Thursday, January 06, 2011

Josiah Royce on having a larger purpose

From Josiah Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty (1908), the book to which Jerry Brown referred in his inaugural address on Monday on being sworn in as California's Governor. Loyalty, in the sense Royce used it, meant "solidarity", but not just narrow-group solidarity; he meant commitment to something that would fulfill the individual by contributing to something of benefit to humanity:

Only a cause, then an absorbing and fascinating social cause, which by his own will and consent comes to take possession of his life, as the spirits that a magician summons might by the magician's own will and consent take control of the fortunes of the one who has called for their aid, - only a cause, dignified by the social unity that it gives to many human lives, but rendered also vital for the loyal man by the personal affection which it awakens in his heart, only such a cause can unify his outer and inner world. When such unity comes, it takes in him the form of an active loyalty. Whatever cause thus appeals to a man meets therefore one of his deepest personal needs, and in fact the very deepest of his moral needs; namely, the need of a life task that is at once voluntary and to his mind worthy.
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