizens whom he met on the road a
box on the ear, without any provocation whatever ; but to avoid any
ulterior consequences, he told a slave to bring a bag of small money, and
on the spot paid the trivial legal penalty to the men whom he had aston-
ished by his conduct.

Crates, the celebrated Cynic philosopher, got such a box on the ear
from Nicodromus, the musician, that his face swelled up and became
black and blue ; whereupon he put a label on his forehead, with the
inscription, Nicodromus fecit, which brought much disgrace to the flute-

i Translator's Note. These and other remarks on dueling will no doubt wear a
belated look to English readers ; but they are hardly yet antiquated for most parti
Continent. Soirees litteraires : par C. Durand. Rouen 1828.

Bk. IX. 4 Diogenes Laertius, ii., 21.



3 I4 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

player who had committed such a piece of brutality upon the man whom
all Athens honored as a household god. l And in a letter to Melesippus,
Diogenes of Sinope tells us that he got a beating from the drunken sons
of the Athenians ; but he adds that it was a matter of no importance.*
And Seneca devotes the last few chapters of his De Constantia to a lengthy
discussion on insult contumelia ; in order to show that a wise man will
take no notice of it In Chapter XIV. he says, What shall a wise man do,
if he is given a blow j 3 What Cato did, when some one struck him on the
mouth ; not fire up or avenge the insult, or even return the blow, but simply
ignore it.

Yes, you say, but these men were philosophers. And you are fools, eh ?
Precisely.

It is clear that the whole code of knightly honor was utterly unknown
to the ancients ; for the simple reason that they always took a natural and
unprejudiced view of human affairs, and did not allow themselves to be
influenced by any such vicious and abominable folly, A blow in the face
was to them a blow and nothing more, a trivial physical injury ; whereas
the moderns make a catastrophe out of it, a theme for a tragedy ; as for
instance, in the Cid of Corneille, or in a recent German comedy of middle-
class life, called The Power of Circumstance, which should have been
entitled The Power of Prejudice. If a member of the National Assembly
at Paris got a blow on the ear, it would resound from one end of Europe
to the other. The examples which I have given of the way in which such
an occurrence would have been treated in classic times may not suit the
ideas of honorable people ; so let me recommend to their notice, as a kind
of antidote, the story of Monsieur Desglands in Diderot's masterpiece,
facques lefataliste. It is an excellent specimen of modern knightly
honor, which, no doubt, they will find enjoyable and edifying. 3

From what I have said it must be quite evident that the principle of
knightly honor has no essential and spontaneous origin in human nature.
It is an artificial product, and its source is not hard to find. Its existence
obviously dates from the time when people used their fists more than their

1 Diogenes Laertius, vi. 87, and Apul : Flor : p. 126.

Cf. Casaubon's Note, ad Diog. Laert., vi. 33.

Translator's Note. The story to which Schopenhauer here refers fs briefly as
follows : Two gentlemen, one of whom was named Desglands, were paying court to the
same lady. As they sat at the table side by side, with the lady opposite, Desglands did
his best to charm her with his conversation; but she pretended not to hear him, and kept
looking at his rival. In the agony of jealousy, Desglands, as he was holding a fresh egg
in his hand, involuntarily crushed it; the shell broke, and its contents bespattered his
rival's face. Seeing him raise his hand, Desglands seized it and whispered : Sir, 1
take it as given. The next day Desglands appeared with a large piece of black sticking-
plaster upon his right cheek. In the duel which followed, Desglands severely wounded
his rival; upon which he reduced the size of the plaster. When his rival recovered, they
had anoehtr duel ; Desglands drew blood again, and again made his plaster a little
smaller ; and so on for five or six times. After every duel Desglands' plaster grew less
and less, until at last his rival was killed.

