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Virtue

So I was doing one of those online test things whilst the lapdog woke itself up, and one of the questions rather threw me.

Is justice more important than loyalty?

Fortunately the quizmaster had provided an option equivalent to `I don't want to have to think about a lot of philosophical stuff right now so I'll pick this one and come back and do the test again when I have an answer', so I took that one. It's a bloody good question though, and a bloody interesting one.

See, I was raised to believe in both. Being the kind of person I am, I happen to believe in little things like honour, justice and loyalty somewhat more than many members of my generation (who include my brother, the poster-boy for the word `Whatever'). Asking which holds more importance is a question I find hard to answer. They're both equally important to me, which one comes out on top is entirely dependent upon the circumstances.

I think this is because normally I think of both as virtues. Thus when I was brought up with them and even now when I think about them, I try to avoid placing one above the other. Honesty, loyalty, justice---they are all equally valid virtues, and to say that honesty is more important than loyalty would be saying that "it is more virtuous to be honest than to be loyal", implying that to a virtuous person[1], loyalty can be left by the wayside, leading to overspecialisation when looking at virtues...

Or maybe I'm looking at this in completely the wrong way, or simply over thinking it and the "moo" answer was the right one for me. Anyhow, I'm interested in how you would answer the question, and why. Let's get some philosophy going in these comments.

[1]: Which I believe we all aspire to being, dependent upon what we each see as virtues and to a lesser extent what society seems to see as virtues.

Comments

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stormys
Mar. 29th, 2003 08:53 pm (UTC)
"it is more virtuous to be honest than to be loyal" ... implying that to a virtuous person, loyalty can be left by the wayside

Justice being a form of honesty... getting the truth of what happened and acting accordingly for the benefit of society.

Hypothetically, a good friend is on trial for murder, and you are the key witness to it. Would you tell the truth, and place your friend in prison, or lie and save him?

Loyalty is a virtue, but on the inverse of your example, is it more virtuous to be loyal than honest? To lie to maintain your loyalty?

Honesty and loyalty both have to have a limit in everyone, compromising each other to a certain extent. The point they would have to make a middle-ground at is, in my opinion, society. Loyalty is being loyal to a set individual(s) over everyone else. Honesty I would see as the opposite of this; refraining from loyalty or bias, and sticking to the facts.

Bah, this is turning into a ramble :)

Ok, the heart of the matter I believe is, something like this cannot be looked at in pure black and white. It is a thing of many shades of grey, with no definitive answer. Take the courtroom example again. What if it was a petty charge, a parking fine or somesuch? Yes, it's still not a black-and-white issue, but it's less of a cliffhanger, nonetheless.

My point is, whether one is dominant to the other is something relevant to the situation.

You making up an excuse to a friend's girlfriend when she hears that he was seen making out with someone else? A pretty obvious answer I would think.

You making up an excuse when your friend massacres 30 people at a wedding reception?

Shades of grey...
darksymbiant
Mar. 29th, 2003 11:09 pm (UTC)
>>Anyhow, I'm interested in how you would answer the question, and why.<<

I think that pursuing either justice or loyalty to an unhealthy extreme is questionable. They both have their place, but also their drawbacks.

Justice: Justice is good because it requires consideration, integrity and courage. Pursuing justice too far requires you to be judgemental and nosy, and sometimes just a cover for petty vengeance.

Loyalty: a vow (either formal or implied), once given, should be respected. Often, however, loyalty is maintained out of fear rather than love.

If I had to choose one, I would say justice, because it at least requires more careful thought than just standing by some person or principle. But would I choose justice over loyalty if it came to the crunch, IRL? I think I'd probably be too chicken.
lizardgolf
Mar. 29th, 2003 11:12 pm (UTC)
An excellent post, Stew.

Virtue is one of those difficult to define things. So many schools of ethical philosophy and religions and the like have their own line on it. I believe virtue and vice can easily be summed up in malevolence and benevolence, but it even goes beyond intention. The harm done by an action, the consequences of it, will dictate whether something is evil, while a virtuous action will not only harm few or none, but help others. That's a rough description of virtue I think, in my own book on life.

That said, loyalty and justice are both important things. To be a virtuous person, one must believe in justice. Protecting the innocent and stopping bad things from happening is the core of benevolence, and this is what justice is all about.

Loyalty is also very important, but in a different way. The best kinds of friends are those who stick by you, those who you stick by. The best friends are the ones you can trust, trust with your thoughts and feelings on things, trust that they will be there and that they will care about you. This kind of behavior is expected of you as well. Loyalty is important, for that reason, loyalty to your friends.

