Jason M. Bell
Vanderbilt University

The World and Its Selves: Josiah Royce and the Philosophy of Nature

[That] our relations to the world-life are relations wherein we are consciously met, from the other side, by a superhuman and yet strictly personal conscious life, in which our own personalities are themselves bound up, but which also is not only richer but is more concrete and definitely conscious and real than we are, -- this seems to me to be an inevitable corollary of my theory of truth.[1]

I. Introduction

A modern reading of Royce’s philosophy holds significant promise for the field of environmental philosophy, and this paper explores the role that Royce’s ethics can have in this undertaking.  This style of inquiry, which applies Royce’s moral philosophy to the problems of the modern world, is similar to that found in Jacquelyn Ann Kegley’s recent book on Royce’s philosophy.[2]  Likewise, in discussing environmental applications of Royce’s philosophy, I follow Kegley[3] and Thomas Price,[4] who have applied Royce’s philosophy to ecological discussions.  Robert Hine[5] and Frank Oppenheim[6] have noted the clear importance of ecological influences on Royce’s work.  Royce’s philosophy of loyalty —which holds that human ethics should be directed at better unifying ourselves with communities of personal beings-- can help mediate among some of the most divisive debates that have arisen within the environmentalist fold, and can also provide an account of "value" of natural beings that is more defensible than some accounts which are now advanced.  While the current problems of environmental philosophy post-date Royce’s life, I will suggest that his theory nevertheless requires that modern humans be "environmentalists," in that it requires that our actions support, rather than oppose, the natural world.[7]

II. The Person of Nature and the Requirement of Environmental Loyalty

Royce’s theory of personhood will provide the basis for my central assertion.  As Price has explained, Royce’s world consists of personal, natural beings.  The "person" in this world is an individual "life lived according to a plan." (PL 79)  All natural beings are persons, since these natural beings have plans and seek rational ends, just as we do.[8]  For Royce, this life consists of two inseparable parts: the individual and the community. An individual is an individual by virtue of communal ties with other individuals (PL 106), and even the formed community is a "person," as defined above —a species, for instance, is a person, and has its own plans.  As Royce says, a community is not a mere collection of individuals, rather, "any highly organized community . . . is as truly a human being as you and I are individually human."[9] All experiences of all beings considered together form the highest, personal conspectus of experience —which is "the real world"-- and all beings are a part of this eternal conscious conspectus.[10] (PL 158-160).

The glue that binds the individual to the community and the community to the individual is called loyalty, which is the plan through which beings enter into community with other beings:

Where there is an object of loyalty, there is, then, an union of various selves into one life . . . And such an union of many in one, if known to anybody for whom a person means merely a human person, appears to be something impersonal or superpersonal, just because it is more than all those separate and private personalities whom it joins.  Yet it is also intensely personal, because the union is indeed an union of selves, and so not a merely artificial abstraction (PL 25-26).

An individual finds its individuation only through this loyal involvement with other lives. Loyalty provides our individual purpose: " . . . a self is a life in so far as it is unified by a single purpose.  Our loyalties furnish such purposes, and hence make of us conscious and unified moral persons" (PL 80); and within this individual purpose is bound our social purpose: "loyalty is, from the first, a practical faith that communities, viewed as units, have a value which is superior to all the values and interests of detached individuals." (PC 85)

Ethical involvement in a community precedes metaphysical awareness of community, since we are loyally acted on —that is, we are involved in the plans of other persons-- before we can ourselves loyally act (PL 16-17).  The resultant metaphysical picture of the world retains its ethical core since understanding is a purposive attempt to unify the self with the world.  When we attempt this conscious unification, we try to attain an understanding of the highest conspectus of personal being, which contains within itself all knowledge: ". . . our search for reality is simply an effort to discover what the whole fabric of experience is into which our human experience is woven, what the system of truth is in which our partial truths have their place, what the ideally significant life is for the sake of which every deed of ours is undertaken. When we try to find out what the real world is, we are simply trying to discover the sense of our own individual lives." (PL 169)

The foregoing is a restating, from the starting point of ethics, of what Price calls the "social philosophy of nature."[11]  I am in agreement with Price’s assessment that Royce’s theory can provide a more accurate understanding of the world than the prevailing mind/body dualism of the modern world.  For Royce, we are always operating within our own human perspective, but our outlook should be ecological.  The personal conspectus of experience precedes the existence and the activity of any particular personal being.  But our own needs, our loyalties, are not merely goods for ourselves, but are also contributions to the world-life: ". . . In being loyal myself, I not only get but give good; for I help to sustain, in each of my fellow-servants, his own loyalty, and so I help him to secure his own good.  In so far, then, my loyalty to my cause is also a loyalty to my fellows’ loyalty." (PL 56)

Yet in addition to this good, there is also evil.  ". . . suppose that my cause lives by the destruction . . . of other communities.  Then, indeed, I get a good for myself and for my fellow-servants by our common loyalty; but war against this very spirit of loyalty as it appears in our opponent’s loyalty to his own cause." (PL 56)  An evil loyalty remains nevertheless a loyalty, and provides a good for the individual.

