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Thread: Define Chivalry

  1. #1
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    Define Chivalry

    and the Knightly Virtues

    I did not put a number to the virtues, there are many lists some are ridiculously long.

    Any how.......
    I am curious to see what people think about chivalry, the virtues and how they define chivalry and the virtues they feel should be on the list

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    Chivalry equates to politness and respect for others.

    Being respectfull of others and in general helping those in need of aid.
    Stepping up to defend someone in need of defense.
    Opening doors for women and old folks of either gender. (I sometimes get startled looks and then a smile and a thank you. The smile makes it worth while to me.)
    Saying Sir and Mam when speaking as well as Thank you. (Again, startled looks and smiles of appriciation.)
    All common courtesies that seem to be fadeing away. Nothing hurtful to the self, but still not used adaquately. In general, just being polite seems to be a passing thing.

    Although, at times it is difficult to polite to someone who is acting boorish and needs a good old fashioned arse whuupin.
    "Do not suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy or decency.
    These, as they are often used, are but three names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.” John Adams, 1789

    "Everything the enemy least expects will succeed the best."

    Frederick the Great 1747

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    I think it all comes down to manners, doing that little bit extra, doing something you do not have to do, to show courtesy/compassion towards others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arik Estus View Post
    Opening doors for women and old folks of either gender. (I sometimes get startled looks and then a smile and a thank you. The smile makes it worth while to me.) .
    I hold the door for everybody, regardless of age or gender. Its amazing how many people say thank you, and how many people say nothing. The ones that say nothing I always say "you're welcome" after they pass, man the dirty looks I get. Or when I say thank you in a store and teh clerk says nothing, I'll say "you're welcome" again, dirty looks. These people have no manners
    Ken Morgan

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    Chivalry

    First off..Arik and Ken, God bless you I am not alone in the belief that there is a sincere lack of common courtey these days. I also open doors, reply with sir or ma'am, just generally try to be respectful of those around me and certainly of my elders. Funny, that seems to be a common relation to SWORDforum..you think there is a link there? I copied the below portion from a chivalry site as it says it FAR better than my barbarian tounge ever could.

    Chivalry was created during the Middle Ages to combat the attitudes of brutality, ignorance and prejudice which were all-too-common in that era of darkness and cruelty. Far from being dead, chivalry today is embodied by people whose actions are always trustworthy and admirable; who understand that strength, gentleness, and kindness are not opposites; and who know the importance of standing by one's principles, no matter how tempting the compromise. And, as such, an age old belief is never more important as the here and now of things!!

    This is a subject that is dear to me and I pound into my poor Son's head every day! Having been and soon to be a soldier again I understand there are higher principals that MUST be maintained.
    E TAN, E EPI TAS

  5. #5
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    A couple of medieval songwriters come up with the idea of chivalry one rainy day and you embrace it as a lifestyle. You live and die by a code of honor that was trendy when you were a kid.
    Bartender and Brewmeister for the Pub
    Jay Requard 10/14/2007 - The swords brought us together, but the pub made us friends....

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    Apologies in advance for the length of this post. The OP asked us to define what these ideals mean to us, so here I go.

    Although I subscribe to several ideas behind Western Chivalry, I find that on a personal level I relate much more closely to its Japanese parallel, Bushido. I'm training in a Japanese sword art, and I find that the social and philosophical ideas that gave rise to the classical martial arts benefit me in several ways. On a purely physical level, training strengthens my body and keeps me healthy. If that's all I was after then I'd just join a gym. But I've found that training in such a difficult art has given me a new depth of humility and patience, and an appreciation of those traits in ways I didn't fully understand before.

    Traditionally, Bushido outlines seven specific virtues. Although some context has changed along with society's evolving sense of morality (e.g. seppuku is no longer culturally acceptable, and was never the norm here in the US), I think the fundamental ideas behind Bushido remain sound.

    Rectitude

    This is a word with a very broad definition. It can mean upright moral behavior, honesty, and principle. "Rectitude" is almost a self contained version of the 7 total virtues.

    Courage

    This is a much more loaded word in the old context, i.e. samurai charging into battle with a casual disregard for their own survival. Nowadays society is more insular and the average person is rarely presented with a situation where they are even capable of making a choice that could appropriately be called courageous. Something like standing up to your homeowner's association, despite knowing that your neighbors might not like you afterward doesn't really qualify. I can't think of a dangerous situation I've been in where real courage was required on my part in order to protect myself or others. Part of me hopes I never have to be, but if that is thrust upon me, I hope I have it in me to be courageous.

    Benevolence

    The world already has more than enough darkness and hate. Being kind to everyone may not save the world, but if I can make one person's day better then I've made the world a little less dark, no matter how you measure or quantify that.

