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Author Topic: Chivalry
KnightEnder
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WP asked me why I thought chivalry was such a good idea, or concept, or something like that I can't find the thread now, and I promised to get back to him. So here it is.

So we know exactly what we are talking about here is the dictionary definition of chivalry.

quote:
a : marked by honor, generosity, and courtesy b : marked by gracious courtesy and high-minded consideration especially to women. (valor and bravery were also mentioned)

To explain why I believe chivlary to be good I guess I would have to explain why honor, generosity, and courtesy (especially to women) are all good. But is that really necessary?

I believe chivalry is a great philosophy by which to live one's life because I believe all those concepts are virtues that men (at the risk of sounding sexist) should strive to attain or embody.

Perhaps I can more clearly answer your question, WP, if you tell me which of the concepts that make up the code of chivalry with which you disagree?

This is hard for me because it is like someone asking me why air is good, or why love is good, or why it's important to act like a man, or be a good father. So, help me out, what am I not seeing?

KE

[ May 14, 2005, 08:41 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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aupton15
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I think there is more than just a general goodness about chivalry. I think when a person is chivalrous it benefits him or herself and others as well. For instance, the simple act of smiling and holding a door generally makes others smile in return. This is a fairly small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but smiling can make a difference. Perfect strangers have made my day before, just by going out of their way a little to be nice. They probably didn't benefit at all, other than that smile, but it's made a difference to me. It's the kind of thing that is hard to measure at the individual level, but would make a big difference if more people displayed it. I don't recall this from another thread, so I'm looking forward to it.
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Mike_W
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Manners...the glue of civilization.
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WarrsawPact
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It's precisely manners and courtesy that are a problem in my view. When graciousness and courtesy become expected, automatic, and meaningless, what do they mean?

For example, it's not so much that you actually say "Please" and "Thank you." It's that we enforce, as a society, against anyone who doesn't do it by calling them rude.

We start in childhood forcing kids to say things they don't really mean. They cease to be matters of polity and become a matter of rote.
How many people, when they say "Please," are saying "If you please" or "If it pleases you"? Honestly.
No, what they're saying is a code-word they were taught for asking for things.
Like, "come on, I asked you nicely." Have you heard that before? There is an expectation of reward in sticking to the system.

Chivalry seems to me, in that aspect, to be institutionalized dishonesty.

And it's especially bad when you apply another, similarset of behaviors specifically for men's relations with women. Isn't that just a trap for both sexes, that they both have a stratified set of behaviors? Do women especially require that "courtesy and high-minded consideration" or is that yet another code-word situation? One that places both sexes on separate pedestals?

It's not that I have trouble going through the motions. Certain things just make snese to grease the wheels of society -- holding doors for anybody who's coming in right behind you saves them the effort and they take note. But running around a car to open the door for a girl who's perfectly capable of opening it herself? With less overall effort between you? It's a bit ridiculous.

And finally, the concept of honor, valor, bravery. This is just something that grates against my pragmatic nature. Any time you have the trappings of those three expectations, you encourage stupid risk-taking behavior that is expected to have less real-world reward than other similarly risky activities. It asks people, men especially, to take greater risks in order to attain a perfectly artificial reward... if they survive.

Just about the only reward that can offset that kind of risk, genetically, is a reward in sexual privileges that offsets the risk that you won't reproduce at all.

And then, of course, there's what happens when the State learns how to amplify and funnel that set of values into killing other people, accepting a far greater risk for much less actual reward. Once again, this falls heavily on men.

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aupton15
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I can see some of that. I certainly wouldn't have put opening a door and military service in the same thought before, but it does make some sense that both could fall into chivalry. And I agree that artificial courtesy, just because it's expected, could be a problem. The "please" example you provided is a good one. But I think in that case it is the expectation that is wrong. One idea of chivalry is that you shouldn't expect a reward for your actions. Teaching a child to say please is not the same as teaching them chivalry. You also have to teach them that "please" doesn't entitle them to anything, it's just a better way to deal with people. Being nice to a woman shouldn't entitle you to any reproductive courtesy, but you might make both of your days more pleasant by being nice. I can see where it might conflict with a purely practical approach, but I think life is more enjoyable if practicality is occasionally ignored in favor of emotional enjoyment...a matter of balance perhaps.