Because there is no guarantee that a private good will be also a universal good, many great evils have been committed when the servants of a particular loyalty thought they were pursuing a good.  Royce’s defines the evil loyalty as a cause in which, "despite the loyalty that it arouses in me, it is destructive of loyalty in the world of my fellows." (PL 56)  In order to obtain our own true good —our fullest personhood, which is found in the union of the self with the community— Royce asks us to serve our local causes in such a way that it will benefit the good of the universal community that contains ourselves and all natural beings.  Royce calls this service loyalty to loyalty.  The service of a local cause that undermines broadest community is a disloyalty to loyalty, and undermines our own personhood —it is, in the words of Royce, "moral suicide." (PL 105)  Persons need to be loyal to this finite cause or that, but in doing so, they are to be loyal to eternal loyalty, defined as the full personal experiences of all beings, considered in all past, present and future moments.

Royce’s ethical principle recognizes the existence and dignity of both the individual and the community of the natural world.  In our individual loyalties, "we are loyal not for the sake of the good that we privately get out of loyalty, but for the sake of the good that the cause —this higher unity of experience— gets out of this loyalty.  Yet our loyalty gives us what is, after all, our supreme good, for it defines our true position in the world of that social will wherein we live and move and have our being." (PL 145)  We must choose finite causes to find our own good, but we choose these with an eye to universal loyalty: "In so far as it lies in your power, so choose your cause and so serve it, that, by reason of your choice and of your service, there shall be more loyalty in the world rather than less . . . More briefly: In choosing and in serving the cause to which you are to be loyal, be, in any case, loyal to loyalty." (PL 57)

This ethical command is easily applicable to our environmental dealings.  For the purposes of this paper, I will define the "environmental cause" as a commitment to the continued health of the relationships that exist in nature (the totality of all personal beings in the world) and among individual natural beings, and an opposition to plans that would undermine the breadth and depth of these relationships.  Environmentalism is a loyalty, that is to say, to the relationships that exist, have existed and will exist between the personal beings in nature (and indeed, it is loyalty to the person of nature itself), and it is a recognition that these relationships form a community of which we are a part.

In fact, the essential problems that environmentalists face in attempting to reform human dealings with nature and the central problem of The Philosophy of Loyalty are the same: Negatively, how can humans be rid of selfish desires so that they are not injurious to larger community? Positively, how can our desires be supportive of community and how can we integrate ourselves with a universal whole which is, essentially, good?  For Royce and for environmentalists, the basis for answering this question lies in the fact that a social order consisting of valuable, valuing persons actually exists.[12]  The quality of our own individuality depends on our local community’s service to broadest community. Our service begins in trying to help our local human communities be fully individual through the participation in larger community, and the loyalist attempts to help his or her local community fully and consciously participate in this order: ". . . in order to train loyalty to loyalty in a great mass of the people, what is most of all needed is to help them to be less estranged than they are from their own social order." (PL 114)

If the definition of the environmental cause is one that is sufficiently similar to the one I gave above, we are required by Royce’s ethical principle to be loyal to the environment.  Our actions must support the loyalties that are found in the natural world. If our own good consists in the undermining of the loyalties of the natural world, our species itself is engaged in "moral suicide."  This is not merely a theoretical danger, and any modern environmentalist could give a long list of the practices of humanity that threaten the existence of the communities of the natural world, including its human communities.  To provide a single clear example of our "moral suicide" is the presence of weapons of mass destruction that threaten the annihilation of many of the Earth’s natural communities.  Here is an instance where parochial loyalties —to the military strength of a particular nation— may destroy the loyalty of human civilizations and countless varieties of natural beings.

The called-for loyalty to the environment can, but does not necessarily, mean adopting nature as a special cause —for instance by joining the Green Party, or Greenpeace.  But if we do not adopt nature as a special cause, we must at least recognize that human communities exist in a natural world full of loyalty, and we are in a sense being loyal to the environment when we work to ensure that our loyalties are not disloyal to the environment.  If I, as a member of a corporation that owns the property rights to huge swaths of old growth forests, decide to cut those forests down to turn a quick profit, my economic loyalties to my corporation are also tied to an environmental loyalty.  In my clear-cutting, I am not merely being non-loyal, but I am being disloyal to the personal relations that exist only in this forest.  The destruction of forests is an evil, as it undermines the loyalty of other natural beings, and it undermines my own loyalty, which occurs as I enter in as fully and as consciously as possible with the broadest possible community.  If we do not adopt nature as a special cause, we are required at the least to avoid disloyalty to the loyalties of the persons that exist within the natural order.  If we refrain from destroying natural wetlands, for instance, then we avoid being disloyal to the relationships that can only exist within that community; but we may also of course loyally choose to champion the "cause" of wetlands in the public, the press, and legislative bodies, so that we take environmentalism as a special cause.

