Loyalty

Loyalty

Loyalty

Loyalty

Excerpt

The American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy selects its annual topic by a vote of the membership. “Loyalty” was the topic chosen for the gathering that took place at the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in December 2007. To put it mildly, “loyalty” is a broad topic, beginning with the most basic question of whether one should ever be “loyal” to anything other than a universal good. This is the question especially addressed by Bernard Gert who, sadly, died while this volume was in press, in the first of three essays that examine general “conceptions of loyalty.” Kathleen Higgins and Paul Woodruff go on to examine notions of loyalty in classical Confucian and ancient Greek tradi-tions, respectively.

Rousseau, always suspicious of “partial” commitments less en-compassing than the “general will” and its presumptive identity with the “common good,” powerfully declaimed that “[w]e are justly punished for those exclusive attachments which make us blind and unjust, and limit our universe to the persons we love. All the preferences of friendship are thefts committed against the human race and fatherland. Men are all our brothers, they should all be our friends.” One can only imagine Rousseau’s reac-tion to the novelist E. M. Forster’s (in)famous declaration that “if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” Note, though, that even Rousseau is less than universalistic inasmuch as he includes the “fatherland” as an aggrieved party should citizens adopt more partial notions of loyalty evoked by Forster. Is it self-evident, though, that national loyalties necessarily trump more . . .

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