I say this because friends are often what makes life livable. I suppose it could be said that the meaning of life *is* friends... a truly rich man is one with many true, good friends, for whom laughs come easy and life, for all it's painful moments, can be survived with the help of friends and loved ones. For pain and suffering is inevitable with mortal life, but how much easier is our cross to bear when we have friends to help us bear it up?

But then... when these two conflict with each other, I'd have to say justice is more important. Loyalty is sacred between friends and loved ones, but there comes a time when our duty to be good, benevolent, virtuous people, our responsibility and loyalty to our fellow human beings, is more important. If a friend does evil... You can try and steer them from the course and you can fight to stop them and still help them, but to be truly virtuous, virtue must be preserved.

How truly loyal are you to a friend if you help them destroy themselves or others, even if it seems for the best?
coaldustcanary
Mar. 29th, 2003 11:34 pm (UTC)
Honestly.
I have to be honest - I have completely situational morality. I think it's very much impossible to say that either answer that *always* trumps the other is very virtuous. Then again, I know for certain that in particular circumstances, one will always trump for me personally. Gah. I don't know. Now I sound hypocritical. Thing is, loyalty is pretty consistent...if you're loyal to someone, you put that person's well-being in a position of importance...perhaps above the well-being of others even if that person does wrong. But justice...justice is a bit harder to define properly. It's in the eye of the beholder. It usually has to do with what a person deserves...but sometimes loyalty is justice for the person you're loyal to. Sometimes it's justice for the "accuser" or the person on the other side.

Right or not, I'd probably be loyal in situations even where it wasn't just for some other people...loyal to certain people, anyway. That's just the way reality is...justice isn't always "just" to everyone. And that's just the way I am.
dj_rabid_angel
Mar. 30th, 2003 08:22 am (UTC)
I don't subscribe to a concept of societal justice. For me, justice is a personal thing, an issue that I look at in a situation by situation manner. The core of the idea of justice is, what is "just?" What is not only morally acceptable, but right and deserved in response to a situation? As a responsive thing it becomes highly conditional, and as each and every of our six billion plus compatriots in the experience of living proves day in and day out, this conditional factor is highly interpretive. Societal justice is set by a least common denominator mentality. Killing, murder, rape, and the oppression of one's general rights are typically societally unjust. But on a personal level, people commit these crimes and they do so on a daily basis, proving that not everyone has the same concept of what is just. I think that society has removed much of our power to determine what is just for our own means, and instead instituted laws that make common justice the acceptable norm. And sadly humanity hasn't evolved to the point where we can do away with that lowest factor norm, making such justice a necessity.

Loyalty is a bit broad to me. Loyalty to what? To other people? To one's self? To an ideal, or principle...like, say, justice?

I consider myself to be one of the most loyal beings on earth, in that I know who I love and I know that I place those people above damned near every other priority in my life. Sometimes that may not be healthy, as there are people out there who may not deserve that loyalty, but eventually I sort through the chaffe. My own brand of loyalty is much less conditional than my concept of justice; the loyalty will always be there, but how I react in terms of it will vary. In a given situation where a friend puts themself in a position that may invoke the ire of justice, I generally try to convince them not to take that first, dangerous step. If someone brings themselves before an act of justice, I won't lie or debase myself to get them out of the consequences of their own actions. Loyalty does /not/ mean that I will assume the responsibilities of their actions or try to assuage the consequences of their own choices. I will, however, be there for them and help them pick up the pieces if they want me to do so.

Anything less would be disloyal to my own concept of self.

These are just personal beliefs, though. I expect folks to poke holes in them, mainly because I just woke up a bit ago and I'm writing out my ass, without benefit of a second cup of coffe. Maybe I'll post more later, when I'm a bit more awake. :-)
chrisondra
Mar. 30th, 2003 05:30 pm (UTC)
Hmm...
That's a really hard question, Stew.

See, I'm basically in the same boat as you... please don't toss me out! ::smiles:: I believe in both loyalty and justice, and which I chose to follow would entirely depend on the situation, really. But then I can be a rather spur of the moment person, and I often don't know what I'll do in many situations unless the situation happens to come up.

I think I hold them both at an equal standard in my life and things will shift depending on the circumstances. Though I do know that loyalty is one of those big things that I expect my friends to have regarding myself. That's probably because I'm big on being loyal to my friends. And just like I wouldn't stand by them if they did some heinous crime without reason, I don't expect anyone to do that for me...

Me.. committing a heinous crime without reason... ::smiles::

I guess that's basically it in a nutshell though, nothing to special. ::grins::

-Becky
"The darkness takes people"
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