A Dubious Virtue

Tony Milligan, Heidi Cobham

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Attempts to understand loyalty are partly shaped by political concerns about subservience, inequality and alignment. These feed into broader worries about what we might be loyal to, and whether or not loyalty can be regarded as a virtue. It does seem to be more equivocal than truthfulness, or a commitment to justice, or moral courage. Nonetheless, we contend that loyalty can be seen as a virtue, when the appropriate conceptual machinery is put in place to help us understand the difference between claims about virtues, and the recognition of mere traits of character. Our discussion will begin with an attempt to tease out the grounds for concern about loyalty, and how these are politically inflected. The mid-section will set out a familiar distinction between character traits simpliciter, and such traits operating as virtues. The final substantive section will try to deepen the point by focusing upon a problem case where loyalty fails, in Iris Murdoch’s The Bell. The problem case will help to draw out the idea of conditions for loyalty, and to sharpen up the concept of a virtue of loyalty in ways that accommodate sacrifice, but also requires that such sacrifice does not simply pander to the egocentricity of others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLoyalty
EditorsTroy Jollimore
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Publication series

NameThe Virtues


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