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Honor roughly means respectability or “deserved respect” (of a person); it can be awarded to someone as a member of a collective or class (honor of a blameless citizen, a good craftsman, a noblewoman, etc.), but it can also be awarded to someone (e.g. through the ennoblement or award of a merit ) by someone entitled to do so. Compared to someone who makes you feel inferior to the rank or dignity respect, one gives oneself respectfully . To honor someone means to give them a new honor.

Honor (such as the merchant's honor) is also to be understood as a social compulsion among free citizens. They become part of their own personality and must be preserved and defended. The free person does not have to be forced, he forces himself.

The opposite of honor is shame . This often means the loss of honor (see also humiliation ) or, in a milder form, personal embarrassment .

Concept history

The German word honor goes to Middle High German ēre (influenced by the Latin honestas "honor, reputation" (as the ruling knightly value), honestus "honorable, -like") or ëre and Old High German ëra ("grace, gift, honor", cultic-religious “praise, dignity, privilege”), which can be derived from an Indo-European root ais- (“to be revered, to adore”) The concept of honor was developed in intellectual history through the Greek terms τιμή (recognition, respect) and εὐδοκία (Pleasure, good reputation) and the Latin term honor (recognition, [official] honor). Already in the Icelandic saga and the Iliad , the term denotes a meaning or attitude to life that - if violated - leads to bitter feuds in antiquity, honor was usually presented materially as a “gift of honor.” Theoretically, the concept of honor was first developed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics in 335 / 34–322 BC, according to which it was “actually (honor ), which is the goal of business life ”, with the personal pursuit of excellence the decisive motive. In the Germanic world of ideas, too, the preservation of honor is bound to certain minimum moral requirements (above all to personal bravery ).

Only Thomas Hobbes breaks with this ancient and old Germanic ideas and replaces it with a radically amoral view by defining honor than the purely superficial recognition of power by others. Other authors agree with this point of view, although the assessment of this form of honor has recently turned out to be more and more negative. Schopenhauer criticizes the exaggerated importance that we often attach to the opinion of others.

In the more recent discussion, Hans Reiner differentiates between action that is determined by a sense of honor in the sense of a direct reference to one's own values ​​and unworthiness, and behavior that is determined by the values ​​and unworthiness caused by the agent (feeling of responsibility ).

Social relevance

By disregarding his collective , the individual is humiliated, by disregarding the individual his collective is humiliated (cf. the defamation ). B. in fame . The “loss of honor” also refers to “loss of face ”, which refers to the loss of reputation within the collective.

"Injured honor" was and is violently "restored" in societies / cultures in which the reputation of a family, ethnic or religious collective is placed above the value system of individualism , openly disregarding the rule of law ( the state's monopoly on the use of force) ( cf. Revenge , duel , honor killing ). Other interpretations assume that the violent restoration of honor should be interpreted as a rule of law in today's sense.

In medieval literature, ere was considered a central concept of the motivation of people and literary figures to act. This "outwardly expressed appreciation " consists in the prestige that a person enjoys. Through triuwe (loyalty), milte (willingness to give), cunning (prudence), maze (ability to be moderate), stete (steadfastness) and tugent (virtue) the ere can be increased. If the ere is injured, there is an obligation to revenge or atonement for the relatives. Only men can (in medieval novels) acquire, enlarge, reduce or regain their erection . Women remained in this context as the only ere the virtue option. With the loss of their virtue they lose their esteem , cannot regain it and are then considered dishonorable .

In medieval and modern Europe, honor was also a medium for resolving conflicts between people and / or institutions. When resolving and resolving disputes, care was taken to avoid or conceal open conflicts as far as possible, because an open dispute could result in a loss of honor on the part of the counterpart. Since one was well aware of the escalation potential of defamation, it became necessary for both sides to resolve the conflict in such a way that the honor of both was not damaged. To that extent pacified to maintain the honor at the expense of personal freedom and fixed such. B. estates differentiated ideas of honor also at the expense of equality.

For Montesquieu , the competition for rankings, promotions and awards, which the pursuit of honor brings with it, was an important principle of the monarchy that animated the government. Honor sets all the members of the state body in motion around the monarch in his own way so that everyone contributes to the common good, even if he believes he is only pursuing his special interests. Philosophically this is a false but useful honor. Ambition can also be suppressed at any time if it becomes dangerous. The competition for honor thus plays a similar role as the competition, which, according to Montesquieu, ensures fair prices.

More recent historical research indicates that the honor of the premodern era can hardly be separated from the law as such, since the guarantee of the law first had to be defended or fought for due to the lack of state institutions. An impairment of honor was usually accompanied by questions of rank and legal issues that did not necessarily have to be resolved by force, but could be associated with the use of force (feuds). This also applied to oath communities such as cities and associations of estates ("Länder"), which felt themselves to be communities of honor.

As part of his field research in Kabylia, Pierre Bourdieu analyzes the game of honor and defamation as a mechanism of exchange . The person challenged in his or her honor has the choice of continuing or breaking off the exchange. If he breaks off, the challenge appears as aggressive behavior. If he chooses to exchange, he is ready to play the game. The choice of a suitable time and a certain strategy for the response give the challenge its specific character and shape the further course. Time and strategy are in turn influenced by the pressure of the group.

