Loyalty—as a human sentiment, as a moral virtue, as a matrix of decision-making—is the subject of this podcast conversation.

Avital Levi, a postdoctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University and a teacher of Bible and philosophy in Israel, is curious about what keeps nations that are deeply divided together. Conservative Americans dislike liberal ones, and vice versa; and the same goes for Israelis and for the populations of many other nations. So what keeps those nations from descending into civil war? Levi looks at modern philosophical approaches to ethical decision making and thinks they’re not fully equipped to answer that question. Instead, she argues, another approach is needed.

This approach begins not by asking what people are support as partisans but whom they stand with as citizens. Loyalty is the quality she thinks is most important here—the moral virtue responsible for belonging and membership, that contours the devotion that people muster to stand with their fellow citizens even when they dislike them. Together, Levi and Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver discuss what motivated her research into loyalty—and why it matters.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.