Citizenship: A Solution to the Military/Civilian Values Gap
Jeffrey R. Tiel
213 Arts & Humanities
Ashland, OH 44805
When we consider the question of a values gap between
civilians and military personnel, whether there is one and what can be done
about it, we should carefully separate two questions. On the one hand we might
mean to ask how best to move the two groups together on what they value, a
purely rhetorical question. On the other hand we might mean to ask what both
groups ought to value, a philosophical question. The rhetorical question
assumes (or does not care much about) the goodness of one or both of the value
sets, while the philosophical question seeks first to determine what that
goodness looks like.
In our case, the philosophical question is this: what are military personnel and civilians supposed to value, given what they are? To answer this, we must first identify what they are, i.e., what their nature is. And we will find that they share something in common that is more fundamental than their differences, namely that they are both people of one nation, i.e., citizens. And when we probe the nature of their common citizenship, I should like to argue, we will discover that the values shared by good citizens, both military and civilian, provide a compelling solution to our current problem. In short, I maintain that since the military virtues are merely species of citizenship virtues, just as the civilian virtues are merely species of citizenship virtues, (1) once both groups recommit themselves to fulfilling the obligations of citizenship, any military/civilian values gap will evaporate as both groups move together toward the citizen objective of civic virtue.
On Socrates & Citizenship
Let us begin our pursuit of citizenship by returning to the beginning, to Socrates himself in Plato's great work, the Republic. In that book Socrates attempts to identify the nature of the just life, or as we would speak of it today, the good and upright life. Because it is difficult to see what goodness or justice in the soul looks like, he offers us the analogy of a just city. He argues that what makes a person good or just and what makes a city just are in fact the same things: moral virtues. To have a good soul is to be possessed of moderation, wisdom, courage, and justice. To have a good city is to have citizens possessed of these same virtues. Thus, individual and civic virtue are the same.
This argument has had no end of detractors, of people who claim that a commitment to individual goodness is incompatible with a commitment to civic goodness. Of course, we can all think of cases where a society is morally corrupted, creating just this kind of conflict. But these detractors will insist that even in the best, most virtuous society, the individual with a commitment to civic virtue loses, because he must abandon his personal interests. Thus, these detractors argue, one cannot be happy and committed to civic virtue at the same time. No one, in other words, who wants to be happy joins the military or becomes a congressman, for the sacrifice that this requires in one's personal interests is so severe that it will very likely undermine one's happiness. And so, if these critics are correct, a values gap between military and civilian, between the best political life and the best non-political life is fundamentally irresolvable: civic service is not in my interest.
The arguments of these detractors are not without their popular supporters. For unless we can achieve great personal benefit in politics, most of us think that the political life is worthless. And since great personal benefit cannot usually be found in the military life either, joining the officer corps as a means to anything other than paying college tuition or is often looked upon as sheer madness-the incredulity in college professors when students indicate an interest in joining the military is a case in point. But our detractors acquire some of their greatest support during military commitments, when it becomes vividly clear that the military life will become incompatible with the satisfaction of desires, particularly the desire for peace and safety. And so we find these detractors running away in fear to foreign countries all the while consoling themselves that they are acting not in cowardice but out of a sincere commitment to their own legitimate interests against the injustices of war.
What would, what did, Socrates have to say to these detractors? Can a commitment to the individual good life and the civic good life be compatible, or must one choose one over the other? The answer is the argument of Plato's Republic, and it begins with an overlooked distinction, namely that the satisfaction of my desires is not identical to my interest. To help us to see why this is so, consider the following American maxim: if I get everything that I want, then I will be happy. Despite what almost every major religious and philosophical figure has said to the contrary, we still tend to think and act like the fulfillment of desire is the key to happiness. And when we then identify our interests with what will make us happy, it follows that we think that our interests are equivalent to our wants, or appetites. But since the first premise is false (i.e., satisfying my wants does not entail happiness), this argument fails. Why? Because human beings are more than a mere set of desires! As Kant pointed out, if we were merely sets of desires, then we would not be moral human beings; we would just be deterministically driven animals, not free rational agents. (2) Aristotle likened the man who sets himself to do whatever his appetites tell him to a cow, and Epictetus, the great Stoic, argued that anyone whose appetites control him is a slave to them, rather than master of his own life.
What more is there than appetite, you may ask? All the noble things in life, is the simple answer, those things that war against our appetites, the substance of ethics, what we call virtue. Friendship requires self-control, and self-control is a virtue that wars against my appetites. Marriage requires patience, and patience is a virtue that wars against my desires. Parenting requires wisdom and wisdom is a virtue that has no tolerance for the tomfoolery of unnecessary desire. All noble things require virtue, and virtue inherently opposes the appetitive life.
