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  1. Loyalty, Friendship, and Truth
  2. Josiah Royce
  3. 2. The nature of loyalty
  4. Royce, Josiah | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The book is based on a series of eight lectures Royce gave at the Lowell Institute in Boston for a lay audience, rather than an audience consisting solely of professional philo Royce's "The Philosophy Of Loyalty" The American philosopher Josiah Royce -- taught a form of idealism and rationalism that has few current adherents.

The book is based on a series of eight lectures Royce gave at the Lowell Institute in Boston for a lay audience, rather than an audience consisting solely of professional philosophers. Thus Royce emphasizes the practical aim of his lectures in helping his audience achieve a degree of clarity regarding the nature of ethical behavior and reflection. But the book is also difficult and consists of a mixture of ethics, social philosophy, and idealistic metaphysics and religion.

Royce is unique among philosophers in emphasizing what he takes to be the fundamental value of loyalty. The immediate objection to focusing on loyalty as a basis for ethics is that people frequently display loyalty to bad causes, such as a gang of thieves, the Mafia, Nazi Germany, and many other examples. Royce is aware of this objection and tries to meet it as he develops his position. Royce developed his philosophy of loyalty against the backdrop of the tumultuous, changing United States of the early 20th Century.

He begins his book, "one of the most familiar traits of our time is the tendency to revise tradition, to reconsider the foundations of old beliefs, and sometimes mercilessly to destroy what once seemed indispensable. This disposition, as we all know, is especially prominent in the realms of social theory and of religious belief. He also is concerned with moral skepticism and with a Nietzschean attempt at transvaluation of ethical standards.


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I think the book aims primarily at dissolving a commonly-held dichotomy of "the individual as against the society" by showing that individual lives gain meaning only within the context of a community. Royce's book can be seen as presenting an ever-widening structure of concentric circles beginning with the self's relationship to family, and proceeding to community, the choice of a career, nation, humanity, and, ultimately, religion and what Royce takes as the Absolute. The key to the connectedness of self and others, for Royce, is loyalty.

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Royce offers two definitions of loyalty. The first "preliminary" definition takes the reader through the first six chapters of the book, while the fuller definition is offered only near the end. Royce's preliminary definition of "loyalty" is "the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause. Among other examples Royce gives of a loyal life is "the devotion of a patriot to his country.

He discusses how loyalty is to developed and learned beginning in early childhood leading ultimately to the development of individual conscience. He argues that loyalty and the having of a purpose in life external to oneself is the fulfillment of individualism rather than its rejection. He works to separate the concept of loyalty from its militaristic associations. He tries to apply his philosophy of loyalty to broad, general issues in American life.


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For example, he criticizes the corruption and self-centered character of both some large corporations and some trade unions. Royce also develops his position of "loyalty to loyalty" in part as a way of meeting the objection that individuals may be loyal to bad causes. Royce argues that individuals have choice in deciding how to lead their lives and in determining the goals they find valuable.

Individuals will differ and often disagree in their choices and the consequences. Royce maintains that individuals must make choices which honor the loyal choices of others, even when these choices are not their own. A choice to join the Mafia, for example, does not honor "loyalty to loyalty" because the activities of that organization involve the use of intimidation, violence, and abuse rather than respect for the lives and choices of others.

The final two chapters of "The Philosophy of Loyalty" carry the argument to a difficult metaphysical level. Royce argues that the philosophy of loyalty when pushed to metaphysics requires a commitment to an independent truth, expanding the concept of the individual's relationship to community. Thus Royce argues in favor of a strong notion of truth against the pragmatic conception of truth held by his friend and colleague William James.

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Loyalty, Friendship, and Truth

Royce then concludes by using his strong, absolutistic version of truth to state his full definition of "loyalty": "Loyalty is the will to manifest, so far as is possible, the Eternal, that is, the conscious and superhuman unity of life, in the form of the acts of an individual Self. Royce's philosophy of loyalty is of strong interest to thinkers working towards a philosophy of community which bridges the tension between individual and society. This was an issue in Royce's day and remains an issue today.

In studying Royce, it remains important to understand how his thinking about loyalty remains emeshed in idealism, even if it is a pragmatic form of idealism. Regardless of whether one agrees with Royce, "The Philosophy of Loyalty" rewards reading for those interested in ethics, social philosophy, or American philosophy.