Just for the record, I'm sitting upstairs in my room, and a squirrel has just walked by me...this is very unnatural. I'm going to look into that further now.

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Pete at Home
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Chivalry as you describe it is mythical story that encourage men to be kind, particularly to women. Chivalry builds on the myth of knights and noblesse oblige. Some people dislike chivalry because they think that the myth mischaracterizes history and falsely romanticizes the oppressive class system. I think that this anti-Chivalry argument fails to grasp the difference between a mythical story, and bad history. A myth does not have to be factual, in order to tell truths about human nature, or to inspire us to do good.

Gentleness does not come as naturally to men, either biologically nor culturally. Our culture shames men for behaving "like women." Chivalry is a cultural construct that gives men an *excuse* to be gentle and considerate, without seeming to be less manly.

Furthermore, male aggression is not just cultural, it's part of our physiology and chemical makeup. Compared to his female counterpart, the average man has considerably higher levels of testosterone and adrenaline flowing through his blood. Chivalry is a kind of cultural software to remind him to act contrary to his biological hardware in a number of specific situations where kindness and consideration are particularly necessary, i.e. when dealing with persons who are biologically less likely to be physically weaker and socially less aggressive.

So overall, I think that Chivalry is a very good thing. I can think of two types of situations where Chivalry could be taken to excess:

I could imagine some men using notions of chivalry in order to justify patronizing behavior that actually restricts womens' freedom. For example, our leaders are now considering bills that would restrict our servicewomen from certain dangerous combat situations. I think that it's a good thing for Americans to be concerned about the possibility of our servicewomen being raped. In the Civil War when the rebels announced that they would enslave captured black Union soldiers, Lincoln gave black soldiers the option of quitting. That wasn't patronizing -- when it becomes clear that women troops face a threat that their male counterparts do not face, I think it might be appropriate to give these servicewomen a choice to withdraw from service. But it has to be a choice. Barring women from combat roles is taking the chivalry myth too far, and it's precisely the wrong thing to do when we're at war with an ideology that oppresses women.

Another related danger: some men take it as a personal affront when a woman refuses to accept an offer of chivalry, even when she might have good reason to do so. I think that chivalrous men need to adapt to the particular situation. Law is a fiercely competitive environment, and I find that even the most culturally conservative female law students will fiercely refuse any offer to help them carry books or anything of the sort, even if they are visibly struggling. Part of this might be a visceral distrust of a competitor (law students can be really paranoid, although my school is far more kicked back than most about this; I've only heard of one verified event when someone deliberately concealed books in the library to hurt competitors). But I think it has more to do with the absolute need of law students to appear independent and competent. So when I see someone, particularly a woman, struggling with books or with a heavy bag, I make a subtle offer to help, but I make sure to make it subtle so not to embarrass her, and I absolutely avoid showing any sign of annoyance or hurt feelings when she inevitably refuses my offer.

I think that the chivalrous myth and chivalrous behavior is compatible with the freedom and dignity of women, so long as we exercise common sense and don't go out of our way to make them incompatible.

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Mike_W
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As Pete says, chivalry is a broad cultural tool that exists to curb otherwise harmful behaviours. You don't always need to run around the car to open the door to be considered a "gentleman".

As for manners in general, they are a pragmatic way to make civilization function better. Not all human interactions are zero sum games. So, doing what is right for “me now” isn’t always the best thing to do when you look at the big picture. Manners are a set of guidelines that promote behaviours that, if practiced by a sizeable enough portion of the population, make everyone’s life better. Benefits might include; less likelihood of violence, shorter lines at the grocery store, less traffic jams, etc.

Or, without manners, we have the jackass in front of me in line at the airport who insists on haranguing the agent till she gives him an upgrade just to shut him up. Or, without manners, I might just get frustrated enough to solve the problem for me and the agent in a less than constructive way. If we all just have a little respect and decency, the line moves, and nobody gets hurt. :-)

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Not all human interactions are zero sum games.
That's very nicely said, Mike.

