Re: Honest

Gordon Simons (
Sun, 1 Feb 1998 08:44:41 -0500 (EST)

Hi, Brian.

Brian Harper wrote:

> Hello Gordie.
> I really appreciate your comments as well as those of Burgy
> and others. I tend to side with Burgy at least wrt what
> the right thing to do is. But let me add quickly that
> I was not there and would not dare stand in judgement of
> those placed in this terrible situation, no matter what
> they decided to do.
> I have no illusions about who would be responsible for
> the deaths of these people were I to turn them in.
> Of course it is the Nazis who bear this responsibility.
> But this seems to me small compensation. What would I
> say as they were taken from my house? Don't worry,
> my conscience is clear? It seems to me that insisting
> on strict honesty in this situation comes down to
> weighing one's own honesty and integrity as being of
> more value than someone else's life. I believe people
> are more important than ideals. Many of us might be
> willing to give our lives to save the lives of others
> in a situation like this, indeed to lie in this case
> would certainly risk death. If we would give our lives
> why wouldn't we sacrifice our honesty and our morality
> for the sake of someone else? Is being a moral person
> more important than someone's life?

I fully agree with what you say here.

Frankly, I don't know what the proper status should be
within Christianity of what is called a virtue, but the
present discussion began for me when Burgy made what
seems to me a questionable assertion about the "virtue"
of honesty:

> It is not "honesty" that is primary, but "integrity."

I don't think he, nor, apparently, Stephen Carter, whom
Burgy cites, have justified the primacy of integrity over
honesty. While practicing honesty in all cases can be a
problem, seeking to practice integrity in all cases is
bound to fall into a trap -- into what Ehrenreich refers
to as "the swamps of moral relativism."

For whatever shortcomings the practice of honesty might
have, one can almost always discern what it is. The
same is not true for integrity.

Still, I would like to read Stephen Carter's book,
_Integrity_. There must be some reason _Christianity
Today_ has assigned this book sixth-place (together
with five other books) in its "1997 Book Awards."