In this age of Facebook, Blogging, Spam, Telephone Marketing, Sarcastic Humour, where anyone of any educational stature can fill the airwaves with whatever might enter their heads at any moment - does chivalry deserve a come back?

Where is the integrity of old gone?  In the days when knights were knights and, well ....

What ever happened to this:

When examining medieval literature, chivalry can be classified into three basic but overlapping areas:

  1. Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians: this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valor, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another’s; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.
  2. Duties to God: this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord.
  3. Duties to women: this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love, the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.
And this:

These three areas obviously overlap quite frequently in chivalry, and are often indistinguishable.

Different weight given to different areas produced different strands of chivalry:

  1. warrior chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his lord, as exemplified by Sir Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
  2. religious chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to protect the innocent and serve God, as exemplified by Sir Galahad or Sir Percival in theGrail legends.
  3. courtly love chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his own lady, and after her, all ladies, as exemplified by Sir Lancelot in his love for Queen Guinevere or Sir Tristan in his love for Iseult
And this:

Upon my honor,

  1. I will develop my life for the greater good. 
  2. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth. 
  3. I will never boast, but cherish humility instead. 
  4. I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word. 
  5. I will defend those who cannot defend themselves. 
  6. I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises. 
  7. I will uphold justice by being fair to all. 
  8. I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship. 
  9. I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them. 
  10. I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help. 
  11. I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven. 
  12. I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward. 

Is there a place for Chivalry in our modern times - can we integrate these values of chivalry into our quest to promote rational thinking in our modern society?

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Replies to This Discussion

Harley - interesting history - I feel very romantic thinking about it......  which I don't suppose was your point though...  it does make sense though that we need some sort of code to prevent war - the hunter gatherers had the erratic retaliation - http://www.wattpad.com/143828-my-ishmael-daniel-quinn?p=35 - the french had chivalry - we've now got the UN conventions - 

Can't I have:

Upon my honor,

  1. I will develop my life for the greater good. 
  2. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth. 
  3. I will never boast, but cherish humility instead. 
  4. I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word. 
  5. I will defend those who cannot defend themselves. 
  6. I will honor and respect others, and refute inequality in all its guises. 
  7. I will uphold justice by being fair to all. 
  8. I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship. 
  9. I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them. 
  10. I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help. 
  11. I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven. 
  12. I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward. 

It's up to you. I could pick apart some of those points, but in the end it's your decision.

Harley - go on pick - I'm curious...

I would do if I had the time.

Unfortunately, I don't at the moment.

Harley - fair enough :)

Nope, not in my book. When the very first sentence you quote says "Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians", well, my beloved ancestors, no less beloved because they were practicing Jews, were stolen from, unfairly taxed, prohibited from certain livelihoods, forced to live in ghettos, periodically raped and murdered, and finally expelled, simply for being Jews, from such virtuously chivalric countries as England, France, Spain and Germany (or, more accurately, the various German states).

This so-called "chivalry" was merely a refined version of the same old primitive ingroup/outgroup tribalism that has infected, and continues to infect so much of our world. It's nice to look at the pretty surface, but underneath, they were no better than any who came before or after them.

Or, as my ex-husband once said "At least Hitler built the autobahns!"

Natalie - LOL - well I'm finding the opposite - I'm finding that after years of thrashing about and saying just whatever I pleased - I'm craving some guidance re moral behaviour or character development.

Well, I think there is plenty of guidance for moral behavior and development of good character. People have been writing about it for millennia, in every culture that had writing, and passing it down orally in cultures that didn't. A more pressing question for me is, what is the definition of moral? It varies from culture to culture -- as you saw, chivalrics only considered duties to countrymen and fellow Christians, which meant that they didn't give a damn about massacring innocent Jews and Muslims during the Crusades.