Thorstein Veblen assumes in his theory of peace that the common man attacks the honor of his reference group, e.g. B. is no longer able to recognize his nation and is not morally indignant about it until experts explain to him in detail the type of defamation. The keepers of the code mobilize the masses manipulatively by force of interpretation .

According to Ruth Benedict's distinction between the culture of shame and guilt , the complex of honor and defamation is clearly to be located in a context of shame culture , that is, honor results from the opinion of others, not from one's own ethical behavior.

Honor under National Socialism

In the value system of the Nazi ideology , honor took a dominant position, which z. B. from the motto of the SS " My honor means loyalty " can be read. The Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg declared: "The idea of ​​honor ... becomes the beginning and end of all our thoughts and actions for us." (Alfred Rosenberg: The Myth of the 20th Century ).

The decisive criterion for the honor of the individual was the race : "Honor is conditioned by the species, by the blood". (Meyers Lexicon, 1937). This conception of honor was reflected in National Socialist legislation and case law. One of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 was entitled Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor . On March 18, 1942, the People's Court came to the conclusion in a statement of reasons: “The deprivation of civil rights under Section 3 of the Criminal Code could only have a meaning and purpose if the accused actually had the… rights. But this is not the case with a Jew. … According to the conviction of the entire German people, a Jew… has no honor at all ”.

But there were also exceptions. So-called " half-breeds ", who had made special contributions to "the movement", could be declared "honorary Aries" by the Führer and were thus largely on an equal footing with " Germans ". About 260 officers or their wives received such a status change.

The term “soldier's honor” was also often used.

Honor in Turkey

The study Dynamics of honor killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) came to the conclusion in 2008 that in the eastern and south-eastern regions of Turkey tradition plays an important role in which values ​​are associated with the concept of Honor to be associated. Here, honor is sometimes viewed as the sole purpose in life or constructed through control over the woman's body. In these cases, it made honor killings more likely to be considered "understandable" or "acceptable" acts.

The control of men over the sexuality of women, the virginity or sexual abstinence of girls, marital infidelity and divorce are repeatedly brought into direct connection with the concept of honor. Further factors are “appropriate behavior”, “appropriate clothing”, the fulfillment of expectations regarding the required duties, the admissibility of school attendance and the chosen group of friends of the women. The respondents repeatedly mentioned connections between their traditions and the rules of Islam . In particular, young men between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the study, took harsh and intolerant positions on questions of virginity and divorce and made a direct connection between the behavior of their family members and their own honor, while older men expressed themselves more moderately in comparison. Women, other than those with a lower level of education, from remote traditional areas or with strong religious affiliations, were often less harsh than men.

Turks with a higher education, from an urban environment or with an individualistic concept of life, on the other hand, represented different concepts of honor in several interviews, in which control over female sexuality was not the focus. They partly linked their concept of honor with their state, with honesty, fairness, self-respect, openness, personal responsibility or general interpersonal decency. The traditional sexuality-centered concept of honor was sometimes critically questioned or rejected entirely by them.

In 2008, the UNDP study Human Development Report - Youth in Turkey found that hundreds of women die every year, especially in rural areas of Turkey, in order to reconstitute the allegedly wounded honor of their families. The fear that a girl's honor has been “touched” in some way is the basis not only for honor killings, but also for child marriages .


According to Winfried Speitkamp , honor is understood to mean the relationship between self-respect (“inner honor”) and social recognition by others (prestige, “outer honor”). Representations of honor can have an integrating or marginal effect, i. H. result in the social inclusion or exclusion of people. They are developed and protected by groups and are therefore not just the result of individual decisions. Concepts of honor by groups can go against existing law. As an example, Speitkamp cites Helmut Kohl's word of honor in the CDU donation affair .

As a fundamental problem of the concept of honor, u. a. Hegel noted that on the one hand personal honor was an element of the liberation of individual persons from the constraints of class society, on the other hand it was unsuccessful to derive personal honor from the reason of an individual person alone.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel writes on the concept of honor in his lectures on aesthetics (written 1835–1838):

“Honor can now have the most varied content. Because everything I am, what I do, what others do to me, also belongs to my honor. I can therefore (...) credit myself with loyalty to princes, to fatherland, profession, fulfillment of fatherly duties, loyalty in marriage, righteousness in trade and conduct, conscientiousness in scientific research and so on. For the point of view of honor, however, all of these inherently valid and truthful relationships are not sanctioned and recognized by themselves, but only because I put my subjectivity into it and thereby make it a matter of honor. The man of honor therefore thinks of himself first in all things; and the question is not whether something is in and of itself right or not, but whether it is according to him, whether it is his honor to deal with it, or to stay away. And so he can probably do the worst things and be a man of honor. (...)

