'fraternity' can also refer to...


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  • Politics
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Brotherhood among a disparate body of people united in their interests, aims, beliefs, and so on. Although ‘fraternity’ was a political goal at a time when politics was dominated by men, no contemporary contrast with ‘sisterhood’ is intended by most of those who today embrace fraternity. The goal, rather, is to instantiate in the wider community the sorts of feelings for each other, and the sorts of behaviour towards each other, that brothers and sisters are taken to have or display. This has commonly been thought to be impossible without greater equality, and one defence of that value is that it facilitates fraternity. Characterizing the sentiment and behaviour need not romanticize the family. What appears to be intended is a conscious or unconscious setting aside of calculations of self‐interest for a greater willingness to recognize that others, too, have their projects and concerns. To this extent ‘fraternity’ suggests greater altruism. But it also suggests some shared purposes, to be jointly pursued, so its antithesis would be self‐absorption. In particular, perhaps, it suggests a common concern with the circumstances in which each person can develop most fully or most satisfyingly. Finally, it suggests a sense of belonging to a unit with which one can readily, if not naturally, identify: the community is a sort of extended family, rather than an ‘anonymous’ society outside it.


Subjects: Politics — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).

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