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In the 24th lecture of Steven Smiths Political Philosophy class at Yale available on ItunesU, he says that Patriotism is unethical because it implies "a blind deference to tradition" and sums it up in the Phrase, "my country, right or wrong". This seems contradictory for people who live in modern democratic societies because patriotism is at the very heart of democracy as the incentive to vote, and people who don't vote are often met with disdain as it appears that they don't love or care about their country enough to vote.

It would seem that the conflict is, what is ethically the stronger drive in human nature, the love of ones wisdom (which is at times anti-patriotic) or the love of ones country? I am familiar with Plato's Crito and the Apology and am looking for an argument which is pro-patriotic that is equally or more compelling than Socrates argument for the love of ones own wisdom as being most ethically sound.

marked as duplicate by Joseph Weissman Jul 5 '14 at 16:00

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  • @JosephWeissman is it really a duplicate? I think patriotism includes more, and has a different connotation than being proud of one's own country. I would have answered the two differently; 'feeling proud' I personally think is ethically neutral, while patriotism usually entails the support of one's own country at the expense of other countries – This lad Jul 6 '14 at 3:52
  • Hmm, the other question is pretty explicit: "[G]overnments also try to instill a sense of national pride in their citizens in order to motivate them to serve the country"; maybe you could try to delineate your concern from the existing question...? – Joseph Weissman Jul 6 '14 at 3:54
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Patriotism is unethical because it implies "a blind deference to tradition" and sums it up in the Phrase, "my country, right or wrong".

This has to be taken in context of the 20C when patriotism was part of the motor that drove the nationialisms that led to both World Wars; and that was immanent in the discourse of politico-economical ideologies that drove the Cold War; or the collective punishment that was the second Iraq War.

The 'love of ones own country' may not be blind; but as a mass passion it can be driven to blindness, particularly in moments or eras of crisis; and it is these reasons that Steven Smith

sums it up in the Phrase, "my country, right or wrong".

This was a common sentiment during the horrors of the World Wars. EM Forster for example wrote:

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country"

Again these sentiments should be seen in the light of the horrors of the 20C where political passions at the level of the Nation-State were driven to evil ends. Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish political theorist said, that she loved her friends, that love as a real sentiment is restricted to oikos (the home); and that she did not love the Jewish people, she merely belonged to them.

One might want to interpret this, for example, in the light of Snowdens revelations where he betrayed his country (the State) but did not betray his friends - the American people.

This seems contradictory for people who live in modern democratic societies because patriotism is at the very heart of democracy as the incentive to vote

This is a huge claim to make. Cannot monarchies be patriotic? Or one-party states such as China? Do the people who live in such polities have no affection for their own people, their customs and traditions?

and people who don't vote are often met with disdain as it appears that they don't love or care about their country enough to vote.

Or it may appear to them that they are so remote from the votes that really do matter, the votes that are cast in the Senate or Parliament, that the vote to decide which party to lead the Government is worth very little - this is after all one of the dangers of representative democracy compared to direct democracies; or it may seem to them the political system is an oligarchy with a democratic fig-leaf, so the voting is ineffectual in determining policy; or perhaps they are at the margins of society where such questions become irrelevant.

what is ethically the stronger drive in human nature, the love of ones wisdom (which is at times anti-patriotic) or the love of ones country?

Given the history of the 20C one must say the passion of patriotism that becomes ideological (that is blind) far outweighs clear-sighted wisdom, as a boulder outweighs the doves feather.

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Patriotism is being emotionally and irationally connected to a made up concept. Voting has nothing to do with the love for your country but with the love for ourselves because we get to vote for something that will affect our own lives.

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