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Haverford's Honor Code and the Justices of Rights and Right Relationships

Gavi's picture

As I read Humbach’s piece on the difference between the justice of rights and the justice of right relationships, I kept thinking about how the author would react to Haverford’s Honor Code. According to Humbach, the justice of rights prioritizes the abstract and cannot truly inform the “intricacy of interactions among persons.” On the other hand, the justice of right relationships comprises a worldview more than anything, a means by which an individual, without compromising her individuality, seeks to “be attentive and responsive to the needs and emotions of one another” in a way that supersedes any written rules. 

I do think that Haverford’s Honor Code actually works more toward the justice of right relationships than the justice of rights. The Code is, according to its website, “not a set of rules, but rather an articulation of ideals and expectations emphasizing genuine connection and engagement with one another, and the creation of an atmosphere of trust, concern, and respect.” These attributes are, then, all more reflective of the justice of right relationships than the justice of rights. Trust, concern, and respect are not rules so much as ethical guidelines, upon which any relationship is necessarily grounded; they are also guidelines loose enough so as not to be particular to only certain situations.

However, I also wonder about another point Humbach makes regarding right relationships. He claims that a fundamental disjuncture between the justices of rights and right relationships exists in their oppositional views on reason: the justice of rights depends on reason, while the justice of right relationships depends on “procedural moral knowledge,” or “the heart.” Does Haverford’s Honor Code really contribute to an internalization of procedural moral knowledge? When we don’t steal a fine lookin’ piece of pizza from the Coop, or when we confront a roommate, do these Haverfordian actions come from the rehearsal of moral guidelines, or a deep procedural knowledge of morality that is in line with the Code?  Can the former become the latter? 

Does it matter?