Moral Relations: Friendship, Loyalty & Fidelity

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  • 0:00 Moral Relations
  • 0:40 Fidelity
  • 1:45 Loyalty
  • 2:35 Friendship
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Our lives are full of interactions with other people and those interactions often rely on some form of relationship. In this lesson, explore the idea of moral relations and discover how these are maintained. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Moral Relations

Look around you. Chances are, unless you are the sole inhabitant of a deserted island, that there are other people somewhere nearby.

Now, if you are the only resident of a deserted island, then this lesson may not be directly relevant to you since we're talking about maintaining moral relations, or the ethical relationships between human beings. For most of us, this is an important part of daily life. Society is built upon hundreds of daily interactions between individuals, and the only way that we develop some sense of social fabric or unity is by building up relationships between each other.

So, what defines a moral relationship? Looks like we've got a chance to find out.


All right, so we've got an island full of castaways who need to live together, work together, and cooperate for survival. This means that they need to maintain a moral standard that defines their relationships, and a good place to start is with fidelity, the moral duty of fulfilling promises.

In almost all theories of ethics, fidelity is seen as a fundamental moral obligation because it is integral to creating trust. For a relationship to be not only morally fulfilling but also practical, it has to be built upon a level of trust. Now, this will change with various relationships. You trust your spouse more than the guy who you buy coffee from, but there is still an implicit level of trust that he won't poison you or anything like that.

Trust defines all relationships, so actions like fidelity are extremely important. Keeping promises demonstrates that you are trustworthy and builds up the ability for two people to develop a relationship.


Another key value that is important to creating and maintaining a moral relationship is loyalty, or faithfulness and devotion to a person, group, or idea. Loyalty can require compromise and even sacrificing one's personal needs or priorities at times, but the result is a tighter moral relationship. Loyalty also helps promote trust between people and can create very strong emotional and psychological bonds.

Loyalty, however, can be problematic. Because it is so important to maintaining a moral relationship, the desire to be loyal can impact personal judgment. Is it more important to remain loyal to someone or can it be better to break that loyalty for the sake of greater good? There's no easy way to answer this and in either case, showing loyalty to one group or person could demonstrate a lack of loyalty to the other.

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