Soldierly Virtue: An argument for the restructuring of Western military ethics to align with Aristotelian Virtue Ethics

Dissertation, University of Leeds (2018)
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Because wars are fought by human beings and not merely machines, a strong virtue ethic is an essential prerequisite for those engaged in combat. From a philosophical perspective, war has historically been seen as separate and outside of the commonly accepted forms of morality. Yet there remains a general, though not well-thought out, sense that those human beings who fight wars should act ethically. Since warfighters are often called upon to contemplate and complete tasks during war that are not normally required of non-warfighters (civilians), and it is believed these warfighters should act ethically, it becomes necessary to ask: What does soldierly virtue look like? In order to answer this question, I will examine essential elements of moral responsibility and military authority. Once complete, I will propose an Aristotelian-based virtue ethics system, one that is equally valuable to warfighter and civilian. To do this, I will examine the conversation in academia regarding virtue ethics and the foundations of virtue. I will provide both a cursory and deep reading of elements of Aristotle’s conception of virtue, but ultimately I will provide a slightly more rigorous reading and reinterpretation of an Aristotelian-based virtue ethic, with a definitive final recommendation for this interpretation being best for everyone, in war or walking down the street. Upon completing a study of this work, one will walk away with a next-generation interpretation of Aristotelian-based Virtue Ethics that denies eudaimonia as the central principle, relying instead on phronesis as its central theme. Phronesis, when properly developed in the warfighter will lead to moral responsibility, better decision-making, and a seamless re-integration into civilian life once has returned from the horrors of war.

Author's Profile

J. "Cal" Baldari
Stratford University


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