I think that some women fear a code that seems directed just at men. From the outside, some see Chivalry like another one of the "boys only" clubs that has excluded them from certain jobs and freedoms. It's hard to imagine that men could develop a code for themselves that isn't somehow self-serving. And if Chivalry isn't just a zero-sum game, then what do men get out of it? I think this ties back to KE's question. It's fairly easy to see how these behaviors are better for society. What do we get out of them, as men? I have some ideas, but am curious what others will say.

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jefferson101
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There are a lot of folks who have issues with chivalry, as it was defined "back in the day". One could include me in that number, on some levels.

The whole concept originated because of the way that a "proper knight" should comport himself toward his peers, the distaff contingent, and the lower classes.

I have no issues with comporting myself properly toward my peers and the distaff contingent, but I get serious issues about the concept of "the lower classes". I'm American, and class mobility isn't just a nebulous concept here. It's reality. So there are really no "lower classes", but only people of differing cirucmstances.

But beyond that one, there is one more thing that'd be required for a real concept of chivalry to work. And that involves armament.

In a society that truly practiced chivalry, the practitioners thereof were all armed and dangerous. If one was insulted, or offended, or if someone gave offense to a "Lady", or whatever, there was always the option available of taking it out of their hide. And it happened fairly regularly.

It still does, at one level or another. I've had massive fun on several occasions because I get sick of standing in line somewhere listening to someone berate a counter clerk over something or other.

Prime example of that was at John Wayne airport back in about '86. I'd gone in there on a connection out of DFW, and for reasons that are to long winded to explain, American didn't have my luggage on my plane. Were I a betting man, and if I could have found someone to make book on it, I'd be rich and retired now, but that's not the story I'm telling.

Anyway, I wander over to the lost luggage counter when the baggage carousel is shut down, and fall in behind some red-faced blowhard who is calling the poor young lady at the counter every bad thing he can think of because his suitcases didn't show up.

About the time he started repeating himself for the third time, I had all I could stand. I picked up the form she'd politely asked him to fill out three times, handed it to him, and told him to please motivate his person out of the line so I could get one of them to fill out myself.

His ears turned brighter red than they already were and he took a deep breath to start in on me. I couldn't help it. I started laughing at him.

He deflated like a punctured balloon. But if he hadn't, I was holding a Halliburton heavy duty aluminum briefcase in my right hand, and would cheerfully have smacked him clear into the next week with it, had he gotten violent.

He scribbled on the paper and stomped off.

The clerk was reasonably appreciative to me when he left, but I told her the truth.

"You get paid to listen to idiots. I don't. Or at least not that one, and I'd had all of him I could stand. You didn't lose his luggage, though. If you had, I'd have let him yell for an hour."

Then I filled out my form and went and got my rental car. My checked baggage showed up at the Motel while I was still out and about that afternoon. I wonder if they ever found his? [Big Grin]

But my point in all that is that chivalry, per-se, is overated. I'm polite because it's easier and quicker than annoying folks.

Beyond that there is column B, which takes the old Heinelin quote into account. "An armed society is a polite society." It's unlikely that Joe Average is packing heat at the airport. But anywhere else, one never knows. Better to assume that he might be, and be nice in the first place.

Enlightened self interest is a better motivator than some nebulous concept of behavior anyway. And if being a bunghole might wind you up out by the river at sunrise for coffee and pistols, or result in a less formal duel on the spot, you will probably make nicer.

Which is what people forget about chivalry. They all had these big knives and would cheerfully chop each other up over offenses to it.

Unless you have a big knife, or the equivalent, it's impractical.

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KnightEnder
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The chivalry that I practice doesn't involve the idea of 'class', nor armament. Those things may have been part of chivalry in the Dark Ages, and may be what some would consider 'real' or the original version of chivalry, but not today. The chivalry I practice is based on the values in the Webster's Dictionary definition I quoted above. Perhaps that is a more 'modern' version of chivalry? Or perhaps that is a more American, Southern, or Texas version of chivalry?

Also, the chivalry I practice isn't based on fear or convenience. Those things seem to be more about pragmatism than chivalry. In fact in my opinion acting for those reasons doesn't make your actions chivalrous at all.

KE

[ May 14, 2005, 04:26 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Pelegius
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I agree in concept. But "chivalry" just sounds too pompous, why don't we just say manners?