Vulnerability of honor (...) so honor is absolutely vulnerable. For the extent to which I want to extend the requirement and in relation to what I want, is based purely on my will. The smallest offense can be of importance to me in this regard; and since man (...) can infinitely expand the circle of that (...) in which he wants to place his honor, there is (...) no end to quarreling and quarreling. "

The problem that Hegel refers to here is the arbitrariness with which people in the modern age can fill the concept of honor, which is no longer socially binding, with content. Despite this real arbitrariness, the concept of honor creates the appearance of having something socially and thus intersubjectively binding as its content. This inner contradiction gives rise to endless social conflicts over personal honor.

In contrast to the concept of honor, the modern concept of respect , understood as mutual respect for people, contains a defined content that is generally binding in human rights.


Legal situation in Germany

In the unchangeable Art. 1, the Basic Law only mentions the concept of dignity, which is more fundamental than honor . In Art. 5 GG, however, honor is also mentioned. Some special provisions of Article 61 of the Basic Law regarding the indictment of the Federal President protect the honor of the Federal Republic - regardless of his possible misconduct. 'Honor' and 'dignity' are by no means synonymous. Until 1969 the concept of the loss of civil rights was a common side effect of convictions for serious crimes. The law thus allowed the withdrawal of honorary rights as a legal consequence of a loss of honor , whereas the dignity is "inviolable" based on Art. 1 GG, so it must never be taken from a person under any circumstances.

The penal code recognizes "offenses against honor" such as insult , defamation or defamation . Civil law, on the other hand, knows the concept of honor to the extent that defamation in criminal offenses against honor leads to claims for damages and thus to obligations under Section 823 (2) BGB .

The honor as an individual legal asset listed under Section 34 of the Criminal Code is also covered in the event of a corresponding violation of the self-defense paragraph in the sense of a defense against an unlawful, direct attack.

The system and the structure of the Criminal Code reflects the earlier status of honor in society: At the time of the codification of criminal law, matters of honor were more important than e.g. B. assault , insult, defamation etc. and came before manslaughter .


  • Hegel, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm: Lectures on the aesthetics II. Works 14. Suhrkamp Publisher: Frankfurt a. M. 1973. p. 177ff.
  • Interview with Winfried Speitkamp. "Honor is more of the shell than the content."

See also

Web links

Commons : Honor  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Honor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Honor  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Fischer: Fishermen in the Right - Insult: Honor, Dignity and Integration. In: Zeit Online. April 21, 2015, accessed June 2, 2020.
  2. ^ Ricarda Huch: In the old empire: Life pictures of German cities. Berlin 1967, ISBN 3-548-37008-X , pp. 84–85 (about the Münster coat of arms with the slogan Ehr is Dwang gnog "Honor is enough").
  3. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka , De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 153.
  4. Hans Reiner: Honor. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy. Vol. 2, p. 319 ff.
  5. a b Ruch, Philipp: Ehre und Rache A history of feelings in ancient law . ISBN 978-3-593-50720-0 ( worldcat.org [accessed March 11, 2019]).
  6. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics (Êthika nikomacheia) ( Memento of February 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), p. 2.
  7. Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, part 1, chap. X.
  8. Artur Schopenhauer: Aphorisms for wisdom, chap. 4, Stuttgart: Kröner-Verlag 1990
  9. Hans Reiner: Ethics of opinion. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy. Vol. 3, p. 539 f.
  10. Otfrid Ehrismann : Honor and Courage, Âventiure and Minne: courtly word stories from the Middle Ages. Munich 1995, p. 65 ff.
  11. Montesquieu: De l'esprit des lois. (Original: loix .) Geneva 1748, III, 5–7.
  12. (PDF) The land as a community of honor, public interest and peace: A contribution to the discussion about the "common benefit". Accessed April 30, 2020 (English).
  13. Bourdieu: Draft of a theory of practice, 1st chapter.
  14. ^ T. Veblen: An Inquiry into the Nature of Peace and the Terms of its Perpetuation. BW Huebsch, New York 1919, p. 30.
  15. a b c Wolfgang Benz , Hermann Graml , Hermann Weiß : Encyclopedia of National Socialism. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 978-3-423-34408-1 , p. 437 f.
  16. a b Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-013379-2 , p. 163 f.
  17. Matthes Ziegler : Soldiers 'faith, soldiers' honor. A German breviary for Hitler's soldiers. Nordland Verlag, Berlin 1940.
  18. See United Nations Development Program: Dynamics of honor killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action , Human Development Report (HDR), 2008, p. 66. Online at unfpa.org
  19. See United Nations Development Program: Dynamics of honor killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action. Human Development Report (HDR), 2008, p. 17 ff. Online at unfpa.org (PDF; 1.7 MB)
  20. See United Nations Development Program: Dynamics of honor killings in Turkey: Prospects for Action. Human Development Report (HDR), 2008, p. 21 ff. Online at unfpa.org (PDF; 1.7 MB)
  21. See United Nations Development Program: Human Development Report - Youth in Turkey. Human Development Report (HDR), 2008, p. 45. Online at unfpa.org (PDF; 1.7 MB)
  22. ^ Concept of honor on textlog.de
  23. "Honor is more the shell than the content." on Telepolis