III. Truth as World-Loyalty

Royce says:

In so far . . . as I get the truth about the world, I myself am a fragmentary conscious life that is included within the conscious conspectus of the world’s experience, and that is in one self-conscious unity with that world consciousness. And it is in this unity with the world consciousness that I get my success, and am in concord with the truth. (PL 172)

Price discovered, in Royce’s metaphysics, continuity of natural beings in their metaphysical origins (being) and in their shared social sphere (nature), but he sees a discontinuity in their communication with one another arising from their different conscious time spans.[13]  The discussion of loyalty also seeks to identify and bridge the gap in communication, but from an ethical perspective.  Loyalty is the source of all unity with the world, but disloyal actions undermine our actual and understood union with this whole.  Insofar as time is an "embrace"[14] of world-experience, and insofar as time exists as a condition of and means to personal expression of community, the realization of a plan or shared purpose, time is condition of and means to loyalty.  And given the connection of time to the divine person and its purposes, time is more than a condition and a means for us, it is an expression of loyalty to our loyalty on the part of the divine person.  In short, God gives us time.  Temporality is itself a plan through which we can become part of the world-community; but, as with all loyalties, it can, when used, understood or applied in too parochial a manner, actually make the possibility of loyal communication more difficult.  Thus Price claims that the narrow, human quantification of time is actually a disloyalty that prevents persons with different temporal spans from communicating with one another.

Likewise, the expression of loyalty from a given finite perspective is, for Royce, an illusion that can hide the truth of infinite being:

This inevitable illusion of perspective is, of course, responsible for what is called our natural selfishness.  But on the other hand, this illusion is no mere illusion.  It suggests, even while it distorts, the true nature of things.  The real world has a genuine relation to the various personalities that live in it.  The truth is diversified by its relation to these personalities. (PL 38)

The loyal cause does not merely relate individuals, but links them "into the unity of one life," that is a "genuine spiritual unity." (PL 143)  Loyalty, that is to say, genuinely unifies personal beings in a community.  Price’s suggestion that we move from a consideration of exclusively finite (quantitative) time to an infinite, eternal (qualitative) time is an ethical request that is similar to Royce’s, where we likewise commit ourselves, in the finitely experienced present, to the loyalty of all persons considered eternally. (PL 160)

Royce argues in The World and the Individual and The Philosophy of Loyalty for what is now called the coherence theory of truth: that everything that is true about the universe must be self-consistent, and consistent with all else that is true about the universe. (PL 140-185)  The cohering of persons in community occurs because of loyalty; and it is through this loyal union with the world that we attain truth: "The good which our causes possess, then, also becomes a concrete fact for an experience of a higher than human level.  That union of self-sacrifice with self-assertion which loyalty expresses becomes a consciousness of our genuine relations to a higher social unity of consciousness in which we all have our being." (PL 145)

The community is a spiritual unity of individuals (PL 125-127); while the whole of nature is the ideal unity of all individuals, eternally considered.  Loyalty to loyalty, as an idealization of all causes and all personality, is an idealization of the being of nature, defined as the whole of universal experience.  Thus if any assertion is true, this truth implies that there "is a conscious world of experience, whose type of consciousness is higher in its level than is the type of our human minds, but whose life is such that our life belongs as part to this living whole." (PL 146)
            Price argues, with other environmentalists, that there is a "qualitative withholding of our own appreciate lives" that "prevents us from appreciating natural beings."[15]  So too, loyalty to loyalty acknowledges a living whole of natural beings that precedes and surrounds us, and urges an extension of our appreciation into the world-community. The environmental loyalist is justified in urging that there is a necessary reciprocal ethical process to human life: loyalty from other personal beings allows us to enter into community (PL 16), while our own chosen loyalties allow us to achieve our full individuality in communion with these other persons when we are loyal to their loyalty.