[ May 14, 2005, 05:21 PM: Message edited by: Pelegius ]

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jefferson101
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quote:
Originally posted by KnightEnder:
The chivalry that I practice doesn't involve the idea of 'class', nor armament. Those things may have been part of chivalry in the Dark Ages, and may be what some would consider 'real' or the original version of chivalry, but not today. The chivalry I practice is based on the values in the Webster's Dictionary definition I quoted above. Perhaps that is a more 'modern' version of chivalry? Or perhaps that is a more American, Southern, or Texas version of chivalry?

Also, the chivalry I practice isn't based on fear or convenience. Those things seem to be more about pragmatism than chivalry. In fact in my opinion acting for those reasons doesn't make your actions chivalrous at all.

KE

Just remember that down here in the South, people get acquitted of murder because "He just needed killing" is a legitimate defense.

I'm completely down with the polite and respectful part of it. But there comes a point at which someone can offend me enough that I'll be prepared to demonstrate for them exactly what happens when they push things one step beyond the acceptable, too.

And it could be noted that one is not truly "chivalrous" if one is not prepared to do that, IMO.

HeHe! I'm big on live and let live. But if they want to mess with me, they'd best be prepared to be messed with right back.

[Big Grin]

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WarrsawPact
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I'm genuinely trying to understand the concept of chivalry, so bear with me.

What's obvious, upon reading the definition of "chivalry," is that it's all about public behavior. The only thing there that one can do privately is be generous, and somehow I don't think that anonymous giving is part of that equation.

The purpose of chivalry must be to benefit somebody, right?

If it's directed especially at women by men, it seems to indicate an enlightened restraint from aggression against those weaker than you are. In addition, it seems to be designed to "grease the wheels" of personal interaction.
On other words, it is a code of behavior that redirects superiority -- like, "I have the power to be aggressive and overbearing, but look at how calm and controlled I am. I have mental and emotional discipline in addition to being more powerful."

I guess, if I tried really hard, I could see that as not being acting so much as trying to attain even higher benefit. A "chivalrous" person gets, to use an analogy, all the same benefits a free government has over one run by fear. People will want to treat a chivalrous person better even when he's not coercing them... even when his back is turned.

Manners still seem dishonest, but then, I am a pragmatist. If it gets the job done...

I'm reaching here, but I'm not entirely convinced yet. It seems a tad too paternalistic, and perhaps a bit outdated considering how independent the "fairer sex" can be these days.

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aupton15
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I think the "fairer sex" can also be chivalrous...it's part of the modernization as far as I'm concerned. And I don't think it should be for public behavior. I'm sure some people only excercise it to get a favorable impression, but I don't think that's the intention KE has in his definition. It should be done because it's the right thing, regardless of the situation or the benefits. The fact that there may be benefits is secondary in the mind of the truly chivalrous.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
The whole concept originated because of the way that a "proper knight" should comport himself toward his peers, the distaff contingent, and the lower classes.

I have no issues with comporting myself properly toward my peers and the distaff contingent, but I get serious issues about the concept of "the lower classes".

I think we Americans have adapted the myth to our own uses. Myths work that way, for good and for bad. Noblesse oblige does not require social caste -- the expression in the US that I hear all the time is "there but for the grace of God go I." Up until years ago, I used to give to Christian Children's fund, pay a "fast offering" through my church for the welfare of the poor, help do Christmasses for families of the unfortunate. Then the 9-11 layoffs happened, and I found myself and my own family the recipient of the same sort of generosity. My wife had our third kid, I had no job, we had to get and max a credit card to pay for the delivery, and we couldn't fit kids into my little car. Anonymous gifts of money came in. Someone in the neighborhood up and gave us a 5 year old van, and "laundered" it through our Bishop so that we would not find out who our benefactor was. And just as I'd been part of helping make Christmas for poor families, someone came and did it for me. God bless those people. You don't need a concept of social caste to see that there are people less fortunate than yourself.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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quote:
Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide the lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.
- Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlen.

--Firedrake

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jefferson101
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In the minds of the "truly chivalrous", the distaff contingent is strictly around to throw us tokens of their esteem before tournaments, and to be the objects of our (purely platonic, mind you) admiration and devotion.

