Love of Honor

It's difficult to translate into English.
The exact meaning of philotimo is hotly debated, given that the word belongs to the pantheon of Greek lexical items that defy easy explanation. ‘Love of honour’, its official translation, is a utilitarian yet insufficient attempt to convey the constellation of virtues squeezed into the word’s four syllables. When I asked various Greeks about their own perception of philotimo, I received very different responses.

“Doing the right thing,” Pinelopi Kalafati, a doctor, told me. “Loving and honouring God and your society,” said priest Nikolas Papanikolaou. "Striving for perfection,” answered actor Kostis Thomopoulos. “Stepping out from your comfort zone to help someone in need,” suggested Tatiana Papadopoulou, a volunteer in Malakasa detention camp for refugees.
As the article suggests, there's a dark side to this, as there always is with honor. But, out of the same well, there is a fullness and a flourishing of virtue that otherwise does not occur.


jaed said...

It was only a[...] when competition was replaced by co-operation, that the word gained a more positive connotation.

This sentence made my eyes roll right back into my head. ;-)

It doesn't seem much more complicated to translate than any other compound term from any language. Philotime is affinity for what is valuable. Time is not only honor, it is value or worth or price. Philos is not just love, it is friendly love, affinity, being drawn to something. The lover of honor (in one translation) is the one who feels drawn to doing what is worthwhile (in another), who prizes the best. All the people quoted are expressing this same idea.

Grim said...

For Aristotle, the capstone virtue we translated as "magnanimity" is concerned with what is most worthy of honor. The magnanimous man is not concerned, it turns out, with actually receiving any honor; nor, even, with being dishonored by others for what he does. Those are small matters. No one can really honor him as much as his good works deserve; and if anyone should dishonor him, well, he knows that the dishonor doesn't properly attach to his actions.

Rather, he does what is absolutely most worthy for a man of great virtue.
The things are worth doing because they are the very best and most worthy things, and he has the virtues that enable him to attain those things.

That's the basic concept, which predates the period NPR assigns to it by well over a thousand years.

It is a bit difficult to translate, though. Magnanimity normally means that you're very generous when you don't have to be, or something similar. A more direct translation of the Greek would be, "The man of great spirit."