IV. Ethical Primacy

Jim Cheney and Anthony Weston have recently argued that an adequate environmental ethics should begin with ethics, rather than epistemology —but that it has been a frequently repeated error to reverse this order.  According to Cheney and Weston, environmentalism is already distanced from nature when we hold that our ethics is a mere extension of the truths that we have "discovered" as rational minds operating apart from, and discerning through our powers, the shape of the natural world.[16]  Royce similarly places his ethics as the center and beginning of philosophy.  An individual can come to exist because the world is an ethical place, and it is in our ethical response to this world that we become fully individual persons and a valuable part of this world.  Our ethics does not, however, spring from the powers of our own minds without a supporting context: "I, left to myself, can never find a plan of life.  I have no inborn ideal naturally present within myself." (PL 16)  But the world furnishes us with the possibility for our personhood: "One gets one’s various plans of life suggested through the models that are set before each one of us by his fellows.  Plans of life first come to us in connection with our endless imitative activities [which] begin in infancy and run on through our whole life." (PL 16)  Our interaction with the world, and the possibilities which are suggested by this world, is an ethical engagement that demonstrates the growing presence of our own personhood and the personhood of others.  Ethics is "environmental" by virtue of the fact that ethics itself originates in the conscious conspectus of the world-life, within which fragments of the whole find and express meaning.  We learn to express loyalty from the loyal structures that precede us,[17] and it is through this expression that we become loyal beings capable of fullest individuality as we actively participate in unifying loyalties. (PL 146, 170, 172)

The argument that ethics is primary in truth acquisition differs markedly from two other popular environmental ethical accounts.  The first holds that rational beings are innately valuable, while irrational or sub-rational beings possess only objective, instrumental, or donated value.[18]  The second account is a reaction to what are called the environmental failings of the first, and holds that non-human natural beings possess intrinsic value.[19]

Royce’s account differs markedly from the first approach in that in Royce’s metaphysics, all finite beings are unified by their associations with one infinite being, and thus there are no essential distinctions between any two finite beings: the differences are in the practical, ethical manner in which beings express their individuality-in-union.  In the second case, the assertion of the intrinsic value of natural beings is a hypostatization of the individual at the expense of the relational community.[20]  If a being has intrinsic value, then it would be "valuable" even if it were the only being that existed in the universe.  But a single hydrogen atom, in a universe that consisted of nothing but that one hydrogen atom, could neither be loyal nor be the object of loyalty apart from community. We do not --and cannot-- have any value without being situated in the world.

When we speak of intrinsic or extrinsic values, and then take sides, we choose to ally ourselves with either the individual or community: extrinsic valuers take the side of the rational individual at the expense of supposedly non-rational communities, while intrinsic value takes the side of non-human community.  Ethical actions will prove more truly ethical —more universal-- when they do not assume this dichotomy.  If ethical conceptions are at bottom grounded in practical actions that alter our relation to finite beings, and therefore their relation to us, it is difficult to comprehend what an "intrinsic value," totally distinct from this relation would look like.  For Royce, a being finds its individuation —and thus, its value-- only through relations to other forms of individuated being.  Here, value is neither intrinsic nor extrinsic, but rather communal.[21]

As individuals, we represent a slice of time in an evolutionary processive community,[22] and thus a person represents the values of individuals who preceded it and contains within itself the possibility of future individuals and future values.  When we destroy a species or an ecosystem, we undermine loyalty in this communal sense.  If we eliminate a species, we do not simply undermine the loyalties of that individual, but also all that could have come from these loyalties.

V. How Can One Be Loyal to Nature?

To recapitulate, I have suggested that every act implies the transcendence of our "mere" selves and brings us into union with our communities; that any act made under the umbrella of the ethic of loyalty is at some level consciously aware of this transcendence; and that the consciousness of this transcendent aspect of our being connects us to ideal values not currently actual in our experiences. (PL 170)  From here, we may ask why the philosophy of loyalty would urge us to commit ourselves to environmental causes, and how it will help us to address the knottiest debates in environmental ethics —like those dealing with the question of human "interference" in the non-human world.

One principle of environmentalism comes as an extension of Royce’s ethic: we may not interfere in the non-human world solely for the good of humans.  This would be a parochial loyalty that destroys loyalty writ large.  One cannot automatically justify animal experimentation and gene manipulation with the argument that it will provide good for humans.  If our efforts to achieve human good undermine the loyal plans that non-human natural beings possess in their own communities, then our actions apparently undermine the highest good of the universe —and our own highest good is placed out of reach in the process, i.e., "moral suicide."  Our inclusion in the community of natural beings, however, means that our presence will affect the pursuit of their loyalties, and our ethical hope is not simply to not interfere —because non-interference is itself an evil if it undermines the loyalty of a community of persons— but rather to pursue good.  I propose, as an extension of Royce’s ethical principle, this tenet of environmental loyalty: All human actions which have an impact on the natural world must support the plans, persons, communities and loyalties of the natural world.

