The Moral Economy of Dueling

Is it in somebody’s self-interest to risk his life in order to prove his honor? This is a question that was asked many times starting in the late eighteenth century. Why did men put family life, professional success, and physical integrity second and engage in a potentially deadly mode of conflict management? If we rule out a deeply hidden death wish, what prompted them to behave contrary to what seemed to be their proper self-interest? And why did this seemingly irrational behavior persist right into the early twentieth century? Or, to put it the other way round, why did it stop then?

The talk is part of the international conference “Why Do We Believe in Self-Interst?” chaired by Susan Neiman. It took place at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.