Two of a Kind: Are Norms of Honour a Species of Morality?

Biology and Philosophy. Forthcoming.

29 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2017 Last revised: 2 Jun 2019

Date Written: June 23, 2018


Should the norms of honor cultures be classified as a variety of morality? In this paper, we address this question by considering various empirical bases on which norms can be taxonomically organised. This question is of interest both as an exercise in philosophy of social science, and for its potential implications in meta-ethical debates. Using recent data from anthropology and evolutionary game theory, we argue that the most productive classification emphasizes the strategic role that moral norms play in generating assurance and stabilizing cooperation. Because honor norms have a similar functional role, this account entails that honor norms are indeed a variety of moral norm. We also propose an explanation of why honor norms typically occur in a relatively unified, phenotypically distinctive cluster, thereby explaining why it is tempting to regard them as taxonomically distinct.

Keywords: honor, morality, cooperation, moral disagreement, social kinds, moral foundations theory

Suggested Citation

Handfield, Toby and Thrasher, John, Two of a Kind: Are Norms of Honour a Species of Morality? (June 23, 2018). Biology and Philosophy. Forthcoming., Available at SSRN: or

Toby Handfield (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )



John Thrasher

Chapman University ( email )

1 University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States
7146287343 (Phone)

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