    Respect

    Respecting everyone is difficult at times. Some people are easy to respect because they're decent human beings. For those that are rude and don't return the favor, I try to keep in mind that they too are only human. If they don't respect me, it's because they are angered by something and therefore in pain. From the Buddhist standpoint, all life is suffering to some extant, so in a sense we're all very much in the same boat. I don't think of myself as Buddhist but that particular teaching has always resonated with me.

    It probably goes without saying that respect is fundamentally important in the dojo. The ritualized three bows, I think, are vital to the art, as far from "empty ritual" as one could possibly get. First we bow to the shrine to show respect for the founder. I'm not convinced of the existence of an afterlife and I don't know if he's somewhere seeing us bow, but I think that fostering a sense of gratitude for what I'm learning is a good thing. After all, men died in order to refine our art, and we shouldn't take it lightly. Next we bow to each other, this signifies mutual respect between everyone, especially from students to the Sensei. Passing on his knowledge to his students, I think is an act of benevolence. Lastly we bow to our sword. I don't believe that a sword possesses a soul, but I do think its important to remind myself that I am about to pick up a deadly weapon. Accordingly it must be respected, lest I slip into a careless mindset and cause a dangerous situation for myself or others.

    Honesty

    As the phrase goes, "Say what you mean and mean what you say". Lying to someone else shows a lack of respect, even if it's someone you care about and you think that you can avoid hurting them by not telling an uncomfortable truth. Likewise, they won't respect you because no one likes a liar, even other liars. Being honest with yourself is equally important, and it requires you to respect yourself. Thomas Paine had some choice words on the subject: "It is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."

    Honor

    Honor, like rectitude, is a very loaded word. And like that word, it's almost equivalent to the sum total of the other virtues of Bushido. I'm not sure how it works in Japanese, but it is interesting that in the English language, "honor" is both a noun (A person can have honor) and a verb (They can also honor their dojo). On a purely linguistic level, this implies that honor is not only some kind of intangible quality that can be possessed, but also a way of life to carried out repeatedly.

    Loyalty

    I'm sure the focus of loyalty in old Japan was on loyalty to one's lord. Of course, the feudal system is dead and we in the States never had one. Still, the quality of loyalty is certainly not a bad thing. There are many things we can feel a sense of duty to support, whether it is our dojo, spouse, workplace, family, friends, etc. By practicing the other virtues, we can surround ourselves with others who also appreciate them. Loyalty, like respect, is a two way street. Your own sense of justice or rectitude should inform where your loyalty is given. This ensures that your loyalty lies only with those who deserve it, and not someone who will merely take advantage of you.
    "Wherever you are, that is your dojo." - Esaka Seigen

    Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu

  7. #7
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    i've always thought of chivalry (as a virtue, rather than simply referring to warriors specifically riding horses) simply as doing what's right at all times. we all know what's right and wrong, and any of us who are even of a mindset that would seek to act in a chivalrous manner most definitely knows when what they're doing is right, or wrong. for me the thought of chivalry actually goes outside the scope of specific actions. sometimes one must do a little bad, to do a lot of good, as it were.
    les yeich (pronounced yike)

    helden wie wir sterben doch allein,
    einsam unerreicht werden wir sein.
    - the "great" jasmin wagner

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    Some of us have never given it up.

    I was brought up to be "Good" and apply it everyday. Sometimes just saying "Thank you" sincerely to shop staff etc elicits a heartfelt response.

    Of course, it has it's downsides - stepping in to assist someone being bullied is a problem.
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  9. #9
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    "Politeness" and "civility" are not chivalry. Chivalry is a code for a dead social class of oppressors. When I was some young high school kid, I used to think it was something to live and die by, but then I realized I was naïve of what adulthood really means, and what reality is actually like.

    Subsequently, I relegate it to the role of escapism, where one can believe they're something more than they really are. Being nice to the elderly doesn't make you chivalric in the least. If anyone was really chivalric, they wouldn't have any time for some internet forum where we profess our love for obsolete weaponry. They would be in Africa, killing gangs and distributing food. They would be in Mexico, comforting the dying. They'd be in Washington, removing the Fed. Not here.

    M.
    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis Smith View Post
    Michael Eversberg , can you play the dry witted supporting hero?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Eversberg II View Post
    "Politeness" and "civility" are not chivalry. Chivalry is a code for a dead social class of oppressors. When I was some young high school kid, I used to think it was something to live and die by, but then I realized I was naïve of what adulthood really means, and what reality is actually like.

    Subsequently, I relegate it to the role of escapism, where one can believe they're something more than they really are. Being nice to the elderly doesn't make you chivalric in the least. If anyone was really chivalric, they wouldn't have any time for some internet forum where we profess our love for obsolete weaponry. They would be in Africa, killing gangs and distributing food. They would be in Mexico, comforting the dying. They'd be in Washington, removing the Fed. Not here.

