Loyalty - Josiah Royce's Conception

Josiah Royce's Conception

Josiah Royce in his 1908 book The Philosophy of Loyalty presented a different definition of the concept. According to Royce, loyalty is a virtue, indeed a primary virtue, "the heart of all the virtues, the central duty amongst all the duties". Royce presents loyalty, which he defines at length, as the basic moral principle from which all other principles can be derived. The short definition that he gives of the idea is that loyalty is "the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause". The cause has to be an objective one. It cannot be one's personal self. It is something external to oneself that one looks outward to the world to find, and that cannot be found within. It concerns not one's own person, but other people. The devotion is active, a surrendering of one's self-will to the cause, that one loves. Moreover, according to Royce, loyalty is social. Loyalty to a cause unites the many fellow-servants of that cause, binding them together in their service. Richard P. Mullin, professor of Philosophy at Wheeling Jesuit University, describes the three words "willing and practical and thoroughgoing" as "packed with meaning". Loyalty is willing in that it is freely given, not coerced. It is chosen after personal consideration, not something that one is born into. Loyalty is practical in that it is practiced. It is actively engaged upon, not passively expressed merely as a strong feeling about something. Loyalty is thoroughgoing in that it is not merely a casual interest but a wholehearted commitment to a cause.

From this definition, Royce constructs a moral framework based upon loyalty, using the notion of loyalty to loyalty itself. In order to do so, Royce distinguishes good causes from evil causes, by defining good causes as those that promote loyalty to loyalty. In other words, loyalty to such a cause enables, promotes, or otherwise furthers the abilities of other people to be loyal to their causes. A cause that destroys the object of someone else's legitimate loyalty cannot be good. From this can be derived the virtues of truthfulness, justice, benevolence, and courtesy. Royce himself relates this to business ethics:

n the commercial world, honesty in business is a service, not merely and not mainly to the others who are parties to the single transaction in which at any one time this faithfulness is shown. The single act of business fidelity is an act of confidence of man in man upon which the whole fabric of business rests.

Josiah Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty

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