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Comments on Wednesday 17 November 2004:
I recently bumped into a Code of Ethics based on Bushido, which opened with Loyalty. Though the rest of the code seemed fair enough, the mere presence of Loyalty in a code makes me wince, and its presence in first place would absolutely rule out my joining an organisation. Any code of ethics which places loyalty first is immediately open to being in tumultuous conflict with itself, if the entity to which you are loyal itself acts in breach of the given code of ethics. Hence rogue Samurai.

I went on to compare the encountered code against the Ultima system of Virtues, which comparison showed significant overlap. The encountered code read Loyalty, Justice, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Truthfulness and Honor. There was no explicit order of precedence, except that Loyalty was stated to be paramount "even if it puts the adherent in a difficult position". Ultima has (in no order of precedence) Honesty, Justice, Humility, Spirituality, Sacrifice, Honor, Valor, Compassion. Previously I somewhat sneered at the presence of Humility, Spirituality and Sacrifice, but after I had considered what I would include in my own list of ethical virtue things I realised I should look up the intent behind the Ultima virtues, so now I only sneer at Sacrifice.

Which back-story leads me to the point - what would you consider to be the most important ethical precepts or virtues you try to live by? (I include the 'or' because my own answer somewhat leans away from conventional ethics.)

The top five, in order, for me would be something like this:
  • Adaptability - if something you are doing has negative consequences, stop doing it. If something you are not doing looks like it would have positive consequences, do it.
  • Humility - if someone does something better than you, let them do it, or learn from them. If you consistently are not good at something, get someone else to do it in exchange for something you are better at. Not to be mistaken for false modesty.
  • Confidence - on the flip-side of humility, if you are better at something, don't let someone else take over. When the situation warrants it, take control.
  • Honesty - most importantly with yourself, but also with others. While this is listed beneath Adaptability, that doesn't mean Adaptability takes precedence - the consequences of actions are usually unpredictable, whereas Honesty speaks to the actions not to the consequences and as such is much easier to make a judgement call on. I am largely convinced that in most situations, Honesty has much better long-term consequences than does deception.
  • Fairness - in a game-theory world, something approximating tit-for-tat. In any good deal, all involved parties should win or break even. Interactions are not Zero Sum - don't buy something if you don't value it more than what you're paying. Don't sell something for less than how much you value it. The other person's side of the deal is not your concern - it's up to them to select for fairness at their end. It's not just about exchanges with others - exchanging time spent doing one thing for time spent doing something else should also be a gain in value, for example.
I realise none of these speak of what it is that I consider to be 'value', or positive/negative consequences - that's because those things don't start appearing until around number 10 in the list, starting with "entertainment". [15:57]

Anet
Interesting question... Some day I may actually have time to answer it...

Nameless
loyalty is a big deal when dealing with soldiers/troops (such as Busido).

honour is flipside of the loyalty coin, can't have one without the other.

Kilikina
It depends who you are being loyal to and if you truly believe that what they are doing is right all the way through. In some cases loyalty would be very important, in others it is an extremely bad idea. In the case you are speaking of, if the Busido has an enemy and you believe they are wrong, then why would you want to be unloyal to your Busido and betray them to the enemy?

RavenBlack
In Bushido, loyalty is to your lord (in the place I saw it, it was to the hierarchy of teachers). If they merit the loyalty, why do you need loyalty? You'll follow them anyway, on merit. If they don't merit the loyalty, then having loyalty puts you in a bind.

Kilikina
But to them, that is just like asking a tae kwon do studio why they need belts if they are all taught their basic white belt form.

RavenBlack
No it's not. There's a simple answer to that. It's so you know which students are capable of teaching or peering with which other students. What's the equivalent simple answer to the loyalty thing?

Kilikina
Fine, then. School. You must prove your intelligence to your teacher, as you must prove your loyalty to your lord. Yet it has been proven that how one does in school does not resemble how smart they are, but yet your grades are what determine your future. And without grades, there would be no point in even trying in school, and in that case if you did, and that would be stupid, since you would be wasting your valuble time.

And if they merit your loyalty, you still need loyalty because people are still people and that means the still lie/deceive, so how are those lords or teachers supposed to know if you have loyalty or the lack of?

RavenBlack
But you're arguing it from the Lord's point of view. Obviously the *Lord* wants people to be loyal, but why would a person want Loyalty in their code of ethics? As for "how are they to know if you have loyalty or the lack of" - putting it in the code of ethics isn't going to help with that. How do you tell a liar from an honest man? The liar will always claim to be loyal, the honest man might not.

The only reason there'd be no point in trying in school if it weren't for grades is because your schools are stupid. If you could learn useful things, the point in trying would be to learn useful things, not to get grades.

Kilikina
When one places 'loyalty' in a code of ethnics, they put it there in hopes they poeple joining are not backstabers and to say that if they are, they will not be aloud to stay.
There are only a few reasons one would join a Bushido, why would someone join it if they did not have the intention of keeping their word? Besides, unless your Bushido is comiting some horrendous act, how hard is it to be 'loyal' to them anyway? That's hardly asking anything at all. It seems more of a, 'we want to have honest people' sort of a thing, than a 'help us be evil' thing.

It's not that my schools are stupid, it's that with the internet and almost endless resources, the average kid could learn anything useful to them on their own, most likely at a faster rate too, if they were interested enough.

RavenBlack
Bushido is the code of ethics, so a Bushido can't be committing a horrendous act.

The code of ethics *already has* honesty and honour and things in it. By demanding Loyalty (and as a top priority) they are demanding *blind* Loyalty. Unthinking obedience. It can be a good thing for a soldier (and so not too reprehensible for the Samurai), but it's a terrible thing for a free individual, and a dojo requiring it is just not right.

Anet
I am not sure the Western view of 'free individual' can be applied to feudal Japan.....

RavenBlack
Well no, that's why I'm not complaining about Bushido itself, just this code of ethics being used for a modern American institution.

Digi
I think probably the thinking behind having loyalty in there is that there may be times where by your judgement the master is wrong, but "Shut up, you'll see in the long run".

As for your argument that it's a needless instruction, well yeah, but it certainly can't hurt to have it in there anyway.

Maybe 'obedience' would be a better commandment. Though having 'loyalty' as a virtue means it's not okay to just up sticks and fuck off to a more illustrious option when one presents itself. Like, for example, in the world of professional sports, where it's perfectly acceptable to do that, and unlike the Mafia where switching allegiances is to say the least frowned upon.

To safe guard against what you're whinging about (reckless superiors) it would be better to have loyalty to an ideal (The Crown, the spirit of Bushido), and obedience to a person (A commanding officer, a Sensei) in that order. Which is the way armies do it.

And onwardly argumentative - Bushido's a bit more than a code of ethics, it's a lifestyle. The literal translation (as I was told it by a fluent Japaneese speaker) being 'The way of the warrior' ('Do' meaning 'way').

Was this code read from some sort induction/advertising leaflet for a western-run Jujitsu school? Words like 'Loyalty', and 'Honor' sound ever so martial artsy, which is probably (if my guess is accurate) the real reason for having it in there. WAA-YAAAA!

Digi
(Aha, I notice Raven's last comment)

Anet
As have I. I wasn't aware that he was talking about a modern American institution. I am curious where he found it, there is no mention in the original post...

RavenBlack
The horrible website of a friend's dojo. Deliberately not linked.

Anet
Ahhhh..... Well done.
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