Katherine Clark's Reviews > Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue

Loyalty by Eric Felten
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Jun 25, 2011

it was ok
Read from June 10 to 25, 2011

I recently finished a three year contract as a lecturer at CWRU, and was not rehired for a second three year term, in large part to the decision by a colleague who should have had my best interests at heart, but opted to act poorly. (I am being vague on purpose.) When I heard of this book on NPR, I immediately gravitated toward it. I teach a class called Lies and Betrayal, and this book fits nicely in with that. The author points out that loyalty is thorny. There are reasons why Dante considers ...more I recently finished a three year contract as a lecturer at CWRU, and was not rehired for a second three year term, in large part to the decision by a colleague who should have had my best interests at heart, but opted to act poorly. (I am being vague on purpose.) When I heard of this book on NPR, I immediately gravitated toward it. I teach a class called Lies and Betrayal, and this book fits nicely in with that. The author points out that loyalty is thorny. There are reasons why Dante considers disloyalty to be the greatest sin; yet Felten points out that loyalty has its danger. If you know your brother is a mass murderer, do you protect him? To whom does one owe the greatest loyalty? What are the ramifications of loyalty? I like this book and find myself writing down many quotes.(less)

I am about 1/3 through the book. It is not doing what I wanted it to do--I guess be a monograph on loyalty that was quite pointed. Rather, it is a friendly musing on the topic and the author feels comfortably jumping from point to point. I am going to use this space for interesting quotes that I have found:

Loyalty, commitment, fidelity and allegiances: "One thing ties all of these notions together: They all invite conflict' trouble is their middle name."--Judith Shklar

"the problem is to decide which loyalties to honor"

"I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice" Camus

"What we owe our friends may be irreconcilable with what we owe to the truth" Aristotle

"loyalty may be the most venerable of virtues, but clearly it can be a dangerous one too"

OK--I have finished this book. Hmm-the idea for the book was terrific, but I found it much less interesting to read. It reads as an author's not to well thought out musings on a topic he finds interesting. He did decent research, but, first, I find his arguments not well-formed, nor particularly convincing. This was more a meandering kind of book, occasionally interesting.

I found the following thoughts useful:

"But we do realize that whether one comes through in a pinch is the measure of friendship that matters. Loyalty may not be sufficient for a real friendship, but it is necessary."

Also, "This focus on fidelity in the face of misfortune is the very definition of loyalty."

And "We are, you could say, what we are loyal to. to identify loyalities is to sift and sort the core things e care about."

These are worthwhile considerations and thoughts.

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