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

John - LOL - well what about a guy or girl for that matter - who is already married and has the getting laid thing down already - is their room for improvement on their virtues?

I just find that we have lost site of these values in our current society - sure we've got American blockbuster movies with fit guys with big guns running around saving the vulnerable - but I'm talking more the small stuff - being kind and considerate on a moment to moment level....

We just have so much sarcasm, defensiveness, abusive, name calling, ridicule etc - what about some old fashioned courtesies?

John - I don't support any sort of inequality or sexism - I'm just talking about people having a moral code for their relationships with others whether they are married to them, their children, their parents, friends, acquaintances, enemies etc. that is respectful - allows others to withdraw when beaten - and is an active effort to avoid abuse.

John - LOL - do you think so?  I was thinking more about my own behaviour actually! LOL - thinking that I could probably do with aiming to be more chivalrous in my actions...  it not something that I've needed to develop as such - but I think that myself being more mindful of those values would improve my own well being and that of those around me.

I've always liked the concept of chivalry, but in practice, the whole issue of trying to define a moral code is what makes religion so objectionable (after the not making any sense of course). We should only ever take chivalry to mean what we think it should mean for us. We sould then decide what values we consider chivalrous are worth upholding, then uphold them.

We are our own masters, and we don't need some sanctified script telling us what is right and what is wrong. Any decent human being should be able to figure that one out for themselves.

Harley - I think I know what you mean - I spent the first 10 years or so of adulthood aiming to be perfect - 

I'm more meaning that once you've realised that you're not perfect and you've gone through and done what ever you feel like for a while - saying what ever comes into you head - then maybe there's an option for considering thinking about having some rules of thumb if your conscience tells you that you need to give a bit, but your ego is telling you to do what feels good....  using it as a guide when you have the time to think it through.... and make a more informed decision.

I found Harley Faggetter's answer to this question very compelling and I think, mostly correct. The only presently appropriate definition of romantic chivalry, which is the only type that still applies, is a behavioral mindset that best expresses one's respect, care, and love for another. Because I am a man, I will speak on the case of a man's behavior toward a woman. Not all women look for the same things in a man, nor should they. And not all men look for the same character or personality traits in a woman. Thus, when a man is courting a woman, he ought to behave in such a way that best communicates his respect and care for her, based on the type of man he is, and the type of woman he is hoping to find. This may include making sure to open the door or pull out the chair, but it may not. Harley is right in that establishing a script or code of specific behavior serves no purpose today. That is not to say that none of the behavior we commonly refer to as chivalrous will apply. They very well might. But the point of being chivalrous is not to hit all points on a checklist, it is to show respect and love for another human being. And the way one would do that will obviously vary from one human being to the next. 

Dave - I was meaning more just generally in life - even in situations such as an argument with a theist - do you degrade into name calling or ridicule - or do you act with honour and act in a way that is chivalrous?

The point Dave (and indeed myself) was making is that the terms 'moral' and 'chivalrous' are so fluidly defined or conceived in modern times that they are no longer relevant enough to be used as a yardstick of 'acceptable behaviour'. It should be enough that, as a sensible human being, you should be able to generate the appropriate response for a given situation.

Sure, we can all uphold certain values and call them 'chivalrous', but because not everyone will consider them as such, what is the point?

Harley - sure - I just don't consider myself sensible - I suffer from lapses in judgement and bio-chemical causal factors that impair my judgment - so as I am self aware about this - I seek to have something written on paper in order to assess my behaviour and make judgments that assist in adjustments - 

The only way you'll get that is to simply have someone tell you the exact response required in a given situation to get the intended outcome.

If such a person existed (some would falsely claim that to be God or some other deity of course) they'd be in very high demand.

Ultimately, you can't have a sense of judgement handed to you on a piece of paper. If that sense is deficient you'll either have to just live with the consequences or develop coping strategies.

I will give you one rule of thumb though. It has absolutely nothing to do with chivalry of course:

Always try to be appeasing to someone when you're able, they're far more likely to respond in kind when it comes time that you need a helping hand. That is not to say that you should appease or help everyone. It pays best to be most helpful to those you believe will be able to repay the kindness later on. Again, I obviously can't tell you who these people would be.

Harley - I like the idea that there was a 'code' if you like - some rules of thumb to refer to in times of need - when action needed to be questioned or thought through.  I like to have external references for that sort of thinking through.

Of course I use my judgement to assess which external 'codes' I refer to and use to what extent.

In the past I've asked my mum or cousin or friend - but sometimes it's nice to have more impartial resources to refer to, such as a chivalrous code or other.

That's the thing though. The original chivalric codes aren't impartial. They have a vested interest in appealing the prevalent Christian worldview in France at the time the chivalric orders had their rise to power. It was also to a large extent a French phenomena that occurred during one of their many periods of instability in the Middle Ages. I suspect that the larger driving force behind this code was to prevent the various armies vying for control of France in this period from tearing the country apart on their quest for victory.

Of course, the gentlemanly warfare became literary gold in the centuries that followed, and that's one of the things that lead to the Holy Grail legends and the other legends involving chivalrous knights (which is why King Arthur is often told as being a Middle Ages legend as opposed to the Roman Britain story some historians believe are more plausible.

So yes, there are better sources than a chivalric code.




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