“The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor.” ~ C.G. Jung
Have you ever experienced a very brief moment where the person or people that you are looking at suddenly appear different, a feeling where they – even if you have known them for a very long time – are suddenly like a stranger you have never seen before or an object that you are seeing the first time?
That is not disassociation, on the contrary, that is experiencing reality. It is consciousness distilled by the present. Cognition for that moment is no longer a sophisticated network of interconnected responses we have learnt socially, like an induced simulation where our behavioural reactions and even our emotions are formatted to respond to what is collectively expected.
Loyalty, according to the Collins Dictionary, is defined as “the quality of staying firm in your friendship or support for someone or something.” This devotion or commitment to someone relies on an ambiguous sense of duty, a trust and belief that no matter what they will never abandon you. Trust and loyalty are not mutually exclusive but rely on one another and this is dependant on intentions or faith; it needs to be authentic.
Virtue – a symbol that classically describes excellence in human behaviour – is according to David Cloutier summarised by four key components:
- Motivation cannot be automaton or a ‘mindless habit’ but willed by honesty.
- This individual must show a continuity in their approach to this moral excellence.
- The magnitude of its importance extends beyond the domain of human activity.
- One should believe in the normative obligation that all should be virtuous.
While much of our epistemic and social learning is determined by our environment, the human brain contains this capacity for consciousness or self-awareness, an ability to transcend social learning and start using language as a tool to explain our intrinsic experiences.
Engaging in the virtue of loyalty is to persist in the devotion or attachment to someone or something for its own sake and where you intrinsically value them, like a friend that you love or admire as a part of you rather than just someone that you know. However, feelings that may be experienced that explain this devotion does not necessarily articulate loyalty as a virtue because it should be rationally motivated and therefore be practical and normative.
A criminal could still display loyalty, for instance, but the loyalty is motivated through an inherently blind system that lacks any honesty to this excellence in moral behaviour. Honesty is the enabler of moral consciousness.
Much of what we understand of ‘reality’ is a collectively induced simulation that masquerades experience, emotions and identity in a format responsive to others. There is no authenticity. Just like how we use language automatically but there is no sense of consciousness in our use of it and therefore automatic, people experience reality through shared archetypes, where personalities are shaped collectively before becoming immersed into their self-regulatory mechanisms.
A boy may truly feel desire and desperation for the popular and beautiful girl at school not because of her beauty neither for any feelings of loyalty or attachment to her as a person, but rather she will simply make him look better and it is this unconscious desire for popularity that motivates him, not for any loyalty or love for the girl.
According to Albert Bandura’ theory of Triadic Reciprocal Causation, there are three factors that play a determinative role during the process of imitation where people model themselves to their social environment as part of an identification process. This includes learned conditioning through the continuous interaction between personal, environmental and behavioural influences.
It is only rational to accept that all human behaviours are shaped by their environment, but that virtue also stands as a normative activity beyond the domain of human behaviour alone. In similar vein to the moral consciousness and self-awareness, virtue transcends into something universalised and enables access to a “reality” that we otherwise cannot see.
How do we reach a level of honesty in our decision to be virtuous? I have seen, for instance, people who are not morally worthy pretending that they are good because their society and environment dictates that, like the Kardashian marketing stratagem that pretends to goodness when they are completely insane. If we embed into society the need to act with moral virtue and excellence in our behaviour, are we at risk of destroying the authenticity of moral virtue?
I do not mean that moral excellence embedded into our social culture is damaging the authenticity of moral virtue and therefore we should remove it entirely, but rather open discussions around what this authenticity is according to our environment. To learn and communicate and improve.
The Tower of Babel is not an explanation of why people speak different languages, but rather how a uniformity in this social language can destroy moral conversations. If everyone behaves the same way and therefore speaks the same language, then no one will believe that they are doing wrong. There is always uniformity in evil.
Since happiness is a state of mind that relies on an intrinsic quality of honesty embedded into this cognitive process, authenticity in virtue involves the voluntary decision to identifies the spheres of activity that will improve the willingness to learn about virtuous behaviour. It is to be loyal to act in a manner that is virtuous, universalising the decision and that transcending the scope of society.