“Perfected reason is called virtue, and is also the same as the honorable.” – Seneca
For those of you who have acquainted yourselves with Seneca’s letters, you may have discovered that he holds reason, virtue and honor as one and the same; however, he does distinguish and use them in unique ways depending on the particulars and/or situation. My objective here is to formulate my own interpretation of these interchangeable terms without depending on his reasoning process for giving them scope, form and articulation.
When we come together to celebrate or show regard for a particular good of sorts, we all have a sense of what is appropriate in respects to such a good. Take for instance a military funeral, conducted in honor of a General who gave his all to preserve the integrity of his nation’s defence. We could also say ‘conducted in virtue of or in reason of,’ but based on standard English syntax it is more fitting to say ‘held in honor of’.
Now let us say that a soldier attends the service dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt. Everyone else is formally dressed, including the family members of the deceased. Could we conclude that this individual is demonstrating virtue or sound judgement? He may have good reason for showing up out of uniform but does it justify his actions? How can the behaviour of one individual sully the function and purpose of the collective? When the parts no longer have congruency within the whole, does not the unity cease to exist?
The psychological impulse that surfaces due to this line of questioning leads me to think that the conception of ‘honor’ has more to do with events dealing with others. Here in Canada, we use the original spelling of the word; namely, honour. The second syllable ‘our’ indicates a ‘we’ component. Although there are probably no strict linguistic laws to make such a distinction, for me the word implies interpersonal variables that can only manifest through a group dynamics that shares both critical and experiential interests.
Virtue on the other hand, though largely reinforced in conjunction with others, if it remains at the core of a mind that reasons well, will enable one to be reasonable (circumspect) within a group context, as well as to intuit the particular virtue required for action; yet it’s in ‘the doing that is honorable, not the actual things we do.’ Thus it is through action (virtue/honor/reason), thought (reason/virtue/honor) and word (honor/virtue/reason) that virtue becomes consolidated, embodied if you will. Though virtue, reason and honor are of the same mind, they differ in expression depending on the circumstance and/or particulars of the situation at hand.