The book is one of the more accessible of Royce's writings. View all 4 comments. View 1 comment. Dec 18, Steve marked it as abandoned. Abandoned after about pages. I never thought much about reading Royce before his notion of the "Absolute" never jibed with my own philosophical perspective , but I am really enjoying this exposition. Royce is a philosopher that I can relate to: a native Californian, and raised in a rural community. Good reading thus far. May 14, Marcio Atz rated it really liked it.

There seems to be a revived interest in the writings of Josiah Royce in recent times, and it is well justified. The insights he provides on the role of loyalty in relation to the individual and his connectivity to others and the community are very enlightening. Leads to the understanding of values that are missing in the current times. He explores a wide variety of implications and connections of loyalty and the crucial role it has in human life in society. The book is written base on lectures h There seems to be a revived interest in the writings of Josiah Royce in recent times, and it is well justified.

The book is written base on lectures he gave, at times it appears to be a bit repetitive, but it is an very interesting perspective of the issue. Royce's attempt to meld ethical individualism with universal idealism isn't quite convincing, but give points to any philosopher who doesn't treat philosophy as a branch of mathematics, but tackles the questions of what constitutes a good life and how one should try to act.

Apr 15, Myles rated it liked it Shelves: law-school , philosophy. What "loyalty to loyalty" means remains anyone's guess Katey Orr rated it it was ok Sep 22, Esraa Mohamed rated it liked it Apr 10, The Deliverer is that presence, that power, that light, that truth, that great companion who helps the individual and saves him from his need. We as humans are creatures of wavering and conflicting motives and, although we strongly desire a unity that makes life meaningful, we, on our own, cannot find this unity; we always miss our mark.

We want something more. Furthermore, for Royce, our need and desire are crucial. However, the individual alone cannot achieve what is needed. Thus we must turn to the social and to shared human life to attain a broader religious insight. For as a fact, we are all members one of another; and I can have no insight into the way of my salvation unless I thereby learn of the way of salvation for all my brethren. Indeed, Royce argues that one of the principal sources of our need for salvation is our narrowness of view and especially of the meaning of our own purposes and motives.

Social responsibilities can set limits to our fickleness; social discipline can keep us from indulging all our caprices; human companionship may steady our vision. Another avenue to religious insight, for Royce, is the experience of moral suffering, of the deep sense of guilt accompanied by the belief that one is an outcast from human sympathy and is hopelessly alone.

The central conception in these two literary pieces is of salvation as reconciliation both with the social and the divine order, an escape from the wilderness of lonely guilt to the realm where men can understand one another. These become part of a constructive process, which involves growth rather than destruction, a passage to a new life. We takes these sorrows up into our plan of life, give them new meaning as they become part of a new whole.

This will be discussed more in the section on the Problem of Evil. The stage is now set for The Problem of Christianity. Royce will focus on living religious experience as was expressed in the early Pauline Christian communities. Anyone who has tried to be benevolent or to meet the needs of others knows that there can be a huge crevice between your interpretation of what that person needs and their belief in that matter.


  1. Josiah Royce (1855—1916): Overview!
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  6. The Philosophy of Loyalty?
  7. The essence of Christianity, for Royce, is contained in three ideas. The first of these is that the source and means of salvation is the community of believers. Community is also the basis of the ethic of love taught by Jesus. Josiah Royce struggled with the problem of evil throughout his life, exploring it from various approaches, and asserting that it could neither be avoided nor dismissed by either the philosopher or the ordinary person.

    Thus, unlike some philosophers, he did not believe the problem of evil could be solved as a practical problem that only required improving social conditions. As a native Californian, a historian, and a social observer of the development of early California, Royce explored ways in which evil manifested itself in social relations among persons, in social bodies infected with racism, greed, and in a variety of harmful prejudices, in expressions of hate and in mob violence.

    Ultimately, Royce embraced a theistic process metaphysics that recognizes evil as a real force and suffering as an irreducible fact of experience. In the Job story, we have a traditional view of God as wise, omnipotent, all powerful, and all good and the situation of Job, namely, a universal situation of unearned ill-fortune, a seeming persecution of a righteous person and a reigning down of evils on a good man.

    For Royce, Job represents the fundamental psychological fact about the problem of evil, namely, the universal experience of unearned ill-fortune. This, asserts Royce, is the experience of every person, the kind of evil that all persons can see for themselves every day if they choose.

