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[[quoteright:342:[[http://forlackofabettercomic.com/?id=23 http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/GameOfKingsHbeforeR_227.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:342: [[Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire Honor is overrated.]]]]

->''"Shepherd Book always said, 'If you can't do something smart, do something right.'"''
-->-- '''Jayne Cobb''', ''Film/{{Serenity}}''

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Being a good and honorable person is [[BeingGoodSucks anything but easy]]; it requires personal sacrifice that most normal people aren't willing to make, either out of self-interest, self-preservation, selfishness or [[TheDulcineaEffect any other number of reasons]].

Heroes who abide by this trope more often than not act in a manner that, while morally sound and honorable, is far from the most practical solution. Quite often this kind of decent, chivalric behavior will come at [[HeroicSacrifice a great cost to the hero's happiness, kill him outright, or similarly leave him a destroyed human being]]. A villain aware of such a gallant hero is bound to use FlawExploitation against him as well.

Put another way, a character who adheres to this trope, is someone who is [[TheFettered more committed to a particular code of abstract ethics]], than they are to their own self-preservation. They subscribe to the Kantian, rather than the utilitarian model of ethics; which is to say that they believe in a pre-defined set of rules which universally apply, and they will not break said rules, even if their own death results in adhering to them in one particular instance. These types will usually justify that, by claiming that living with the shame that results from having broken said rules, is worse than death itself.

In other words, [[WhatYouAreInTheDark they have character]].

As the name of this trope suggests, in war and politics, an ethical utilitarian will almost always overcome a hard Kantian; and this is because while a Kantian is primarily motivated by a desire to do the ''right'' thing as he sees it, a utilitarian may not have any altruistic or positive intentions whatsoever, (at least, relative to others) and thus, the utilitarian's range of permissible actions is almost entirely unrestrained.

Unless our Kantian hero is a {{Badass}}.

Honour tends to be defined far more according to what you are ''not'' permitted to do, rather than what you ''are.'' Effectiveness in warfare is the destruction of one's opponent at the least cost to oneself. It doesn't mean following rules, especially given that rules usually exist for the specific purpose of ''preventing'' people from destroying each other in the first place.

The above statement is not an advocacy of amorality, as much as it is a recognition that war itself is inherently amoral; a person committed to absolute positive morality, who literally could not do evil, would be a pacifist. 'Martial honour' only applies to [[DuelToTheDeath one on one duels]] not actual wars since a person who goes to war is participating in an activity where amorality is a prerequisite for success. Attempting to impose moral rules on oneself within the context of war, therefore, does nothing other than reduce one's chances for success at an amoral activity. The point of war is (winning) to begin with. You are either an effective pacifist ''with'' morality, or an effective warrior ''without'' it. As said in ''Series/GameOfThrones''[[labelnote:*]]by Cersei Lannister, to Ned Stark[[/labelnote]], you either win or you die; there is no middle ground.

Real-life however, is never that simple, The Geneva Conventions could be considered a "code of honor" adopted by the Western World in times of war. So even if war is inherently amoral that doesn't stop people from at least trying to apply rules to it. Additionally, there's a pragmatic reason for not seeking an enemy's total destruction in every conflict, one that has been recognized at least as far back as [[Literature/TheArtOfWar Sun Tzu himself]]: If you can convince your enemy to surrender before you destroy him (and preferably [[ToWinWithoutFighting before the fight even begins]]), you can use the same resources to strengthen yourself for the ''next'' enemy that comes along. Otherwise you would have had to both destroy those resources and risk the destruction of your own assets as well, which might weaken your position for the future.

In stories on the idealistic end of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism, the more the insistence of honorable behavior seems impractical, or even insane, the greater the chance that it becomes the thing that turns a hopeless situation into victory. As a result, the honorable hero is vindicated and the cynics are left completely stunned at what happened.

In stories on the cynical end... well, [[TooDumbToLive not so much.]]

An especially poignant situation is TurnTheOtherCheek. Often, and perhaps running counter to the theme of honor besting all, the hero has to be aided by [[BadGuysDoTheDirtyWork Big Damn Villains]], [[NecessarilyEvil who are able to cross that final line that his integrity would not allow.]]

When done well and/or consistently, such acts of decency fan the flickering flames of idealism in the viewers' hearts; they make them cheer even harder for the hero and inspire a desire to be just as pure and honorable. When done poorly... well, the term "LawfulStupid" comes to mind, as does MartyrWithoutACause.

This trope is also subject to some degree of ValuesDissonance, as some actions will be seen as both honorable ''and'' reasonable to a society with a certain set of beliefs. For instance, a society which believes in an afterlife ruled by [[ThePowersThatBe a Higher Power]] that judges according to a rigid code of morality would see the "honorable" choice as being also "reasonable" by virtue of the fact that the person making it is sacrificing a temporary advantage in this life for a permanent one in the life to come.

Often features in IGaveMyWord, InItsHourOfNeed, RebelliousRebel; the ProudWarriorRaceGuy typically follows the rule, as well. WhatYouAreInTheDark always reveals the same character as when they are seen. When a character does this to the point that it angers their more corrupt superiors, expect them to become TheLastDJ. {{The McCoy}} is the personification of this trope. MoreHeroThanThou disputes are sometimes this, when only one character is really suitable for the sacrifice. Can lead to the hero being prone to fall to things like the FalseInnocenceTrick. See also VictoriousLoser and SmallStepsHero.

ShootTheDog is this trope's opposite: Reason Before Honor. ''Usually'' not a trait of a CombatPragmatist due to their [[TryingToCatchMeFightingDirty approach to fighting]].

Compare/contrast with IncorruptiblePurePureness, GoodIsOldFashioned, TheFettered, NobleDemon, MartyrdomCulture, RevengeBeforeReason. Contrast NoNonsenseNemesis and BlindObedience.


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