    M.
    i'm not that much older than you, but i recall being jaded like that. the view you just expressed is actually very naive. the funny thing, though, is that you're just going to have to learn for yourself. no one here can tell it to you. i do agree that civility and being polite isn't the same as chivalry, but read my above post for a different view. unfortunately, your kind of mindset is one of the really big problems with society these days. you've fallen into the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" trap. taking the absolute extremes as examples of what we should all be doing is so counter-productive it's frankly destructive. refusing to think on a local level just shows a lack of humility. leave the glory to the angelina jolies of the world. the fact is you can do the right thing at all times. it takes courage, and no one is perfect. i find more and more that as i think about how i should live- or how i would *want* to live- i find that my actions ideally would read like every motivational poster i used to mock as a child. treat others as you would like to be treated. reach for the stars. speak the truth no matter the consequences. reach out to someone who otherwise may never know someone cares. people should stop worrying about how everyone else acts. stop criticizing and complaining. people should simply concentrate on their own actions. i believe that would in no way be a fruitless undertaking, and in fact would be a very honorable, *chivalrous* path.
    les yeich (pronounced yike)

    helden wie wir sterben doch allein,
    einsam unerreicht werden wir sein.
    - the "great" jasmin wagner

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    That's quite not what I said. I said that if you want to be chivalrous, you would be out doing bigger things than holding doors and being nice to old people. I in no way condone these actions to be done by the Joli's of the world -- in fact she's one famous person amongst many nameless people who've undertaken something bigger than themselves.

    Ad simplicium: Polite and civil != chivalry.

    M.
    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis Smith View Post
    Michael Eversberg , can you play the dry witted supporting hero?

  12. #12
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    Bring back the Dead Codes of the past

    I dont normaly use this means to express myself, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chivalry

    On to the subject at hand. Chivalry. Well now, if as Michael says its a "Code from a dead social class of oppressors" then wouldnt it be great if they were brought back? As the vast majority of young seem to have very little of it. Impolite. Rude. Foul mouthed. Have no fashion sense. Have tastes in music that are utterly appalling. And then seem to really get upset if someone looks at them in anything but an adoring manner. They are offended, oh my they have been 'Dissed'. Its ok for them to Diss, but not to be Dissed in return.

    Were Chivalry to be reinstated, everyone would know their station and place. And they would know they could rise above and gain stature by doing something great, good or valorous. Instead, we are expecting to be given these things by society unearned. And everyone knows, If its free its worth exactly what you paid for it. As well as the old cliche, TANSTAAFL
    "Do not suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy or decency.
    These, as they are often used, are but three names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.” John Adams, 1789

    "Everything the enemy least expects will succeed the best."

    Frederick the Great 1747

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Eversberg II View Post
    That's quite not what I said. I said that if you want to be chivalrous, you would be out doing bigger things than holding doors and being nice to old people. I in no way condone these actions to be done by the Joli's of the world -- in fact she's one famous person amongst many nameless people who've undertaken something bigger than themselves.

    Ad simplicium: Polite and civil != chivalry.

    M.
    my point is that *no* act is too small to be significant.

    ah, but arik, what you say about youngins, has been said by the older generations since time immemorial. course, i agree 100%.

    however, this amazing sense of entitlement people have today is by no means restricted to the younger generation. i think everyone since the baby boom has it. unfortunately with the level of control placed on us by society norms and frankly the govt. (not going in to politics... *not* going in to politics!!!) makes it very hard to raise your place in society through great deeds. money is about all that matters. much like the actual reality of the time of chivalry, if you're not born with it, it's very hard to attain without essentially being a sociopath. i think the true path of "chivalry" totally absconds from accolades of achievement. you act in a certain way, simply because you should. self-betterment perhaps. amazingly enough i think the people who most embody chivalry are probably penniless, nameless people.
    les yeich (pronounced yike)

    helden wie wir sterben doch allein,
    einsam unerreicht werden wir sein.
    - the "great" jasmin wagner

  14. #14
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    Bushido is interesting from a conceptual perspective, yes. However, it's a bit dubious in the details --

    http://www.morrisnoholdsbarred.co.uk...;tdropsoap.htm

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    Keep in mind that modern definitions of chivalry mostly developed in the nineteenth century and most of them boil down to "acting the way that Victorian gentlemen thought knights ought to act."

    It's much more fun to examine the way that actual medieval knights thought chivalry worked. Take a look at Richard Kaeuper's book Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe. It seems that when medieval people started discussing chivalry they were mostly talking about kicking ass.