Given this principle, one cannot justify the clear-cutting of forests or the genetic manipulation of cows merely on the grounds that it will provide goods for humans.  The argument for justification would also need to consider whether the clear-cutting of a forest provides a good for the communities that lived in the forest; and whether the genetic manipulation of cows supports the loyalty of cows.  Our inability to communicate with cows is, as Price has indicated, no argument by which we can deny that cows have any loyalty of their own —and it seems a questionable undertaking indeed to manipulate the genes of a species for the sole reason that the species will thereby become more valuable for us.

Royce extensively discusses the impossibility of knowing, in the human realm, if our chosen loyalty will lead to good or evil results in the future.  He recognizes this limitation in his ethical principle: in loyalty to loyalty, we avoid absolutizing a finite cause in a way that would undermine other people’s loyalties.  We hope that our cause will lead to good, but if it does not, we want to be certain that other causes will be able to do good in our place --but there may be no other causes if we so fervently advance our own cause that we destroy theirs (recalling the example of weapons of mass destruction made and used to protect parochial national interests).  In choosing an environmental loyalty, we first need to be cautious not to undermine the existence of other environmental causes.  But we also hope to choose the right cause, one that will likely lead to good; and we therefore seek a means of discerning a course of actions when different loyalties conflict with one another.

In a decision, we should, after having considered the whole situation, see if we "can predict the consequences to the general loyalty which [our] act will involve." (PL 90)  We want these consequences to "harmonize apparently conflicting loyalties, and to remove the conflict of loyalties from the world, and to utilize even conflict, where it is inevitable, so as to further general loyalty." (PL 85)  But even when we are not certain, we are to be decisive in our commitment to our cause, and show fidelity to our loyal decisions once they are made, unless it becomes clear that our actions are leading to less loyalty in the world. (PL 87)  But in a difficult situation, we are forbidden to do simply nothing at all: "As soon as further indecision would itself practically amount to a decision to do nothing, --and so would mean a failure to be loyal to loyalty, -- then at once decide." (PL 89)

Seemingly conflicting loyalties can both do good, and we could perform an environmental service whether we joined a moderate environmental group, like the Sierra Club, or a more radical group, like EarthFirst!.  In either case, we should be devoted to our cause, but not absolutist.  For if our cause becomes the only one addressing a problem, and undermines others in the process, we are certainly doing an evil.  No matter how certain we are that our approach would lead to a better Earth community, we can have no guarantee that our nobly intended actions will not produce evil results.  A tyrannical approach to advancing our ethic would silence other accounts that could have proved superior to our own, and would undermine the expression of loyalty through the silencing of loyal persons.  If we advance an environmental cause that proves a failure, but that does not prevent other approaches from surviving, other loyalties may provide positive results.  Likewise, if our own species fails but we did not undermine the existence of others, the others may succeed.

Royce’s ethics suggests that we will best serve our loyalty when we join a cause in order to pursue the ends we seek.  A solitary individual fighting industrialized societies’ destruction of the environment will not succeed in protecting the environment. Our task is easier —and our cause may outlive our own temporal span— when we unite with others. (PL 117-120)  Royce’s ethics also suggests, in outline, how our service to our cause should attempt to educate those who do not yet subscribe to it.  In essence, we are trying to teach the ecological truth of the world and contradict the notion of individual supremacy --Royce argues that our good is best served when we recognize and appreciate the goods that contribute to our own good. (PL 103-106)  We interpret our individualism incorrectly when we selfishly value only ourselves, as true individuality is found vis-à-vis true community.  "The mere assertion of our individual freedom" outside of a supporting context is disloyal to the world of natural beings, since true individuality comes through ties with other persons. (PL 106)

Royce also suggests that our causes will function best when they are most idealized —when the goodness of a plan is understood to be applicable to communities wider than our own; when the cause will outlive even our own deaths.  Those whose religion, mythology and community have always recognized the dependence of the community on living nature have already idealized the being of nature, and find within it communal wholes.  But other cultures, like those of the descendents of European settlers in the Americas, have mostly rejected mythology and replaced it with analytical, scientific understanding that is often not aware of its own dependence on the ideal world. 

But there are still numerous means by which members of such cultures can idealize their causes.  Royce discusses one method that has fascinating environmental applications, that of the idealization of being through loss and grief. (PL 130-133)  Many environmental loyalists arrive at their devotion to non-natural being because of grief that is experienced when species and ecosystems are made extinct through human interference.  An environmental loyalist may realize, when he/she loses a fight to save a particular ecosystem, that his/her devotion to the cause is strengthened even despite the loss, because the natural world still contains within itself great loyalty and great potential for loyalty and is more valuable than any single loyalty that we could ever direct towards it.  Royce finds even in loss the possibility for good —through the defeat of a particular environmental cause, we can discover that our cause can be even broader, and our service to it deeper, than we before thought possible.

