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Tulane Honors Program

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


This blog is primarily for me to offer some thoughts and ramblings about directing Tulane Honors Program, the world of academia, and student life. It is also for my students to offer their replies and comments. I hope that we can create a conversation where we share thoughts, links to articles, advice, suggestions, etc.

So, without any further ado, two random quotes that have the word "honor" in them:

"The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

"It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them."
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Let the conversation begin!



Christian M M Brady, D.Phil.
Director, Honors Program
Assoc. Prof., Classical & Jewish Studies
Tulane University
AIM: TargumMan


  • If someone else has already said it better, why not just give them credit, right? I found the following using bartleby.com:

    QUOTATION: We must bear in mind the distinction between fame and honor. A virtuous person is an honorable person, a person who ought to be honored by the community in which he or she lives. But the virtuous person does not seek honor, being secure in his or her own self-respect. Lack of honor does not in any way detract from the efficacy of moral virtue as an indispensable operative means in the pursuit of happiness.... Those totally lacking in virtue may achieve fame as readily as, perhaps even more easily than those who are virtuous. Fame belongs to the great, the outstanding, the exceptional, without regard to virtue or vice. Infamy is fame no less than good repute. The great scoundrel can be as famous as the great hero; there can be famous villains as well as famous saints. Existing in the reputation a person has regardless of his or her accomplishments, fame does not tarnish as honor does when it is unmerited.
    ATTRIBUTION: Mortimer J. Adler (b. 1902), U.S. philosopher, educator. “Wrong Desires,” Desires Right and Wrong: The Ethics of Enough, Macmillan (1991).

    Adler's closing words here, "fame does not tarnish as honor does when it is unmerited," speaks rather directly to why it is that Mark Twain is right about the contrast between having and deserving honors. I think Emerson is getting at the same thing--the one loudly talking of his honor probably is undeserving and that would explain why the people counting their spoons don't really want to hear about it. The challenge, when honored, is to live up to it.

    By Blogger amanda, at 11:30 AM  

  • Thanks Amanda. I commented on the nature of honor in an address I gave to our class of the NSCS.


    My conclusion:
    But never forget that you do not gain “honor” by merely studying and achieving a 4.0. What is good and honorable is not just the acquisition of knowledge; indeed, special knowledge is not needed at all, other than knowing what is right and having the strength and courage to do it. “Knowing what is right” is the tough part and I believe that your time here at Tulane and within NSCS will help you to find the answer to this question. I can tell you this much. It is an answer that you must find for yourself but you cannot find it by yourself. You will find it by remaining honest and earnest within a community. If you do that you will truly be a person who possesses honor and honors, but the former comes before the latter.

    By Blogger Cb, at 12:04 PM  

  • the mark twain quote made me think of another one of his quotes...

    "I never let schooling interfere with my education."

    ponder that one for a little bit :-)

    I also thought I would share notes taken straight from the board in one of my classes... and I quote...

    "Many of Ashlee Simpson's 15 bandmembers have either mohawks or spiked collars because she's like, so punk. If 10 have mohawks, 7 have spiked collars, and 5 have both, how many of the bandmembers have neither?"


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:35 AM  

  • 3? I never have been good with math; too wordy.

    And from Twain, of interest to the biblical scholar in me:
    "Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture
    they do not understand, but the passages that bother
    me are those I do understand." - Mark Twain

    By Blogger Cb, at 11:45 AM  

  • Regarding the discussions of honor (honour? still looks strange after 3 months), I think I should add that it makes no sense to confer honor upon oneself. The language is always of 'receiving' honors, not 'getting' them. At my commencement, I won't walk up the the table and pick up my diploma as if I'd found the honor lying around on the floor. Any honors I would receive will be given by someone else: the Dean, whoever. The honor would be conferred by someone in a position to confer it.

    We can seek and possess virtue. But to possess honor we must be given such honor by whomever we seek to impress, whether it is God, teachers, Scott Cowen, fellow students, law school interviewers, or otherwise. For example: the Christian cannot present himself to God with honor and say, 'Look at me, God!' The Christian presents himself to God wearing 'immortal honors' which belong from eternity to Christ and are given to mankind.

    Sorry for the theology bunny trail. At any rate, honor is given to those worthy, not found. Perhaps a good aphorism would be: 'Those who seek honor for the sake of being honorable do not deserve to find it'.

    By Blogger Evan, at 4:36 PM  

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