    Matthew Strickland discerns some more rules in his book War and Chivalry. Prisoners should be ransomed ...unless they're crossbowmen, in which case they are scum and deserve to die. Church property should be spared ...unless someone is shooting at you from it. Enemies are to be treated with respect ...unless they're Scottish, in which case they are barbarian scum. Also, you should protect widows and orphans ...because they belong to you. Widows and orphans who belong to other people are legitimate targets.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ariella Elema View Post
    ... It seems that when medieval people started discussing chivalry they were mostly talking about kicking ass.

    Matthew Strickland discerns some more rules in his book War and Chivalry. Prisoners should be ransomed ...unless they're crossbowmen, in which case they are scum and deserve to die. Church property should be spared ...unless someone is shooting at you from it. Enemies are to be treated with respect ...unless they're Scottish, in which case they are barbarian scum. Also, you should protect widows and orphans ...because they belong to you. Widows and orphans who belong to other people are legitimate targets.
    If you found out who owned the widows and orphans, and you killed that person, that would make you the owner, right?

    I wouldn't off the Scots unless they resembled Mel Gibson in war paint.

    And yes, crossbowmen must die.

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    Some people are confusing several matters.

    There is a matter of fact: which were the moral codes of a certain class of people in a certain period of time? This is to be historically determined and many here have provided sources for it.

    Another matter of fact is how that group actually behaved and whether it did or did not (factually) adhere to the moral codes they set themselves. This is also (in large part though not totally) determined by History but it has nothing to do with the written and unwritten laws and codes mentioned above.

    Just like today there are tax-evaders galore (no less among lawmakers), yet there are laws against tax-evading and we disaprove of the act.

    But i don't think that's what the OP had in mind, even though it is what most of you said so far.

    The question at hand is, what should we, today, consider to be chivalry (in model or inspired by the idealistic, even if unreal, chivalry of old) and to what moral codes are we to subscribe to, even if others or ourselves won't follow it to the letter at all times and regardless of what others in other times did or thought.

    Because I personally don't care if knights were actually brutal brigands and rapists. That doesn't determine in the least my own actions. And even if knights said they would protect the weak but failed to do so *I* can still say it is morally correct to try and protect the weak.

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    kudos

    Excellent point Caio. I believe the OP wanted the the points of what WE feel chivalry is and should be today or how we feel about it. There is nothing wrong with striving for better principals today, i wish more would. What knights and barons did in the times before me has no impact upon me whatso ever. Only those ideals remain and i think they shouldn't be disregarded off hand as unrealistic or unattainable.
    E TAN, E EPI TAS

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    The Templars were smart bankers and businessmen. At one point, they owned the entire island of Cyprus. It's a shame what Phillip IV did to them.

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    Kaeuper and Strickland's point is that in the Middle Ages, even the codes and the ideals didn't define chivalry the way most people would today. Modern constructions of chivalry are modern people's attempts to give historical weight to their own code of behaviour.

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    Historical weight? No..not for me anyway. SOmeone just put a thought to pen far better than I could. If they are old ideals (realized then or not) so be it. A man of old wearing a weighty metal tux has no bearing to the good man I strive to be today. The principals are just put to pen then and remain relevant today.
    E TAN, E EPI TAS

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    anytime the topic of chivalry comes up- be it here, other forums, or in everyday conversation- someone always feels the need to throw in common knowledge under the guise of illumination. yes; we know knights weren't angels. they also weren't the monsters many try to paint them as today. the fact is their mentality was so different from our own, that we can't try and impose our own views on them, or try and interpret theirs using today's standards. try living in a foreign country for awhile... people act in ways we don't- and in many cases simply *can't*- understand. so throw in half a millennium, and you've got a real challenge. the human condition hasn't changed any, but the circumstances surrounding us sure has. the question was how do *we* define chivalry and the knightly virtues; not "provide historical examples and/or the time period of said examples."

    i think for my part i've already given my definition, and it's very simple and to the point. it's also the primary philosophy behind virtually every religion or idealogy of any substance.
    les yeich (pronounced yike)

    helden wie wir sterben doch allein,
    einsam unerreicht werden wir sein.
    - the "great" jasmin wagner

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    I know a bald Englishman (smart and well-educated fellow) who fervently believes that duels of honor (i.e. to the death) were part and parcel of European chivalric culture. I don't know whether he's right or wrong, quite frankly, but it's entertaining nonetheless.

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    from my understanding they most definitely happened, even if not frequently. as we "progressed" it basically went from private wars being a no-no, to blood feuds being prohibited, to duels to the death being prohibited (probably "first blood" and such rules being in place), to it being relatively easy to get off on self-defense (think wyatt earp et al) to where we are today.
    les yeich (pronounced yike)

    helden wie wir sterben doch allein,
    einsam unerreicht werden wir sein.
    - the "great" jasmin wagner

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    Why call the modern stuff chivalry? Why not call it My Personal Code of Ethics?

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