Loyalty to Loyalty: Josiah Royce and the Genuine Moral Life

Loyalty to Loyalty: Josiah Royce and the Genuine Moral Life

Loyalty to Loyalty: Josiah Royce and the Genuine Moral Life

Loyalty to Loyalty: Josiah Royce and the Genuine Moral Life

Synopsis

As a virtue, loyalty has an ambiguous place in our thinking about moral judgments. We lauded the loyalty of firefighters who risked their lives to save others on 9/11 while condemning the loyalty of those who perpetrated the catastrophe. Responding to such uneasiness and confusion, Loyalty to Loyalty contributes to ongoing conversation about how we should respond to conflicts in loyalty in a pluralistic world. The lone philosopher to base an ethical theory on the virtue of loyalty is Josiah Royce. Loyalty to Loyalty engages Royce's moral theory, revealing how loyalty, rather than being just one virtue among others, is central to living a genuinely moral and meaningful life. Mathew A. Foust shows how thetheory of loyalty Royce advances can be brought to bear on issues such as the partiality/impartiality debate in ethical theory, the role of loyalty in liberatory struggle, and the ethics of whistleblowing and disaster response.

Excerpt

John J. McDermott opens his introduction to Josiah Royce’s The Philosophy of Loyalty with the question “Is there a more treacherous and ambivalent virtue than that of loyalty?” the question is rhetorical, however, for it is at once a confrontation and a declaration. There is, for McDermott, no more treacherous and ambivalent virtue than that of loyalty. Whether or not we find ourselves in agreement with McDermott, undoubtedly our tendency is to bristle at the suggestion of treachery and to be unnerved by the presence of ambivalence. Thus, we hardly need further provocation to consider the eight lectures of Royce’s that follow McDermott’s introduction, centered as they are on this apparently beleaguered virtue—a virtue that we tend to value if not, indeed, to cherish.

Should we wish to assess McDermott’s description of loyalty, however, we must ask ourselves at least two questions: Is loyalty, in fact, a virtue? Is loyalty, in fact, treacherous and ambivalent? Let us assume for the moment that loyalty is a virtue. in order to establish the treachery and ambivalence of loyalty, let us raise with McDermott another question . . .

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