Apart from that, unless you have married them, you best keep your hands to yourself. Completely apart from anything else, they may have a brother, uncle, or cousin who will be offended if you take unwarranted liberties. And they've got these big long knives and axes and suchlike. And they will chop you up in little pieces if you offend against their Lady's virtue.

[Big Grin] [Big Grin]

Of course, they will chop you into little parts in a very chivalrous way. But you will no longer care if the proper forms were observed or not. They, however, will be able to keep their heads held high in polite society.

It's the 13th century version of a Moslem "honor killing", except they go after the guy instead of the woman.

[Eek!] [Eek!]

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Pete at Home
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Jefferson seems to represent one of the groups that I described above:

quote:
Some people dislike chivalry because they think that the myth mischaracterizes history and falsely romanticizes the oppressive class system. I think that this anti-Chivalry argument fails to grasp the difference between a mythical story, and bad history.
Yes, Jefferson, we know about the historical Chivalry of the dark ages, and yeah, it was a lousy system back then. But that has very little to do with the myth of Chivalry, which is what KE was talking about.

You might as well pretend that when we talk about Democracy that we mean an angry mob of slaveowners gathering in the town square and condemning a philosopher who has annoyed them to drink hemlock. Most Ornerians like what we now call "Democracy," but most of us (only one exception IIRC) don't idolize the way that the term was originally practiced.

[ May 14, 2005, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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jefferson101
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Then make that clear, please.

For instance, in a pure "democracy", (By the dictionary definition of majority rule), 51% of the population can still vote to hang the other 49%.

The practical likelihood of that is somewhere approaching zero, I will readily admit. But when someone starts pontificating about "democracy" and "letting every vote count", and suchlike, one has to ask how they define the term.

And the same applies to chivalry. Even though I use the lower case, it still comes down to the same thing. There are a whole lot of connotations to the concept that some folks would not include in their current definition. In which case there probably should be a different term used.

In the United States, we call it "Representative Government". This is not a Democracy, and was never intended to be.

And in the case of KE's "chivalry", what he means is "civility". Or "elememtary politeness".

Chivalry, like Democracy, (Note the upper case for both) are ideas for which the time has passed. We can have a new ideal that encompasses the virtues of either, without the negatives. But we cannot attempt to re-use the past without also re-using their mistakes.

Which is part of the problem. Everyone is afraid to use new terms. But if we define ourselves strictly by the past, and use their terminology, we are placing ourselves inside their limits to one degree or another. And that's not a good thing, most days.

[Smile] [Smile]

Edited to fix my spelling of "elementary". I type faster than I read, some days.

[ May 14, 2005, 09:52 PM: Message edited by: jefferson101 ]

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aupton15
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I don't think he does mean civility. Civility can simply mean ignoring someone you don't like, by not making a public scene. The ideas of honor, generosity, valor and bravery go beyond civility. I think instead of using new words we need to recognize new meanings for old words. It happens that way in languages too. There are ways to be chivalrous that go beyond elementary politeness, even in modern times. Stopping to help someone whose car has broken down may not fit into elementary politeness, but it would certainly fit under this new definition of chivalry. It requires taking a risk, and doing more than simply opening a door or saying please and thank you. In this way I think chivalry is still very much relevant, though without the negative connotations of its historic meaning.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
For instance, in a pure "democracy", (By the dictionary definition of majority rule), 51% of the population can still vote to hang the other 49%.

The practical likelihood of that is somewhere approaching zero, I will readily admit.

Not in an Athenian Democracy, it wasn't. Nowhere near zero. To survive Athenian Democracy, you had to be popular. Many of the first grammar and rhetoric manuals appeared since Athenian popularity required that you speak perfectly and convincingly. And even that wasn't enough. There's some hint in Plato's story that Socrates may have some of his judges because of his physically ugliness. Athenians, like other Greeks, hated to listen to an ugly man.


quote:
But when someone starts pontificating about "democracy" and "letting every vote count", and suchlike, one has to ask how they define the term.
Precisely. And you should do the same with Chivalry, rather than perversely inserting a definition that you really must be aware is obselete and not relevant here, as Aupton points out:
quote:
[The new chivalry] requires taking a risk, and doing more than simply opening a door or saying please and thank you. In this way I think chivalry is still very much relevant, though without the negative connotations of its historic meaning.
Agreed, and well said.

