Friday, January 15, 2010

Loyal to Loyalty

As I near the end of The Philosophy of Loyalty, a few thoughts....

(i) love, love, love Josiah.  Please let him not have been a jerk in real life.

(ii) the gist of his argument (unless something major transpires in the last chapter) is:

  1. Humans experience tension btwn the desire to be authentic to themselves and the need to define authenticity with reference that which is outside of them (society, family, etc)
  2. Loyalty to a cause alleviates this tension as one identifies oneself as the player in something larger than oneself, thereby uniting the inner and outer
  3. What cause?  Of course there are good causes and bad causes, though regardless of the cause, loyalty is a good for the loyal person and the inclination to be loyal should never be discouraged, though the target could be.  Anyway, the appropriate target, generically, is loyalty.  We should be loyal to loyalty (hence the never discouraging loyalty part).
  4. Any substance to this?  Yes, one should never be loyal to a cause that makes it difficult for others to be loyal to their causes (this has quite the Kantian flavor to it -- also in the idea that we must choose that to which we are loyal).
  5. and....having committed to being loyal to loyalty the particular way we choose to do this can be through means that are conducive to our personalities, etc.  
(iii) after making this basic case, he makes some interesting points about how to facilitate the trait of loyalty (one which he thinks is scarce in America [a complete sidenote: though this book was written 100 years ago, take off the date and hand it to someone, change the gender specific 'he' and 'men' to something non-gender specific and no one would doubt it was written recently.  His criticisms of the US are as poignant today as when he wrote this].
  1. People are loyal to lost causes:  I found this particularly interesting because this explains why so many folks in power claim to be persecuted.  It's way easier to be loyal to something that is persecuted than something that's already won.  We want to be loyal to causes that need us.
  2. Loyalty requires some level of idealization - typically we use the past to achieve this.  We talk as if the way things used to be were the ideal and now we are working to retain that which we once had.  He notes that art is frequently used to achieve this idealization.
  3. Instilling the desire to be loyal is one that must start young and, interestingly, he notes the use of stories with clearly defined heroes and heroines as a way to do this with children.  He also suggests sports but cautions that the loyalty must be, ultimately, to fairplay and that adults can get too involved with sports and turn it into something that is ugly and what we call loyalty but is really a mockery of it
(iv) I'm impressed with his awareness of psychological development and his discussion of what means are effective at what ages for instilling the trait of loyalty.  I also think that most people (at least in the US) are not very developed on the loyalty scale.  I think, for the most part, we are stunted at the 'team loyalty' stage and have not be able to move to what Royce thinks is the ultimate goal....loyalty to humanity.

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