Consider this hypothetical case in which we might use loyalty to determine the best course of action in a problematic situation: suppose that we discover a world, accessible from our own, whose significant mineral deposits would be of economic value to Earth’s human industrialists.  Further suppose that scientists tell us that the conditions of this world are extremely similar to that of the Earth’s four billion years ago —when life was, it is said, just beginning to show itself.[23]  These scientists tell us that the industrial machinery needed for industrial exploitation would alter this small world’s conditions enough that life might never appear.  When environmental loyalists become aware of the world, they might expand their finite loyalty to encompass the new world.  But the pledge of loyalty to loyalty, made before we discovered this new world, predicts that we would be loyal to this world, in that loyalty to loyalty states that we will be loyal to any loyalty in the universe --even those loyalties that have not been discovered by us, and even those whose loyal form is radically different from our own.  It would be discernible as an evil, in this hypothetical instance, to destroy the currently extant values and the possibility of future loyalties in this developing world.

This ethical analysis points to the two worlds of loyal valuing —we are loyal in this world as it stands, but we are also loyal to a world that exists only in potency.  I have stated this distinction before in terms of finite and infinite loyalties.  No cause that actually exists at this moment is sufficient, and ". . . loyalty has about it a character that forbids us, after all, to interpret the true good of loyalty in terms of our merely individual human experiences." (PL 164, 44-45)

VI. Is Loyal Killing Possible?

There is an important objection to the idea that humans can sometimes loyally kill: humans often disloyally destroy each other, non-human species, and ecosystems.  In light of our history, many environmentalists doubt that it is possible to kill loyally.  There is much force to this objection, as indeed most killing of animals as currently carried out is disloyal to loyalty.  But under the philosophy of loyalty, the killing of a loyal creature can be loyally accomplished so long as the killing supports and does not permanently undermine the purposes of the community whose member will be killed.  Multiple communities can be benefited through killing, as when birds of prey and mice remain in a "natural balance" through the predator/prey relationship.  It is clearly imperative that our killing not undermine or destroy the loyalties of a non-human community, as would happen when a species is hunted to extinction.  Further, the non-appreciative exploitation of a non-human community is likewise disloyal (even if no extinction is likely to occur). When we kill, we must recognize the value of the killed individual and respect the remaining members of its community, and we should not de-value or de-personalize the thing killed.

We are in less danger of killing disloyally when we attach personal significance to the act of killing.  The massive slaughterhouses of the modern age are an evil: the "invisible" killing of billions of animals who lived their entire lives in warehouses destroys the relationship that our community has with the animals it will consume, and this is a terrible danger to the cause of universal loyalty.  There are reflective means of discouraging such disloyal environmental behavior.  For instance, some Native American hunters thanked the spirit of the just-killed animal, some modern Christians say Grace to thank their God for their meals, some people eat only "free-range" animals and are willing to pay a higher price to do so, some become vegetarians.  If we kill, we should have rituals that foster and guard the reflective processes that allow us to be aware of the existence of loyal communities in nature.

Jewish dietary laws wisely demonstrate this point.  In the Jewish tradition, there are rituals that must accompany the slaughtering of animals.  These rituals recognize that the taking of a life is a serious act, and that it is an act that reflects one’s commitment not only to God but also to the world —a disrespectful attitude towards the latter also disrespects the former.  The ritual of these dietary laws externalizes a reflective awareness of these relationships between living beings and a reflective awareness of the loyal structures that exist in our human communities.

Loyal communities, as I have suggested, are not the exclusive domain of human beings, and a human civilization is not the only valuable and tenuous "individual" in the world who is in need of loyal protection.  We readily observe loyalty directed by humans to non-human persons, by non-human persons to their own communities, and even by non-human creatures to humans.[24]  It is a goal of environmentalism to externalize through reflection our participation in forms of community of which we are not currently aware, and to demonstrate that killing which negatively affects this participation is an evil.