To me, moral means not doing harm if I can prevent it or refrain from it (and saying hurtful things to other people comes under that definition), and careful guardianship of the world as we inherited it. So, for example, if you cut down a tree, plant another one, or if you take fish out of the rivers and seas, make sure they are replaced. Getting our population down would be moral, because we are currently on an unsustainable course. Not doing to others that which would be distasteful to you would be moral, so I would never proselytize for anything, although I would answer questions that were sincerely asked.

I could go on and on, but to me, morality mostly needs ME to think through what I do and decide what the consequences are, and at least avoid those negative consequences that I CAN foresee and avoid. Being imperfect, I make mistakes, and I certainly appreciate the input of peace-lovers, and humanists, but not blood-thirsty chivalrics, no matter how romantic they may seem on the surface!

Natalie - I think I've been watching too much Merlin - and getting sucked into the romantic views of knights in shinning armour - not a bad thing perhaps, so long as I am aware of it as a romantic notion and maintain my ability to be open to rational thinking on the matter....

I think we all need role models and ideals to look up to for inspiration - sure, in reality the knights of old didn't share the morals that are appropriate today - but to be honest I think it must be hard to maintain moral values - even as you speak of them.  When am I going to get time to organise planting trees and repopulating water ways with marine life - I could add it to my list of things to do.

Although, I would say also that any moral values are hard to live up to if you take them to the limit.  This is what I had trouble with before - growing up and as a young adult I aimed to take moral values to the limit and found that I was greatly lacking, which then led me to let go of moral values in favour of just getting on with life, overlooking transgressions in moral values - and feeling at first guilty, then developed an un-caring attitude towards moral values that I used to aim for - when I found them unattainable.

Now I'm realising that introducing some moral values into my life - at a level that is attainable is worth while for myself and will benefit both my own well being and that of those around me - but I think these days we are brought up in a world that wants us to care about and save the whole world - which can lead to judgmental competition and / or abandoning those ideals.

As you can see, I'm still oscillating and not settled on what I believe is possible or a direction.

Alice, thanks for the background. Personally, I'm not at all unhappy with the way I was raised, and I retain most of the moral values I was raised on.

But I will share with you what I'M working on at the moment, which is how utterly small and powerless I am. And learning to be content with what I CAN do, and letting go of what I can't. For example, the pictures of the skeletal children in the Horn of Africa just break my heart, but there is no way I can feed them all. So I look for non-religious charities to whom I can make a donation. On my income, it's not a large donation, but I was raised with the concept that to save one life is to save the world. I take that to mean, do what you can. I am NOT taking it to the limit, because I CAN'T. I know that I cannot save the world, and if I try, then I am only going to drive myself crazy, and then I will be of no use to anyone.

Another example is that I am volunteering for Obama a few hours a week. Say what you will about him, he's still GALAXIES better than the Republican nutcases, and since I don't want to be governed by theocrats and gazillionaires, I'm doing what I can to prevent it. It doesn't amount to much, all by myself, but there are lots of others working too, and when we work together, we can accomplish something.

I guess what I'm saying is that you have to find a balance. By emotional nature, I'm a hopeless idealist and utopianist, but I have enough of a thinking brain to know that it doesn't work that way, and that I have to protect myself along with doing what I can. I'm simply not going to save the world all by myself, but if we work together, we really CAN accomplish something. So I do what I can, and then, when it's time to quit, I go home and think of something else. Utopia would be nice, but it ain't gonna happen in MY lifetime! :-)

Natalie - I agree - moderation in all things perhaps - is something to go with... I am historically an extremist I think.....  moderation wouldn't go amiss in my out look.  I joined the Australian Greens last election and did some putting out of leaflets - I like their social justice policies as I believe them to be more humane.  I haven't been following the Obama thing - but I'm glad that a non white person has been elected to the white house.  We have an atheist women here, which I'm also glad of - with the progress that makes to equality.

Moderation and wide variety in morals / ethics / values / eating.... :)

How chivalrous were these Holy Knights in the crusades?  They were barbarous.

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