On Loyalty


New York Times columnist David Brooks compares the philosophies of William James and the virtually unknown Josiah Royce.  James stressed tolerance.  Royce stressed loyalty.

I like Brooks’s piece.  It seems we don’t talk very much about loyal as a moral category.  I have tried to cover it a bit here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

Here is a post on Glenn Tinder’s idea on critical loyalty in the church.

Can we be loyal to an academic institution?

David Brooks remains loyal to the New York Mets.

What is loyalty?

Is institutional loyalty an unnatural act?

Of course there are also POTUS’s who have demanded loyalty.

Here is a taste of Brooks’s recent piece:

Royce argued that meaningful lives are marked, above all, by loyalty. Out on the frontier, he had seen the chaos and anarchy that ensues when it’s every man for himself, when society is just a bunch of individuals searching for gain. He concluded that people make themselves miserable when they pursue nothing more than their “fleeting, capricious and insatiable” desires.

So for him the good human life meant loyalty, “the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause.”

A person doesn’t have to invent a cause, or find it deep within herself. You are born into a world of causes, which existed before you were born and will be there after you die. You just have to become gripped by one, to give yourself away to it realizing that the cause is more important than your individual pleasure or pain.

You’re never going to find a cause if you are working in a bland office; you have to go out to where the problems are. Loyalty is not just emotion. It is action.

“The loyal man serves. That is, he does not merely follow his own impulses. He looks to his cause for guidance. This cause tells him what to do,” Royce wrote in “The Philosophy of Loyalty.”

Read the entire piece here.