VII. Loyal Mediation of Conflicting Causes

There is a huge number of suggested environmental loyalties, and it will be helpful to have some means of discerning among them.  We require a means by which we partake in a cause, but will also freely allow servants of other causes to serve as they see fit.  According to the principle of loyalty, co-operation with our fellow human loyalists is crucial because causes are situated in communities and must have fellow servants, if there is to be any chance of success.  Co-operation includes criticism if a finite loyalty appears to lessen universal loyalty, but our criticism is not to be coercive and it should not disallow other groups the right to express their loyalty. (PL 94-95)  We may criticize those who refuse any consideration of the natural world in their choices, on the grounds that any action that affects the way humans relate to the non-human world is, de facto, an environmental approach.  An industrialist whose loyalty undermines higher loyalties in the natural environment may be criticized as being disloyal, and hence, evil.  One might question whether such an industrialist has anything in common with an ethical environmentalist, but, for Royce there are no actions free of loyal implications:

For all life, however dark and fragmentary, is either a blind striving for conscious unity with the universal life of which it is a fragment, or else, like the life of the loyal, is a deliberate effort to express such a striving in the form of a service of a superhuman cause.  And all lesser loyalties, and all serving of imperfect or of evil causes, are but fragmentary forms of the service of the cause of universal loyalty. (PL 174)

Killing that prevents the regeneration of loyal communities is a disloyal practice, and such practices are opposed by the environmentalist.  Timber companies whose business practices destroy diverse old-growth forests are standing in opposition to our moral principle, and the environmentalist may loyally stand in opposition to them.

Environmental loyalists should, in the formulation and criticism of environmental policies, be careful to avoid subordinating the causes of other environmental groups.  A subordinating loyalty is similar to what Royce terms the "war spirit" which has historically led the holders of one loyalty to undermine or destroy the loyalties of others. (PL 20-21)  So fervent is the first group’s devotion to its own finite cause that it fails to respect the loyalty of the second group’s cause.

We must be careful, as environmental philosophers, to resist suggesting, for instance, that aboriginal environmental accounts are less developed versions of our own better understanding and may be subsumed under a newly proposed whole.[25]  The philosophy of loyalty demonstrates that finite loyalties provide different goods for different communities and shows that these loyalties are a good, so long as they do not oppose universal loyalty.  We may question whether a competing approach will lead to more loyalty or less, and we may seek to oppose the loyalty of our competitors with our own loyalty --if we reasonably may believe that their cause will lead to a reduction of loyalty in the world.  But we may not deny them the ability to have their own cause in their own way.

VIII. Conclusion

In being loyal to loyalty, we cast our loyalty into the natural world —beyond the needs and desires of humans considered alone, beyond, in fact, even the temporal span that the consciousness of our species possesses individually or corporately.  This theory requires us to respect the potentiality of infinite ideal value, and thus loyalty to this ideal value of nature in the present is obligatory for all who would be loyal in the present.  The distant future of natural being exists in the present and commands our loyalty, even if its actuality will not be experienced by any creature currently alive. (PL 65)

In our loyalty to the environment, we engage in a finite human task, but we also find that our very possibility of valuing arises from and as a response to the world.  Our real connection to this world creates loyal communities and inspires our own loyalty. Environmental loyalty broadens this respect to communities that philosophy hitherto had not much considered.

 Our loyalties are the human expression of an experiential trait of the universe that is not originally human —they are finite re-creations of the community that infinitely surpasses us.  I am a person because a community precedes me.  I become part of a personal community, and I contribute to it.  Loyalty to nature pursues the possibility of a better participation in this world-community.  The loyal environmentalist is attempting little more than to call to our attention the scope and diversity of humanity’s involvement with other communities and to suggest that loyal actions can strengthen a community of which we are a small but meaningful part, while disloyal action will weaken this community.  When we weaken the community, we weaken its individuals.  And if the "higher unities of life must possess a degree and a type of goodness —a genuine value, such that no one man, an no mere collection of men, can ever exhaustively experience this goodness, or become personally possessed of this value," (PL 144) then we must either be loyal to the non-human environment or at least not disloyal to it —the middle is excluded when our actions contribute to or destroy the relationships which exist in the world.

[1] Josiah Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty, (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1995), 182; hereafter cited as "PL."

[2] Jacquelyn Ann K. Kegley, Genuine Individuals and Genuine Communities: A Roycean Public Philosophy, (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 1997).

[3] Kegley, Genuine Individuals and Genuine Communities, 17.

[4] See the essay by Thomas Price, "The Appreciation of Natural Beings and the Finitude of Consciousness," in the present number of The Personalist Forum, Spring 1999.  references are to manuscript pages and need to be reconciled with final pagination of the journal.

[5] Robert Hine, Josiah Royce: From Grass Valley to Harvard (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 136, 158.

[6] See Frank Oppenheim, Royce’s Mature Ethics (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), for example: "In California and in The Feud of Oakfield Creek . . . [Royce] showed how ecology shapes moral consciousness," 67.

[7] It is true that The Philosophy of Loyalty often uses "human" or "man" to describe the functions of loyalty.  I attribute this mainly to Royce’s purpose of instructing a human audience of the value of loyalty.  But the theory of loyalty itself holds that there are loyal "superhuman" or non-human beings which exist apart from us, and without which our existence would not be possible.