5-i



THE WISDOM OF LIFE. 315

heads, when priestcraft had enchained the human intellect, the much
bepraised Middle Age, with its system of chivalry. That was the time
when people let the Almighty not only care for them but judge for them
too ; when difficult cases were decided by an ordeal, a Judgment of God ;
which, with few exceptions, meant a duel, not only where nobles were
concerned, but in the case of ordinary citizens as well. There is a neat
illustration of this in Shakespeare's Henry VI. 1 Every judicial sentence
was subject to an appeal to arms a court, as it were, of higher instance,
namely, the Judgment of God \ and this really meant that physical strength
and activity, that is, our animal nature, usurped the place of reason on
the judgment seat, deciding in matters of right and wrong, not by what a
man had done, but by the force with which he was opposed, the same
system, in fact, as prevails to-day under the principles of knightly honor.
If any one doubts that such is really the origin of our modern duel, let
him read an excellent work by J. B. Millingen, The history of Dueling.*
Nay, you may still find amongst the supporters of the system, who, by
the way, are not usually the most educated or thoughtful of men, some
who look upon the result of a duel as really constituting a divine judg-
ment in the matter in dispute ; no doubt in consequence of the tradi-
tional feeling on the subject.

But leaving aside the question of origin, it must now be clear to us
that the main tendency of the principle is to use physical menace for the
purpose of extorting an appearance of respect which is deemed too dim-
cult or superfluous to acquire in reality ; a proceeding which comes to
much the same thing as if you were to prove the warmth of your room by
holding your hand on the thermometer and so make it rise. In fact, the
kernel of the matter is this : whereas civic honor aims at peaceable inter-
course, and consists in the opinion of other people that we deserve full
confidence, because we pay unconditional respect to their rights ; knightly
honor, on the other hand, lays down that we are to be feared, as being
determined at all costs to maintain our own.

As not much reliance can be placed upon human integrity, the prin-
ciple that it is more essential to arouse fear than to invite confidence
would not, perhaps, be a false one, if we were living in a state of nature,
where every man would have to protect himself and directly maintain his
own rights. But in civilized life, where the State undertakes the protec-
tion of our person and property, the principle is no longer applicable : it
stands, like the castles and watch-towers of the age when might was right,
a usless and forlorn object, amidst well-tilled fields and frequented roads,
or even railways.

Accordingly, the application of knightly honor, which still recognizes
this principle, is confined to those small cases of personal assault which
meet with but slight punishment at the hands of the law, or even none
at all, for de minimis nou, mere trivial wrongs, committed sometimes

i Part II., Act 2, Sc. 3. * Published in 1849-

55



316 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

only in jest The consequence of this limited application of the principle
is that it has forced itself into an exaggerated respect for the value of the
person, a respect utterly alien to the nature, constitution or destiny of
man which it has elevated into a species of sanctity : and as it considers
that the State has imposed a very insufficient penalty on the commission
of such trivial injuries, it takes upon itself to punish them by attacking
the aggressor in life or limb. The whole thing manifestly rests upon an
excessive degree of arrogant pride, which, completely forgetting what man
really is, claims that he shall be absolutely free from all attack or even
censure. Those who determine to carry out this principle by main force,
and announce, as their rule of action, whoever insults or strikes me shall
die! ought for their pains to be banished the country. 1

As a palliative to this rash arrogance, people are in the habit of giving
way on everything. If two intrepid persons meet, and neither will give
way, the slightest difference may cause a shower of abuse, then fisticuffs,
and, finally, a fatal blow : so that it would really be a more decorous
proceeding to omit the intermediate steps and appeal to arms at once.
An appeal to arms has its own special formalities ; and these have
developed into a rigid and precise system of laws and regulations,
together forming the most solemn farce there is, a regular temple of
honor dedicated to folly ! For if two intrepid persons dispute over some
trivial matter (more important affairs are dealt with by law), one of them,
the cleverer of the two, will of course yield ; and they will agree to differ.
That this is so is proved by the fact that common people, or, rather, the
numerous classes of the community who do not acknowledge the princi-
ple of knightly honor, let any dispute run its natural course. Amongst
these classes homicide is a hundredfold rarer than among those and they
amount, perhaps, in all, to hardly one in a thousand, who pay homage
to the principle : and even blows are of no very frequent occurrence.

