Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#12 / Loyalty

Pictured is Josiah Royce, who was born in a mining camp in California, attended and taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and who then spent the bulk of his career at Harvard University as a colleague to William James and George Santayana.

Royce’s early work is associated with Idealism, but he was influenced greatly by the Pragmatism of William James and Charles Peirce. The later works of Royce, with a focus on interpretation and community, are now recognized as significant contributions to Pragmatism and the history of philosophy.

Most recently, Royce was cited in the remarks that Governor Jerry Brown made on the occasion of his inauguration, on January 3rd of this year:

One of our native sons, Josiah Royce, became for a time one of the most famous of American philosophers. He was born in 1855, in a mining camp that later became the town of Grass Valley. I mention him because his “Philosophy of Loyalty” is exactly what is called for. Loyalty to the community, to what is larger than our individual needs.

We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our hearts and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives.

I also mention Josiah Royce because long ago my father spoke to me about his philosophy of loyalty. I didn’t really grasp its importance, but as I look back now, I understand how this loyalty to California was my father’s philosophy as well. It drove him to build our freeways, our universities, our public schools and our state water plan.

I thought that the idea that we must now, amidst our difficulties, demonstrate "loyalty" to California was one of the most important things that Governor Brown said, though no one has particularly commented on the observation, at least as far as I have seen. The call by Governor Brown is to place our commitment to the "we" above our commitment to our individual advancement and gain.

I think our ability to deal with our budget and other challenges successfully will be determined by whether we can, in fact, do exactly that.

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