I rise to speak on behalf of a badly neglected virtue: the quality of mind, heart, and will that we call loyalty. It seems strange that philosophers over the centuries have had so little to say about something so commonplace, so fundamentally human, in striking contrast to their volubility on such topics as love, truth, courage, justice, and friendship. To be sure, loyalty may not really be a virtue in the full sense of the word, for reasons I’ll readily concede in what follows. But, though it always manages to generate a trove of glittering aphorisms in tribute to it, as well as making regular appearances, along with its opposite number, betrayal, in the plots and characters of our greatest literature, it remains a mystery why a disposition so influential in human affairs has not received more sustained attention.

That may be indicative of a larger problem. A great many of us today...


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