[ May 14, 2005, 10:19 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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jefferson101
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
quote:
For instance, in a pure "democracy", (By the dictionary definition of majority rule), 51% of the population can still vote to hang the other 49%.

The practical likelihood of that is somewhere approaching zero, I will readily admit.

Not in an Athenian Democracy, it wasn't. Nowhere near zero. To survive Athenian Democracy, you had to be popular. Many of the first grammar and rhetoric manuals appeared since Athenian popularity required that you speak perfectly and convincingly. And even that wasn't enough. There's some hint in Plato's story that Socrates may have some of his judges because of his physically ugliness. Athenians, like other Greeks, hated to listen to an ugly man.


quote:
But when someone starts pontificating about "democracy" and "letting every vote count", and suchlike, one has to ask how they define the term.
Precisely. And you should do the same with Chivalry, rather than perversely inserting a definition that you really must be aware is obselete and not relevant here, as Aupton points out:
quote:
[The new chivalry] requires taking a risk, and doing more than simply opening a door or saying please and thank you. In this way I think chivalry is still very much relevant, though without the negative connotations of its historic meaning.
Agreed, and well said.

Regarding "Democracy", I'll note that I said "is". Present tense. In today's world, it's not happening that way. And I'm the last one who would tell you it is. But you are putting too much dependence on being able to tell exactly what someone means by the word they use.

I apologize in advance if this offends, but you can't use a word that's been current for 3,000 plus years and not expect that the classical meaning won't be applied.

No one appended a superscript and a footnote to the word "chivalry" that redefined it to mean something other than the original meaning. And nobody in this discussion has appended any superscript to the word "democracy" and appended a footnote, either.

One cannot just decide that the meaning of a word has changed "in the vernacular", and not assume that some of us still know the classical definition, unless you choose to note that you are redefining the word.

That's one of the problems we have nowadays. People want to change the definition of a word or concept, but do not bother to tell everyone else that they are changing the meaning "just a bit".

Clarity is everything in these type of discussions. And if you are redefining words, and do not explain that fact, the clarity tends to go south really quickly.

As witness this discussion. "That's not what he meant" is all good and well. But that is, in fact, what he said.

Use a better or different word, if that's not what you mean. Otherwise, define your word. And the dictionary isn't hardly enough, in some cases.

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Pete at Home
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To be offended, I'd have to understand what Jefferson was saying.

Was I the only one who had a hard time understanding that lecture on "clarity?" [Big Grin]

[ May 14, 2005, 10:51 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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aupton15
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For the record, I was using the definition that KE posted at the beginning of the thread. As that was the only definition given, it was the one I thought the conversation was based on. I do of course recognize the classical meaning as well, and apologize if it wasn't clear which definition I was talking about. I do stand by the use of the word chivalry to describe a modern phenomenon, and with a meaning that is distinct from the classical meaning. I hope that position is clear, and I'd be happy to clarify further if there is further confusion.
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Pete at Home
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I think that Jefferson here is the only one who finds Chivalry confusing in this thread.

quote:
Otherwise, define your word.
You mean, the way that KE did when he started this thread:

quote:
a : marked by honor, generosity, and courtesy b : marked by gracious courtesy and high-minded consideration especially to women. (valor and bravery were also mentioned)
I think that was above and beyond, really, KE, Aupton, and others were talking about what Chivalry *IS*, not what it was. That alone made it clear enough that we weren't talking about wearing armor and being polite to our horses and whatnot. [Big Grin]
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KnightEnder
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I did and do mean the modern 'myth' of chivalry and at first I was a little annoyed at Jefferson's use of the older version, but though I gave the definition I didn't specify and I did ask for reasons why anyone would be against chivalry. So, no harm no foul, and now I thanks to the Pete, aupton, and jefferson discussion of what it doesn't mean today I think we all have a pretty good idea about what we are talking about.

Firedrake, excellent Lazarus Long quote, I considered quoting that passage myself, but I have been quoting him a lot lately and was afraid coming from me WP might take offense.

