Charlie Collins Portrait
Charles A. Collins

About the Honor Blog

This blog has been created for the purpose of exploring controversial moral problems, using the concepts explored in The Book of Honor as a foundation. Since it seeks to tackle difficult problems, readers should approach it with serious minds and should expect to have their prejudices challenged. However, an element which is central to The Book of Honor is that there are things upon which all normal humans will agree. This blog seeks out those things - it focuses on areas of agreement, rather than disagreement, so that the discussion can remain positive even in the face of serious disagreements.

The Gratiae

One of the most important conclusions reached in The Book of Honor is that acting in a good and moral way means giving value to other persons. The things which represent that value are called the gratiae, and in The Book of Honor, we learn there are three of those things:
Liberty, and

Good actions are those which support human life, which recognize the freedom and dignity of other persons. Immoral, evil actions are those which deprive persons of their lives, deny them their freedom, and/or destroy their dignity.

The Virtues

The purpose of The Book of Honor is to establish a code of conduct, a set of factors which will guide persons toward honorable behavior. Those factors are summarized in the form of seven Virtues:
Hope, and

These Virtues are used to guide honorable behavior; a person who considers and applies the Virtues when making decisions, when taking action, will serve the gratiae - and act in a good, moral way.

About the Author

Hopefully most of your questions about me are answered by the About page. However, within the context of this blog, I think it also is important for me to point out that:

Inevitably, controversial subjects will touch upon the political arena. There is no way to remove all bias from a discussion - so I believe the best thing I can do is to let you know that I am Catholic, and inclined toward conservatism.

Previous Posts

Jan 16, 2022: Un-Masking Motivations

Sep 22, 2021: Thalidomide

Apr 4, 2021: Escaping Politics

Aug 31, 2020: Handling Embarrassing Flaws

Jun 19, 2020: A Sign of Sickness in Education

May 10, 2020: Noble Self-Sacrifice

The Honor Blog

Today is: Apr 15, 2024
Post From: May 10, 2020

Noble Self-Sacrifice

I recently had a conversation in which the topic of self-sacrifice arose. I don't want you to think that I talk about this sort of thing often - my conversations, as a rule, are much more light-hearted! However, this conversation brought out a topic for which my book, Reawakening Honor was written.

One of the things which came up during that conversation was a scene from the end of the second Star Trek movie - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In the scene, the Enterprise is about to be destroyed, because its reactors are overheating. In order to save the ship, Spock goes into the engine room to make repairs by hand - he is the only one with the physical strength to withstand the radiation long enough, so he chooses to sacrifice himself. As he is dying, he says, ``The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.''

There is no doubt about the nobility of Spock's actions - for one person to place his or her own life at risk in order to help others is the definition of heroism.

However, what Spock said at the end deserves closer examination. The reasoning is sound, but there is a key element which commonly is overlooked. To see it, consider this:

Imagine a group of people who are trapped - perhaps by a snowstorm in the mountains. The group's resources are limited, and they are quickly running out of food. In order to extend their supplies, the group takes a vote to eliminate one person - they will cast that person out into the storm, where he or she will die of exposure, leaving more food for the rest of the group.

I don't think we need to specify more details - the example is disturbing and horrifying. I don't think anyone would disagree the group's decision was wrong, immoral. However, strictly speaking, it falls within the parameters Spock described.

The difference between the two situations, of course, lies in the identity of the person making the choice. In Spock's case, he chose to sacrifice himself, while in the latter case, the rest of the group decided that someone else should pay the price.

If moral calculations are done only from the point of view of material benefit - if they are to be done in a utilitarian manner - then the group's dcision was the correct one. But moral calculations are not purely utilitarian. There is a spiritual side to human existence, and the reality is that the spiritual side is vastly more important than the material one.

That is the central thesis of Reawakening Honor - that the spiritual side of human existence is the side which truly matters. The material side really is a frame within which humans live their spiritual existence.

In this case, the second situation represents a violation of that spiritual side - it is a clear rejection of the gratia of dignity. What the group has decided is to devalue the humanity of their colleague - they have determined that his or her value is less than theirs.

Since our world grows increasingly materialistic, increasingly utilitarian in its decision-making, this sort of question is essential. What we see from comparing these examples is that self-sacrifice is the essence of nobility - but that sacrificing another person is the opposite.