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Patriotism and Morality: Mapping the Terrain

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I first distinguish patriotism from nationalism. The kind of patriotism that provides the last refuge to the scoundrel is put aside as not to the point. I then develop a typology of positions on the moral standing of patriotism that includes (1) extreme patriotism that trumps moral considerations that conflict with it, (2) extreme patriotism understood as the central moral virtue, (3) moderate patriotism, (4) patriotism as a morally indifferent preference, and (5) a distinctively ethical version of patriotism. I argue that (1) is clearly morally unacceptable; concur with the critics of (2) that it, too, must be rejected; agree with the defenders of (3) that it is a distinctive and morally legitimate position, but go on to argue that there is nothing to be said for it, morally speaking, and that it is therefore (4) a morally indifferent preference; finally, I present (5) as a different type of patriotism which, under some fairly common circumstances, may be a moral duty.


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