PHI208: Ethics and Moral Reasoning
Prof Whitney Easton
10 March, 2014
This paper will discuss the topic of military ethics using the utilitarian theory. It will also incorporate the ethical system of virtue ethics. “Military ethics is about our learning what is good and true and then having the courage to do and be what and who we ought to. For military ethics is not about his or her successes or failures; it is not about their virtues or vices. Military ethics is about our heritage and history, and it is about our responsibility to be men and women of character.” (Toner, 2003) Strong military ethics are vital to maintaining disciplined service ...view middle of the document...
Service members know that part of the ethics is to respect everyone, no matter what the situation might be. Utilitarianism is also known to be a consequentialist theory. Military ethics are very in line with this kind of theory and logical thinking. The military expects its members to not only respect themselves but to also respect others, not just those with whom they serve, but to the civilian population as well. Military service members, who decide to not follow the ethics, are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and their actions can be punished by law under the UCMJ. This is where virtue ethics could easily be associated with military ethics, in a sense that virtue ethics focuses mostly on the persons character, if an individual in the military is lacking the right set of characteristics to maintain professionalism, integrity and moral courage, then their actions will be judged and tried in accordance with the military justice system. Granted, the military justice system is focusing on the act of which the service member did, but if they also focus on the behaviors of the individual and know their character, then they can come to a more informed decision, rather than making a decision based solely off of the action and not the individuals character.
Additionally, within the virtue ethics there are some virtues that philosopher Aristotle described as being a bit more complex. Those virtues are temperance and magnanimity. Both of these virtues could be correlated to that of military personal. According to Aristotle, a person with temperance is a person that is moderate and has self-control (Aristotle, 2002). Military service members need to possess this virtue in order to make quick decisions, both on and off the battlefield, without getting caught up in their emotions. Military personnel our taught to be professional at all times, although a person might not agree with a situation, they are taught to not let their emotions play into the decision making process. The virtue magnanimity, according to Aristotle, is how we see ourselves and how we are regarded by others (Aristotle, 2002). The correlation of this virtue with military ethics is simple, the military standards and value system teaches that we must not only respect ourselves, but that they must respect others. In doing so, military service members are often rewarded for this behavior by way of awards or through positive reinforcement. The military has had many great leaders, both in history and in present day, that exemplified the virtue magnanimity. The movie Lone Survivor depicts such virtues in the Navy Seals that got caught up in a firefight which resulted in life lost; however, these men exercised military ethics, performed above and beyond the call of duty, and paid the ultimate sacrifice. The four Navy Seals, Marcus Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson, embraced and embodied the military ethics that all military personnel...