Pelegius, 'manners' doesn't cover it by half. Chivalry is more than how you treat others, it is about those things WP cited, but it is also a personal sense of honor (as aupton correctly surmised, not about gaining anything for yourself other than the feeling one gets from doing right by others) and a philosophy on how to interact with your fellow humans. I have never thought of the concept as pompous because I don't see it as trying to elevate oneself above anybody, but rather treating others as you would be treated. That sounds familiar, who said we should do that? Pete?

KE

[ May 15, 2005, 07:03 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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KnightEnder
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Side note: Obviously chivalry means a great deal to me which is why I combined my favorite character with the term knight to create my screenname, but I admit I don't always live up to my ideals.

When Zyne first came to the board I wasn't very chivalrous and she called me on it. I of course was forced to apologize and rethink my approach to the brazen young upstart. [Wink] (I'd rather be a dead Knight than a live hypocrite.) (I can hear WP laughing) That is the problem with having a code, somebody might insist that you live up to it.

KE

[ May 15, 2005, 07:47 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Richard Dey
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Wherever there are knights errant or men of faith, there will be those who take advantage of them. In the late-19th-century revival arising from Tennyson (notably gay), it led directly to the disaster of World War I.

If chivalry gave us The Boy Scouts, it also gave us the Wandervogelbewegung and the Shutzabteilung.

This in turn provoked the pseudo-arcana of Himmler ... for whom the Shutzstaffel was a resurrection of the Order of the Teutonic Knights. He himself was Grandmaster of a Herrenvolk dedicated to honor, obedience, courage and loyalty, the lab technicians of racial engineering and the management team of a 3rd Reich to rule Europe based on a feudal allegiance to the lordship and protection of the Fuhrer.

Without the Virgin Mary, chivalry has no meaning; it had no meaning in the age of the Virgin Mary either.

Chivalry bled to death on the battlefields of the 20th century. It is a putrid corpse. It was a glutton, sacrificing its most fit to defend the least fit.

"Chivalry seems to me ... to be institutionalized dishonesty." I think Warsaw definitely hits this helmet on the spike.

It was not that the objet d'amour was 'unattainable' but, rather, that the knights errant were unavailable. It was at heart as gay as Tennyson and his Idyls of the King, and just as dishonest. It was never 'handsome is as handsome does' but always 'handsome is as handsome is' and the doing in his undoing.

Really, Cervantes's warnings that the Age of Chivalry should have been declared dead should have been taken more seriously. Would that chivalry had gone down with the Titanic, but it survived even being stabbed in the gut by the Order of the White Feather. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWfeather.htm

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aupton15
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I think, Richard, that you might be talking about the older definition of chivalry again. In this way I think chivalry is like patriotism. There's nothing wrong with the quality itself, but in the way people in power choose to manipulate the words. Being chivalrous or brave is not the same as rushing off to war without a second thought because a governing body says so. In fact it might be a braver thing to accept your white feather and do what you know is right. Patriotism was treated much the same way more recently in our country...it was used by some as a way to defame their opponents. But this speaks ill of the manipulators, not of real patriotism. In the same way, the idea of chivalry can be distorted and manipulated for political purposes, but that does not have any bearing on the merits of "real" chivalry (and just for further clarification, I am still speaking of this in a modern, rather than a historical sense). We could go through a list of virtues and find that they have all been manipulated at some point in history for the benefit of the powerful...but that does not make those qualities less virtuous. Certainly bad things have come from love, loyalty and selflessness, but those are still qualities I would like to see more of. The points you make about these manipulations are not lost on me, but I still feel strongly that there is a place for a better form of chivalry today.
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Pete at Home
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Yes, Richard, Military Chivalry, if not dead before the 20th century, then died as brave Polish cavalry attacked Nazi panzer tanks. But KE is talking about something else; he's made that clear from the start of the thread when he defined terms.

quote:
I have never thought of the concept as pompous because I don't see it as trying to elevate oneself above anybody, but rather treating others as you would be treated. That sounds familiar, who said we should do that? Pete?
I don't think that Chivalry is contained within the golden rule, although they do overlap, and I have nothing but praise for either.

(I offered some reservations about misapplications of chivalry, but one could also misapply the golden rule, particularly in a sexual context).

While the Golden Rule is universal, Chivalry is about the obligation of the strong towards the weak. The Golden rule is horizontal while Chivalry is vertical.

