Difference Between Honesty And Integrity

In regards to “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” what is the difference between honesty and integrity?

In regards to “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” the main difference between honesty and integrity is that the former can be used as an excuse for the holding of unacceptable opinions, whereas the latter is a recognizably moral concept. Contrary to what we might believe, then, honesty and integrity are by no means synonymous.

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Far too many of us blithely assume that honesty and integrity amount to the same thing. Stephen L. Carter aims to challenge this common misconception in his essay “The Insufficiency of Honesty.”

Although Carter recognizes honesty as an important virtue, he nonetheless claims that, in and of itself, it isn't morally sufficient, as the title of the essay implies. It's quite possible for someone to be honest without concerning themselves with the truth value or the rightness of what they are saying.

Carter illustrates this point by way of a very simple example. A person can be honest by saying something that hurts someone's feelings. Although we can say that the person in question was being honest, we cannot say that they were acting with integrity.

For integrity, according to Carter, is a much thicker concept than honesty. It involves three steps:

[D]iscerning what is right and wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong.

It's perfectly possible, indeed actually quite common, for someone to be as honest as the day is long and yet still not fulfill the above criteria for what counts as integrity. A classic example, and one cited by Carter, is that of the racist. In expressing racist opinions, a racist is undoubtedly displaying honesty; he is “telling us what he actually thinks.” But he's not displaying integrity, as he shows no signs of having considered that his deeply-held views, no matter how genuine they may be, might actually be wrong.

In this particular case, honesty is being used as an excuse for the holding of reprehensible opinions that can cause damage and offense to others.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 8, 2021
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The primary meaning of "honesty" is synonymous with "truthfulness." It is therefore easy to imagine a situation in which a person might be honest while showing no integrity whatsoever. For instance, a thief might demand your wallet at gunpoint and remark as he did so, "I am taking this money away from you because I care only about myself and have no interest in you or in the moral strictures of society. I have no moral compass and am essentially a solipsist." Carter remarks that honesty is perfectly compatible with selfishness—hence its insufficiency. Integrity, however, concerns every aspect of character, not merely how open one is about one's conduct.

In practice, though, we often describe people as honest (in business dealings, for instance) when we mean that they can be trusted to act with integrity. The slight awkwardness of the preceding sentence is a clue to the simple grammatical explanation for this: there is no adjectival form of the word "integrity." The closest synonym for "a man with integrity" is generally "an honest man," so this is what we say.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 11, 2019
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The two terms are definitely related.  Integrity encompasses a lot more though.  It's possible to be an honest person with very little integrity, but it's not possible to be a dishonest person of integrity.  At the core of it, honesty means that a person will tell the truth.  He or she won't lie. Of course, there is a little loophole there.  If I break something, and don't tell anybody about it, I haven't lied to anybody.  If nobody asks me about it, then I don't have to be honest about anything.  I wouldn't have much moral integrity though.  That's why integrity encompasses so much more.  Integrity deals with moral standards.  It's not so much concerned with telling the truth (although that's part of it) as it is about doing the right thing regardless of consequences.  Integrity includes honesty, trustworthiness, and high moral character.  

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While honesty can be defined in negative terms as the absence of deceit, integrity has to be defined in positive terms. Integrity is an active adherence to principles, to values and, for Carter, to promises. 

"Integrity also involves 'acting on what one discerns, even at personal cost'” (eNotes). 

Honesty is certainly a virtue, but the demands of honesty are not necessarily as rigorous as those of integrity. For instance, a person might honestly sell a product that has not been thoroughly tested under the premise that the product has not been shown to be unsafe. However, to act with integrity a person would have to either (A) explicitly warn a consumer that the product is untested or (B) refrain from selling the product entirely if there was any possibility of harm for the consumer.

Note the difference here is between a necessary course of action (integrity) and a passive adherence to the truth (honesty).

"Carter’s first mark of 'living the integral life' is that of reflection: 'doing the hard work of discerning right from wrong'” (eNotes). 

If honesty only requires that a person avoid telling lies or intentionally deceiving others, it leaves open many possibilities to act immorally. One can be honest and immoral at the same time, as the example above indicates (albeit somewhat mildly). 

Honesty is defined by a person's relationship to truth and deception, but integrity is defined by a person's relationship to principles, to codes of conduct and/or to morality. Integrity stands as a more broadly demanding concept, morally, in comparison to honesty.

Depending on one's values, integrity may sometimes demand action (politically in form of protest or socially in the form of aiding those in need). Honesty, to the contrary, only demands that a person refrain from lying.   

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Honesty and integrity are quite similar, as true integrity actually requires honesty.  According to the dictionary, honesty is "truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud."  Integrity is "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty."  The difference, therefore, is that honesty simply means telling the truth, while integrity means having high moral character and living by a strict set of ethics and principals (i.e., doing the right thing, whether it benefits you or not). You can have honesty without integrity, but you cannot have integrity without honesty.

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