For the purposes of this discussion, we'll define patriotism as love of one's country, identification with it, and special concern for its well-being and that of compatriots. A patriot is someone who, to some extent, favors the interests of his own country over those of other countries, and is willing to make sacrifices to promote what he believes to be his country's good.
Note that patriotism doesn't necessarily mean supporting the country's current government or its policies; many patriots throughout history have seen it as their duty to oppose their own government for the greater good of their country. Also, in a country such as the United States where patriotism is tied to universal ideals such as democracy and personal liberties, we need to make a distinction between support for these ideals and patriotism itself: patriotism is, by definition, a kind of special loyalty to one's own country.
READINGS for "Is patriotism a virtue?":
- Leo Tolstoy, "Patriotism or Peace" (1896), 5 pages
Tolstoy answers our question with a resounding "no".
- Alasdair MacIntyre, "Is Patriotism a Virtue?" (1984), 15 pages
also downloadable at http://files.meetup.com/299745/MacIntyreIsPatriotismAVirtue.pdf (in the Files section; login to Meetup required)
This important essay acknowledges how patriotism can be viewed as "a morally dangerous phenomenon", but then argues for patriotism as a moral virtue because it is our community that defines our moral sytem, and patriotism is an essential part of that moral system because only with patriots willing to defend a country can a community survive.
An outline of MacIntyre's argument is presented by Nancy Stanlick of the University of Central Florida here: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~stanlick/patriotism.html
- Stephen Nathanson, "In Defense of 'Moderate Patriotism'" (1989), 18 pages
Against Tolstoy and MacIntyre, Nathanson argues for a form of "moderate patriotism" that takes care not to override more universal principles of morality.
- Richard Rorty, "The Unpatriotic Academy" (1994), 2 pages
An American academic of the political left decries the lack of patriotism of fellow American academics of the political left.
- Martha Nussbaum, "Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism" (1994), 15 pages
Another American academic of the political left responds to Rorty with an essay advocating cosmopolitanism over patriotism.
Another meetup with the same topic and these same readings will take place in San Francisco on Sunday, August 26, at 1:00 p.m. with the San Francisco Philosophy Group. You may choose to attend either or both of these meetups.
Finally, remember that this is a reading group, and if you come to the meetup, we expect you to have done the readings. It makes for a more fruitful discussion when we've all understood or at least tried to understand the arguments that are made in the readings. If you think that all of these writers have misguided views of patriotism, then we'd love to hear you tell us why, but you need to know what they are saying in the first place.