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cperry
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Wandervogelbewegung: Now that would be one heck of a screen name. Help me, Richard -- I looked it up and even translated a few pages, but I don't know what it means. (If the rest of y'all do, and I'm just a flaming, ignorant fool, don't ridicule me too much for it, please!)
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KnightEnder
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Richard, Pete is right as I thought would have been obvious after the discussion with Jefferson? If anybody wishes to discuss the origin or evolution of chivlary I will be happy to join that discussion on another thread, but it is not what I'm talking about here.

KE

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Pete at Home
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While we think of Chivalrous gestures applying "especially to women," that definition implies that it's not *always* only to women.

Today I saw an example of what I think of as (modern) principles Chivalry that refer to those weaker than us rather than just kindness to women. Thing 2 started giggling uncontrollaby in church, so I took him out into the Foyer so as not to disturb the meeting. The couches in the foyer are full, but someone stands up, seeing that I've got my hands full of 4-year old, and offers me his seat, which I gratefully accept. But then some older guy comes along, leaning on a cane, so I figure this guy needs it more than me, so I give the place to him. And then, not even 5 minutes later, along comes a guy with a walker that can barely move, and the guy with the cane gives the place to the guy with the walker.

I think this is a form of chivalry that really should have a place in a modern society; the stronger ones giving place and special consideration for those who are physically weaker and that need accomodation.

Some of the competitive female law students I mentioned that refuse any offer for a guy to help carry their books, have less of a problem with asking a male fellow-student to walk them to their car in the parking garage at night after classes. So even in law school, the protective aspect of chivalry is not entirely dead.

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Funean
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Does anyone remember the part of Lawrence of Arabia where the sheikh (blanking on the name) tells Lawrence that while Lawrence believes in mercy, he believes in manners, and that Lawrence must consider which of the two he considers to be the more reliable?

Best line in the movie, and it goes to the heart of what I consider chivalry to be.

More than manners, both less and more than morality.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
More than manners, both less and more than morality.
Whether or not this is what you intended, you just described a system of "Ethics."

Yes, Chivalry is a system of ethics: It involves a system of manners, but is more than manners. It has value elements like morality, but extends farther than morality in some respects, and yet in other respects, Chivalry is less comprehensive than morality.

[ May 15, 2005, 05:30 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pelegius
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I still don't know, I'm all for manners and kindness and treating people corectly, but when I hear chivalry I think of the Line in The Once and Future King where Arthur says to Merlyn,
quote:
f I were to be made a knight . . . I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.”
and Merlyn responds,
quote:
hat would be extremely presumptuous of you,and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.

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Funean
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I'm digging deep here (college *was* 20 years ago...) but if I remember correctly, ethics is the study of morality, or moral philosophy. But I know what you mean, Pete.

Ethics can be descriptive (most Americans believe that murder is wrong) or normative (murder is wrong). The morality to which they refer can be behavioral (adultery is wrong) or metaphysical (lusting in your heart is wrong).

We think of morality as being specific to a culture or creed, and most of us agree that notions of morality can be relative to that culture or creed, but an individual's morality can be measured as the degree to which he or she adheres to the standards of the set of beliefs to which he or she professes. Manners, of course, are highly variable, and wholly behavioral.

Chivalry, I think, differs from both manners and morality because it is composed more of a set of behaviors (manners) than motives (morality), yet those behaviors are informed by a set of motivations more abstract and complex than mere courtesy. One can fail to be chivalrous but still be a moral person by the dictates of one's society, but fail by one's own standards. With manners, one can fail to be mannerly and fail neither standard.

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Funean
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Excellent line, Pelegius!

You are right; there is a certain amount of hubris in chivalry. Hubristic manners? Moral hubris? Hmmm....

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KnightEnder
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Fun, I can't find where Pelegius says hubris? I don't see how that is true?

Hubris and chivalry are two of my favorite words.

KE

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Funean
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I was referring to Merlyn's "presumptuous" line.

My interpretation was that Arthur is "guilty" of a gorgeous hubris in thinking that he could successfully take on all the evil of the world and undertake the suffering on behalf of all mankind.

This is of course what Jesus did, which would make the thinking hubristic.

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