(urth) Honor

Michael Straight mfstraight at gmail.com
Thu Nov 24 13:35:48 PST 2005

On 11/23/05, Roy C. Lackey <rclackey at stic.net> wrote:
>I disagree.  Able's might doesn't make him right or wrong.  It gives
> >him the power to enforce what he thinks is right, but if he's wrong,
> >then he's wrong no matter how strong he is.
> Ah, but that flies in the face of the very basis of the concept of "trial by
> combat" in all its variations. From Lancelot's defense of Guinevere to all
> those childish, petulant, indefensible defenses against all comers of that
> mountain pass by Able in TWK, the underlying assumption is that might does,
> in fact, make right.

I don't think Able thinks, at this point in the story, that being
strong makes any opinion he has automatically right.  I think he
believes he is morally right and therefore has the right/obligation to
use his strength to enforce what he thinks is right.

> >From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
> "As it existed in the mediæval laws of western Europe, it was typically
> explained as a judicium Dei, the judgment of God. In theory, the trial so
> conducted would yield a just result because God would strengthen the arm of
> the combatant who was in the right."

So Able lives in a society where it is assumed that someone who is
morally right will be vindicated in battle.

We, the readers, may disagree.  We may believe that sometimes those
who are morally right lose the battle.

But I don't see what that has to do with how we judge Able's actions. 
In the case of standing up for the horses, I think he was right.  In
the case of murdering the captain and stealing his ship, I think he
was wrong.  In neither case is my opinion based on whether he had the
strength to enforce his vision of right and wrong.

> I prefer a
> clean toilet, too, but I don't have the *right* to force my wife to clean it
> just because I'm bigger than she is. In fact, it is precisely *because* I am
> bigger and stronger than she that I *may not* force her to do it.

If you were divorced and your wife were neglecting your children, you
would have the right and the duty to force her to take care of the
children (or relinquish custody of them), regardless of which of you
is bigger or stronger.

Because of the way our society is structured, "force" would mean
lawsuits, to begin with.  But it would also mean the threat of guns,
violence, and prison if she were to ignore the lawsuits.

In Able's society, he didn't have lawsuits.  As a knight, he had the
duty to enforce the law, in this case making sure that those who had
the legal obligation to care for the horses did so.

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