Honor is a value that has, throughout history, been held in high esteem. Honor is necessary for ethics because having honor means being true to one's own values and doing the right thing. Honor is closely linked to virtue(#), honesty(#), loyalty(#) and trustworthiness(#).
According the the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, honor has ten different definitions and many different cultures define honor differently. In some cultures, honor can mean being honest and virtuous. In other cultures, honor can mean being vigilant and defending one's religious beliefs, even unto death.In today's society, the term 'honor' seems to have taken a more general usage. It means to both honor others through words and actions and in doing so, to be an honorable person.
To honor another through actions or behavior is to show that individual that ones relationship with them is valued. This is often shown by treating them with respect and dignity. In many teachings and followings students are taught that they should honor teachers, often referring to them as "master" or "wise-one." Even college students usually will not address instructors by their first names unless asked to do so; in new student orientations and the Return to Learn Program for non-traditionals at MSU-B, students are told to always address their instructors as "Professor" unless told to do otherwise. This respect seems to have dropped somewhat from times in the past, for even in Billings there have been alarming reports of students threatening and even visiting physical harm upon their instructors.
Honor appears in many religions. In the case of a deity, honor is shown by paying them tribute of some kind. Some religions do this through sacrifice or monuments, while others honor their diety through worship. Others set up shrines and incense for their gods, which are different from the large monuments. The Christian and Jewish faiths preach the commandment of honoring one's father and mother commanding that one treat them with deference and respect. The Muslim faith teaches similarily that a person should always treat his/her father with the utmost respect.
Being an honorable person is a little harder to define. Honor is a term that is sometimes thrown around loosely in today's culture; statements like "he's an honorable man," or "on my honor," are frequent. When an individual is honorable, they are being respectful of themselves and holding true to their own values. They are doing what they believe to be right under any circumstances without undue thought, which, according to Francisco Varela is the very definition of being ethical. He says in his book, Ethical Know-How, that a virtuous person "is one who knows what is good and spontaneously does it." (pg. 4) Honorable people are usually virtuous people-holding true to the virtues and values that they prize above all else. They somehow seem to always know what is good and what is right and act on it. Honorable people are true to themselves and to their values and always do what is right in any given circumstance.
Honorable people are highly valued in society because they can be trusted to do the right thing. For example, when an individual signs a promissory note, such as with a school loan or a mortgage, he/she is promising, on their honor, to pay back the debt. For years, a persons word or signature was considered enough to enter into a binding agreement. This was done because was assumed that one's 'honor' would push them to keep up their end of the bargain. In recent years, more and more people have, for whatever reasons, defaulted on their loans. This has forced lenders and dealers to ask for more than just a signature or a verbal agreement; many businesses now require collateral or a co-signer. A person's honor doesn't seem to have the same weight of value that it once did.
Honor is, at it's very core, a large part of ethics. If one cannot be true and honorable to oneself, then one cannot, by definition, be an ethical individual. Honor is more than being respectful or merely paying tribute to others, it begins at the core with being honest and true to oneself.