Then it has been said that the manners and tone of good society are
ultimately based upon this principle of honor, which, with its system of
duels, is made out to be a bulwark against the assaults of savagery and

i Knightly honor is the child of pride and folly, and it is need, not pride, which is the
heritage of the human race. It is a very remarkable fact that this exteme form of prda
should be found exclusively amongst the adherents of the religion which teaches the
deepest humility. Still, this pride must not be put down to religion, but rather, to the
feudal system, which made every nobleman a petty sovereign who recognized no human
judge, and learned to regard his person as sacred and inviolable, and any attack upon it,
or any blow or insulting word, as an offence punishable by death. The principle of
knightly honor and of the duel was at first confined to the nobles, and, later on, also to
officers in the army, who, enjoying a kind of off-and-on relationship with the upper
classes, though they were never incorporated with them, were anxious not to be behind
them. It is true that duels were the product of the old ordeals ; but the latter are not
the foundation, but rather the consequence and application of the principle of honor :
the man who recognized no human judge appealed to the divine. Ordeals, however, are
not peculiar to Christendom : they may be found in great force among the Hindoos,
especially of ancient times; and there are traces of them even now,

50



THE WISDOM OF LIFE, 3I -

rudeness. But Athens, Corinth and Rome could assuredly boast of good,
nay, excellent society, and manners and tone of a high order, without
any support from the bogey of knightly honor. It is true that women
did not occupy that prominent place in ancient society which they hold
now, when conversation has taken on a frivolous and trifling character, to
the exclusion of that weighty discourse which distinguished the ancients.
This change has certainly contributed a great deal to bring about the
tendency, which is observable in good society nowadays, to prefer
personal courage to the possession of any other quality. The fact is that
personal courage is really a very subordinate virtue, merely the distin-
guishing mark of a subaltern, a virtue, indeed, in which we are sur-
passed by the lower animals ; or else you would not hear people say, as
brave as a lion. Far from being the pillar of society, knightly honor
affords a sure asylum, in general for dishonesty and wickedness, and also
for small incivilities, want of consideration and unmannerliness. Rude
behavior is often passed over in silence because no one cares to risk his
neck in correcting it

After what I have said, it will not appear strange that the dueling
system is carried to the highest pitch of sanguinary zeal precisely in that
nation whose political and financial records show that they are not too
honorable. What that nation is like in its private and domestic life, is a
question which may be best put to those who are experienced in the
matter. Their urbanity and social culture have long been conspicuous
by their absence.

There is no truth, then, in such pretexts. It can be urged with more
justice that as, when you snarl at a dog, he snarls in return, and when
you pet him, he fawns ; so it lies in the nature of men to return hostility
by hostility, and to be embittered and irritated at any signs of depreci-
atory treatment or hatred : and, as Cicero says, there is something so pene-
trating in the shaft of envy that even men of wisdom and worth find its wound
a painful one ; and nowhere in the world, except, perhaps, in a few
religious sects, is an insult or a blow taken with equanimity. And yet a
natural view of either would in no case demand anything more than a
requital proportionate to the offence, and would never go the length of
assigning death as the proper penalty for any one who accuses another of
lying or stupidity or cowardice. The old German theory of blood for a
blow is a revolting superstition of the age of chivalry. And in any case
the return or requital of an insult is dictated by anger, and not by any
such obligation of honor and duty as the advocates of chivalry seek to
attach to it. The fact is that, the greater the truth, the greater the slander ;
and it is clear that the slightest hint of some real delinquency will give
much greater offence than a most terrible accusation which is perfectly
baseless : so that a man who is quite sure that he has done nothing to
deserve a reproach may treat it with contempt, and will be safe in doing
so. The theory of honor demands that he shall show a susceptibility

57



3 i8 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

which he does not possess, and take bloody vengeance for insults which
he cannot feel. A man must himself have but a poor opinion of his own
worth who hastens to prevent the utterance of an unfavorable opinion
by giving his enemy a black eye.