[8] See Price’s essay for an excellent summary of Royce’s statements on this issue from volume two of The World and the Individual.

[9] Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, one volume edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,  1968 [1913]), 122; hereafter cited as "PC."

[10] For Royce, "The Eternal" is defined as all experiences, past, present, and future, considered together (PL 160).

[11] Thomas Price, "The Appreciation of Natural Beings and the Finitude of Consciousness," first page of manuscript.

[12] Environmentalists rarely refer to non-natural beings as being "personal," but often refer to them as "having value" or "being intrinsically valuable."  For Royce, to have value is to be personal, and to be valuable is to be a part of a community.

[13] Thomas Price, "The Appreciation of Natural Beings and the Finitude of Consciousness."

[14] Ibid., [pg. 11.]

[15] Price, manuscript, 19.

[16] See Jim Cheney and Anthony Weston, "Environmental Ethics as Environmental Etiquette: Towards an Ethics-Based Epistemology in Environmental Philosophy," Environmental Ethics 21:2 (Summer 1999), 115-134.  "Ethical action is first and foremost an attempt to open up possibilities, to enrich the world.  It is not an attempt to respond to the world as already known.  On the usual view, for example, we must first know what animals are capable of, then decide on that basis whether and how we are to consider them ethically.  On the alternative view, we will have no idea of what other animals are actually capable —we will not readily understand them— until we already have approached them ethically: that is, until we have offered them the space and time, the occasion, and the acknowledgment necessary to enter into relationship.  Ethics must come first." (117-118)  They are in agreement with Royce that "the task of ethics is to explore and enrich the world." (119)

[17] Families, charitable organizations, nations, and non-human communities are examples of pre-existing loyal structures into which each of us isborn.

[18]  See Bryan Norton, "Epistemology and Environmental Value," Monist, 75:2 (1992), 208-226.  

[19] See J. Baird Callicott,  "Intrinsic Value in Nature: A Metaethical Analysis," The Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy, 3 (SP 1995) http://www.phil.indiana.edu/ejap/1995.spring/callicott.1995.spring.html.

[20] Callicott argues against "strong" substantial intrinsic value.  "I myself have opted not to try following Kant and his biocentric descendents –to conjure objective intrinsic value out of self-valuing objects and our capacity to realize that others value themselves as we value ourselves," Intrinsic Value in Nature, 68.  He suggests a "weak" alternative: "I have elsewhere suggested a theory of intrinsic value in nature which makes value, like any other natural property, a potentiality to be actualized by a situated observer/valuer" (73), and cites Holmes Rolston’s post-modern account, where "intrinsic value is part of a whole, not to be fragmented by valuing it in isolation" (75).  In these second and third accounts, where we are asked to think of "intrinsic value" as it exists relatively, I see no good reason to salvage the term "intrinsic" when the definitions given dispense with the descriptive force the term "intrinsic" had.

[21] For a fuller account of how our communal purposes transcend the dialectic between intrinsic and extrinsic meanings, and how this is grounded in Royce’s metaphysics in The World and the Individual, see sections five and six of Stephen Tyman’s "Royce and the Destiny of Idealism" in the present number of The Personalist Forum.  Indeed, the full ontological foundation of loyalty itself, and the connection between the metaphysical and ethical aspects of Royce’s idealism are briefly and clearly explained in section six of Tyman’s paper.

[22] Thomas Price, "The Appreciation of Natural Beings and the Finitude of Consciousness," [manuscript pg. 6.]

[23] Whether or not the world actually will produce life is not relevant to our moral decision, which must be made now, with only the limited scientific facts that we have at hand.  One must often act on the spur of the moment, with some or limited scientific data.

[24] A dog may display loyal behavior to its owner, for instance.

[25] See, for instance, J. Baird Callicott, Earth’s Insights: A Survey of Ecological Ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).  Here Callicott offers a "universal [and univocal] environmental ethic, with globally acceptable credentials." (186)  With this in hand,  we "might therefore envision a single cross-cultural environmental ethic based on ecology and the new physics and expressed in the cognitive lingua franca of contemporary science." (12) The notion that this single ethic can simply absorb all others is offensive to those who have loyalties different than Callicott’s, as is discussed in Dennis McPherson, Annie Booth, Lee Hester, and Jim Cheney’s, "Indigenous Worlds meet Post(?) Modern Evolutionary-Ecological Environmental Ethics (or: Callicott's Last Stand)," forthcoming in Environmental Ethics.  A similar critique may be found in V.F. Cordova’s "EcoIndian: A Response to J. Baird," Ayaangwaamizin: The International Journal of Indigenous Philosophy 1:1 (Spring 1997), 31-44.