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The Burning Chambers

Multiple loyalties can constitute a disloyalty to an object if one of those loyalties is exclusionary , excluding one of the others. However, Nathanson observes, this is a special case.

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In the general case, the existence of multiple loyalties does not cause a disloyalty. One can, for example, be loyal to one's friends, or one's family, and still, without contradiction, be loyal to one's religion, or profession. In addition to number and exclusion as just outlined, Nathanson enumerates five other "dimensions" that loyalty can vary along: basis, strength, scope, legitimacy, and attitude.

Loyalties differ in basis according to their foundations. They may be constructed upon the basis of unalterable facts that constitute a personal connection between the subject and the object of the loyalty, such as biological ties or place of birth a notion of natural allegiance propounded by Socrates in his political theory. Alternatively, they may be constructed from personal choice and evaluation of criteria with a full degree of freedom.


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The degree of control that one has is not necessarily simple; Nathanson points out that whilst one has no choice as to one's parents or relatives, one can choose to desert them. Loyalties differ in strength. They can range from supreme loyalties, that override all other considerations, to merely presumptive loyalties, that affect one's presumptions, providing but one motivation for action that is weighed against other motivations. Nathanson observes that strength of loyalty is often interrelated with basis. Loyalties differ in scope.

They range from loyalties with limited scope, that require few actions of the subject, to loyalties with broad or even unlimited scopes, which require many actions, or indeed to do whatever may be necessary in support of the loyalty. Loyalty to one's job, for example, may require no more action than simple punctuality and performance of the tasks that the job requires.

Loyalty to a family member can, in contrast, have a very broad effect upon one's actions, requiring considerable personal sacrifice. Extreme patriotic loyalty may impose an unlimited scope of duties. Scope encompasses an element of constraint. Where two or more loyalties conflict, their scopes determine what weight to give to the alternative courses of action required by each loyalty.

Loyalties differ in legitimacy. This is of particular relevance to the conflicts among multiple loyalties. People with one loyalty can hold that another, conflicting, loyalty is either legitimate or illegitimate. In the extreme view, one that Nathanson ascribes to religious extremists and xenophobes for examples, all loyalties bar one's own are considered illegitimate. The xenophobe does not regard the loyalties of foreigners to their countries as legitimate while the religious extremist does not acknowledge the legitimacy of other religions. At the other end of the spectrum, past the middle ground of considering some loyalties as legitimate and others not, according to cases, or plain and simple indifference to other people's loyalties, is the positive regard of other people's loyalties.

Finally, loyalties differ in the attitude that the subjects of the loyalties have towards other people. Note that this dimension of loyalty concerns the subjects of the loyalty, whereas legitimacy, above, concerns the loyalties themselves. People may have one of a range of possible attitudes towards others who do not share their loyalties, with hate and disdain at one end, indifference in the middle, and concern and positive feeling at the other.

Nathanson observes that loyalty is often directly equated to patriotism. He states, that this is, however, not actually the case, arguing that whilst patriots exhibit loyalty, it is not conversely the case that all loyal persons are patriots. He provides the example of a mercenary soldier, who exhibits loyalty to the people or country that pays him. Nathanson points to the difference in motivations between a loyal mercenary and a patriot.

A mercenary may well be motivated by a sense of professionalism or a belief in the sanctity of contracts.

Divided Loyalties

A patriot, in contrast, may be motivated by affection, concern, identification, and a willingness to sacrifice. Nathanson contends that patriotic loyalty is not always a virtue. A loyal person can, in general be relied upon, and hence people view loyalty as virtuous. Nathanson argues that loyalty can, however, be given to persons or causes that are unworthy.

Moreover, loyalty can lead patriots to support policies that are immoral and inhumane. Thus, Nathanson argues, patriotic loyalty can sometimes rather be a vice than a virtue, when its consequences exceed the boundaries of what is otherwise morally desirable. Such loyalties, in Nathanson's view, are erroneously unlimited in their scopes, and fail to acknowledge boundaries of morality.

Several scholars, including Duska, discuss loyalty in the context of whistleblowing. Wim Vandekerckhove of the University of Greenwich points out that in the late 20th century saw the rise of a notion of a bidirectional loyalty—between employees and their employer. Previous thinking had encompassed the idea that employees are loyal to an employer, but not that an employer need be loyal to employees.

The ethics of whistleblowing thus encompass a conflicting multiplicity of loyalties, where the traditional loyalty of the employee to the employer conflicts with the loyalty of the employee to his or her community, which the employer's business practices may be adversely affecting. Vandekerckhove reports that different scholars resolve the conflict in different ways, some of which he, himself, does not find to be satisfactory.

Duska resolves the conflict by asserting that there is really only one proper object of loyalty in such instances, the community, a position that Vandekerckhove counters by arguing that businesses are in need of employee loyalty. John Corvino, associate professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University takes a different tack, arguing that loyalty can sometimes be a vice, not a virtue, and that "loyalty is only a virtue to the extent that the object of loyalty is good" similar to Nathanson.

Vandekerckhove calls this argument "interesting" but "too vague" in its description of how tolerant an employee should be of an employer's shortcomings. Vandekerckhove suggests that Duska and Corvino combine, however, to point in a direction that makes it possible to resolve the conflict of loyalties in the context of whistleblowing, by clarifying the objects of those loyalties. Businesses seek to become the objects of loyalty in order to retain customers. Brand loyalty is a consumer's preference for a particular brand and a commitment to repeatedly purchase that brand.

One similar concept is fan loyalty , an allegiance to and abiding interest in a sports team , fictional character , or fictional series. Devoted sports fans continue to remain fans even in the face of a string of losing seasons. The Bible also speaks of loyal ones, which would be those who follow the Bible with absolute loyalty, as in "Precious in the eyes of God is the death of his loyal ones" Psalms Come and meet bestselling author Kate Mosse who'll be talking about her latest novel, The Burning Chambers.

Join us for one of most popular events of the year! We are delighted to welcome Kate Mosse, Donna Leon and another special guest.

Friendship & Betrayal: Ambition and the Limits of Loyalty

Kate Mosse, author of the internationally bestselling Languedoc trilogy, brings sixteenth century France vividly to life in her new novel. The first in a new series of historical novels spanning three hundred years of Huguenot history she explores Kate Mosse and Viv Groskop will discuss their top five anti-heroes and anti-heroines in literature, the characters we love in spite of their flaws.


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  4. Bringing 16th century France vividly to life, The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets. Author of six novels and short story collections, including the multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy, Kate is a A specialist in literature and cinema of modern Iran, she teaches in the Continuing Studies program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where she lives with her husband. In Divided Loyalties, with a deft hand, Nilofar Shidmehr takes us through the suffering of its people over the last four decades.

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    An important book that sheds light on how a people can survive their darkest years. The stories of the characters in these pages speak to the universal experience of love, loss, and longing. Divided Loyalties shows girls and women at the intersection of place and time during pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. A touching, fascinating read. The divided loyalties that torment these Persian women, whether they are still living in Iran or have emigrated to Canada, is her painful subject matter, and Shidmehr examines every nuance of it in fiction that is fierce, meticulously observed, beautifully crafted, and authoritative.

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    A stunning work. They are compassionate, strong, and determined. This is a beautifully written collection with poetic language. These poems are feminist, moist, fragrant! Each word bursts, ripe in the mouth, like pomegranate.

    Divided Loyalties by Patricia Scanlan

    Fully wrought and deeply personal, this is a necessary book by an accomplished writer. These are poetic meditations that only a poet simultaneously intimate with a place, and exiled from it, can offer. Close menu. Customer Service.