True appreciation of his own value will make a man really indifferent
to insult ; but if he cannot help resenting it, a little shrewdness and
culture will enable him to save appearances and dissemble his anger. If
we could only get rid of this superstition about honor the idea, I mean,
that it disappears when you are insulted, and can be restored by return-
ing the insult; if we could only stop people from thinking that wrong,
brutality and insolence can be legalized by expressing readiness to give
satisfaction, that is, to fight in defence of it, we should all soon come to
the general opinion that insult and depreciation are like a battle in which
the loser wins ; and that, as Vmcenzo Monti says, abuse resembles a
church-procession, because it always returns to the point from which it
set out If we could only get people to look upon insult in this light,
we should no longer have to say something rude in order to prove that
we are in the right. Now, unfortunately if we want to take a serious
view of any question, we have first of all to consider whether it will not
give offence in some way or other to the dullard, who generally shows
alarm and resentment at the merest sign of intelligence : and it may
easily happen that the head which contains the intelligent view has to be
pitted against the noddle which is empty of everything but narrowness
and stupidity. If all this were done away with, intellectual superiority
could take the leading place in society which is its due a place now
occupied, though people do not like to confess it, by excellence of
physique, mere fighting pluck, in fact : and the natural effect of such a
change would be that the best kind of people would have one reason the
less for withdrawing from society. This would pave the way for the
introduction of real courtesy and genuinely good society, such as
undoubtedly existed in Athens, Corinth and Rome. If anyone wants to
see a good example of what I mean, I should like him to read Xenophon's
Banquet.

The last argument in defence of knightly honor no doubt is, that, but
for its existence, the world awful thought ! would be a regular bear-
garden. To which I may briefly reply that nine hundred and ninety-
nine people out of a thousand who do not recognize the code, have often
given and received a blow without any fatal consequences : whereas
amongst the adherents of the code a blow usually means death to one of
the parties. But let me examine this argument more closely.

I have often tried to find some tenable, or at any rate, plausible basis
other than a merely conventional one some positive reasons, that is to
ay, for the rooted conviction which a portion of mankind entertains, that
a blow is a verv dreadful thiner; but I have looked for it in vain, either in
the animal or in the rational side of hum^ -.qture. A blow is, and



THE WISDOM OF LIFE. 319

always will be, a trivial physical injury which one man can do to another;
proving, thereby, nothing more than his superiority in strength or skill, or
that his enemy was off his guard. Analysis will carry us no further. The
same knight who regards a blow from the human hand as the greatest of
evils, if he gets a ten times harder blow from his horse, will give you the
assurance, as he limps away in suppressed pain, that it is a matter of no
consequence whatever. So I have come to think that it is the human hand
which is at the bottom of the mischief. And yet in a battle the knight
may get cuts and thrusts from the same hand and still assure you that his
wounds are not worth mentioning. Now, I hear that a blow from the
flat of a sword is not by any means so bad as a blow with a stick; and that,
a short time ago, cadets were liable to be punished by the one but not the
other, and that the very greatest honor of all is the accolade. This is all
the psychological or moral basis that I can find ; and so there is nothing
left me but to pronounce the whole thing an antiquated superstition that
has taken deep root, and one more of the many examples which show the
force of tradition. My view is confirmed by the well-known fact that in
China a beating with a bamboo is a very frequent punishment for the com-
mon people, and even for officials of every class ; which shows that human
nature, even in a highly civilized state, does not run in the same groove
here and in China.

On the contrary, an unprejudiced view of human nature shows that it
is just as natural for man to beat as it is for savage animals to bite and
rend in pieces, or for horned beasts to butt or push. Man may be said
to be the animal that beats. Hence it is revolting to our sense of the
fitness of things to hear, as we sometimes do, that one man has bitten
another ; on the other hand, it is a natural and everyday occurrence for
him to get blows or give them. It is intelligible enough that, as we
become educated, we are glad to dispense with blows by a system of
mutual restraint. But it is a cruel thing to compel a nation or a single
class to regard a blow as an awful misfortune which must have death and
murder for its consequences. There are too many genuine evils in the
world to allow of our increasing them by imaginary misfortunes, which
bring real ones in their train : and yet this is the precise effect of the
superstition, which thus proves itself at once stupid and malign.

It does not seem to me wise of governments and legislative bodies to
promote any such folly by attempting to do away with flogging as a
punishment in civil or military life. Their idea is that they are acting in
the interests of humanity ; but, in point of fact, they are doing just the
opposite ; for the abolition of flogging will serve only to strengthen this



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