I also find the concept of honor to be nonsensical, particularly within the confines of a feudal society. The issue is of course that in such a society all authority is derived from the high lords themselves and ultimately the king. This means that each lord can have their own honor code and be accountable to no one, except the king should said king have sufficient power to subdue them. In other words, there is no code of conduct except might makes right. While there's nothing inherently foolish about relying on a honor code to govern one's actions, to expect others to operate according to one's own code invites disaster. And limiting your actions by an arbitrary set of prescribed conditions gives undue advantage to your adversaries.
Now I know people are going say Ned has a fundamental moral code which governs his actions and makes him more noble than many of character we see in the series. However, lets not forget when we first meet Ned he is beheading a terrified man who has just witnessed the reemergence of 8,000 year old ice demons. Sure he's warden of the north and cutting off people's heads is part of his duty but no one forced him to be warden of the north. When Myran Trant is beating Sansa in obedience to the king, no one really suggests that duty sufficiently justified those actions. Once Ned is willing to except killing is acceptable that waging war over family disputes is acceptable where exactly is the honor? Once Ned immerses himself in the world of high lords playing the game of thrones, how can it possibly be reasonable for him to hold to his honor while unleashing war on the realm. For example, Ned states that the difference between himself and a Lannister is that he does not murder children. But is that necessarily noble? How many children die for the sake Tommen, Joffrey and Marcella? Ned could easily have lost the lives of his own children and ultimately does lose a son, a wife, his own life and his home. And for what? Righteousness, honor? No, because Stannis happened to be born before Renly. Could there be anything more arbitrary, more ridiculous to lose everything you hold dear over?
Ned Stark, in a fashion which he appears to be singular to him even among the Starks, repeatedly refuses to learn the lesson that honor is a imaginary concept. There are only two logical reason for Ned to behave in this manner. 1) For the purposes of the plot or 2) Ned is stupid, meaning he lacks the ability to predict the actions and motivations of his potential allies and adversaries. Without breaking the fourth wall, there is no other conclusion to draw than Ned Stark is simply, not smart.
"Hauser contrasts the dilemmas faced by hypothetical individuals called Ned and Oscar. Ned is standing by the railway track. Unlike Denise, who could divert the trolley onto a siding, Ned's switch diverts it onto a side loop which joins the main track again just before the five people. Simply switching the points doesn't help: the trolley will plough into the five anyway when the diversion rejoins the main track. However, as it happens, there is an extremely fat man on the diversionary track who is heavy enough to stop the trolley. Should Ned change the points and divert the train? Most people's intuition is that he should not. But what is the difference between Ned's dilemma, and Denise's? Presumably people are intuitively applying Kant's principle. Denise diverts the trolley from ploughing into the five people, and the unfortunate casualty on the siding is 'collateral damage', to use the charmingly Rumsfeldian phrase. He is not being used by Denise to save the others. Ned is actually using the fat man to stop the trolley, and most people (perhaps unthinkingly), along with Kant (thinking it out in great detail), see this as a crucial difference."
Edited by Lord Littlefinger's Lash, 28 March 2012 - 09:43 AM.