    William James and Josiah Royce - On the Tragic and Tragicomic: The Relevance of Royce

    Royce believes this answer is inadequate because it presupposes a greater evil, namely a world which allows evils as the only way to reach given goals. Such an answer Royce believes is unacceptable to a sufferer of evil and undeserved ills. Another answer to the problem of evil is the infinite worth of agents with free will. Royce finds value in this view in that it acknowledges evil as a logically necessary part of a perfect moral order, but he believes this answer ultimately fails.

    Such unearned ills may be partly due to the free will that partly caused them, but, asserts Royce, the unearned ills are also due to God who declines to protect the innocent. Royce believes that as long as one views God as an external power, as Job did, the problem of evil cannot be solved. Rather, one must recognize God as internally present to us and as suffering with us to produce the higher good.

    Josiah Royce

    Furthermore, asserts Royce, personal overcoming evil is the essence of the moral life. Thus, in The Sources of Religious Insight, Royce presents man as a destroyer of evil, a being who uses every effort to get rid of evil. The encounter of human selves with the problem of evil is, for Royce, the most important moral aspect of the world.

    One must see the problematic situation into which human selves are immersed as part of the atoning process which tends toward an ultimate reconciliation of finite conflicts. Ultimately, Royce sees evil as an eternal part of both human and divine consciousness and the most important moral fact of the universe the human conquering of evil step by step.

    In addressing the doctrine of atonement in The Problem, Royce sets out in detail how the loyal community can best respond to human evil. Royce seeks an explanation of atonement which acknowledges this irrevocable nature of the deed that has been done, and which changes everything for the sinner and the community that has been harmed. None of the tradition Christian accounts of atonement are satisfactory. This person serves as a mediating party between the traitor and the betrayed community and through the atoning act genuine community is restored and all the individuals may emerge as wiser, more commitment servants of their common cause.

    Things are not the same as before the treason but, in fact, transformed and better. In the spirit of James, Royce asserts that this postulate cannot be proven true, but human communities can assert it and act upon it as it is were true. Royce pursued his interest in logic, mathematics and science throughout his career.

    His first published book was a Primer of Logical Analysis for the Use of Composition Students, written for his students in California in Among his last writings were a series of encyclopedia articles on logical topics: Axiom, Error and Truth, Mind, Negation, and Order all reprinted in Robinson, Like Peirce, Royce argued for the self-corrective nature of the scientific method; the necessity of experience as the starting point of inquiry; an emphasis on scientific instinct and imaginative judgment in forming hypotheses; the requirement of a proper motive - the search for truth and not fame or profit - as a necessary condition, along with the correct method, for the success of science and essence of science, the notion of science as a communal endeavor, dependent on the contributions of many others, past, present and future, and finally for the thoroughly human and fallible nature of science.

    2. The nature of loyalty

    Jacquelyn Ann K. Kegley Email: jkegley csub. Josiah Royce — : Overview Josiah Royce was one of the most influential philosophers of the period of classical American philosophy , the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. Life Josiah Royce was a Californian by birth, born on 20 November, , in Grass Valley, the son of Josiah and Sarah Eleanor Bayliss Royce , whose families were recent emigrants from England, and who sought their fortune in moving west in Religion Through the strong influence of his mother, Sarah Royce, and the early education she provided him and his sisters, Royce was well acquainted with the Christian Protestant world view and his writings exhibited a consistent familiarity with Scripture and with religious themes.

    Royce writes: The mystics…have always held that the results of the intellect are negative and lead to no definite idea of God which can be defended against the skeptics, while…to follow the law of righteousness, whether or not with the aid of divine grace, does not lead, at least in the present life, to the highest type of knowledge of God Royce, The Problem of Evil Josiah Royce struggled with the problem of evil throughout his life, exploring it from various approaches, and asserting that it could neither be avoided nor dismissed by either the philosopher or the ordinary person.

    Logic Royce pursued his interest in logic, mathematics and science throughout his career. References and Further Reading a. Bancroft and Co. Royce, Josiah, The World and the Individual, 2 vols. Syntax Advanced Search. About us.

    Royce, Josiah | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    Editorial team. Josiah Royce. International Journal of Ethics 19 4 Edit this record. Mark as duplicate. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. Revision history. From the Publisher via CrossRef no proxy Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server Configure custom proxy use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy. Configure custom resolver. Homer, Competition, and Sport. Daniel A. Dombrowski - - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 39 1 John Snarey - - Journal of Moral Education 42 2