Living appetitively is not in my interest, then, since I am more than a mere set of desires. I am also possessed of reason and spiritedness which cannot function when the appetites rule the entire soul. Thus, living outside of moderation undermines the whole, just as citizens who in their appetites for money or lust overcome moderate and wise counsel will be the undoing of the whole city and lead to every kind of injustice. So it is in the soul; if the appetitive part rules or attempts to "fight" against temptation, then it will not do very well for the sake of the whole soul, and the person will be miserable-even while satisfying his desires. Why would one expect appetite to successfully fight itself? At its best it simply replaces one set of desires with another set. But this does not yield happiness, just vain pursuit. Have you ever wondered why people who possess everything they could ever want nevertheless go out and shoot themselves? How can they be unhappy? Answer: they mistakenly identify happiness with appetitive delight, and as such, they damage the health of their soul no less than drinking yourself silly will undermine the health of the body. Just as the body has a structure which must be respected for its health, so the soul (3) has a structure which must be respected for its health. Appetitive living might feel 'good,' but it will ultimately undermine the good of the soul no less than the good of the body. Therefore, my interest is not what I feel and desire whether good for me or not, but rather what really is good for me whether I want it or even know it. (4)
So, back to our original question: should we accept the argument of those who say that civic virtue can never be within the interest of an individual? No, for this argument assumes that my interests are equivalent to my desires, when we can think of countless cases where my interests require the control of my desires. So, what's best for me is self-control, or the virtue called moderation-and so for all the other virtues. The virtuous life is best for the individual as a whole. But not only the individual-also for the civic society as a whole. For Socrates, what is in my interest, my real interest now-the good of my soul, and what is in the good city's interest are one and the same. My soul requires wisdom, as does a good city. My soul requires moderation, as does a good city. My soul requires justice as does a good city. And my soul requires courage, as does a good city.
Take courage as an example. Socrates argues that courage is like salt, a preservative to maintain what is just and true and lawful against threats of harm or offers of reward. On the battlefield the courageous man controls his fear by maintaining his position, what is true and lawful, against the threat of harm from his enemy. Alternatively, if his enemy offers him great reward for betrayal, he also follows only what is lawful and just and refuses any such enticements, always standing firm on what is right. Inside the city itself, the courageous man preserves good opinion about what is right and just in the face of threats of harm and enticements of pleasure. He refuses to abandon what is good in spite of dishonor or ridicule or physical threat, and he maintains what is lawful and noble despite temptations for great pleasures or rewards by acting unlawfully or unjustly. Courage, then, is a general moral virtue of which battlefield valor is a species. And the way individuals and cities act courageously are one and the same: an individual is courageous when he sticks to what is right regardless of consequence, and a city or state is courageous when it sticks to what is right regardless of consequence. The virtue for the one and the virtue for the many is the same. The man who dies on the battlefield courageously has died in the interests of both his country and himself, for death is not worse than cowardice. Only the appetitive man makes death the greatest of all evils. And the man who suffers ridicule from his fellow citizens for acting justly suffers happily, for happiness is not incompatible with suffering, if one pursues virtue which is its own reward. Knowing that one has done the right thing can easily enable the soul to moderate the passions toward enduring ridicule. So, virtue, both civic and individual, is the same, and as the best thing, is always in my interest, so long as we define 'interest' correctly. Therefore, if you wish to have a courageous republic, you must have courageous citizens. The possession of the individual virtue is the key to the possession of the civic virtue. So, civic-mindedness, or citizenship, is the natural duty of the good man. The man who pursues virtue on a personal level will pursue virtue on a civic level, so long as the city is good. (5)
Before moving to the philosopher John Locke to further enhance our developing notion of virtuous citizenship, consider at least one important consequence of this Socratic theory for our discussion of military/civilian values gaps: the same virtues that make citizen-soldiers effective as soldiers make citizen-civilians effective as civilians. Notice that courage is the duty of all citizens, though its form or application differs according to the different roles. But a civilian population without courage will tend toward the ruination of the state no less than a military population without courage. The moral virtues are required for civilian and soldier alike, because these are simply different roles for the same nature: citizen. And since good citizenship requires moral virtue, any values gap between military and civilian can be easily mended if the members of both groups perfect their common citizenship virtues.
On Locke & Citizenship
The account of citizenship we derive from Socrates's argument in Plato's Republic is further enhanced by moving ahead in time roughly 2,000 years to Locke's Second Treatise on Government. In this book Locke provides the philosophical foundations for Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, the first of the two major founding documents for the United States. Locke's work is often contrasted with that of Socrates, because it is assumed that his understanding of virtue is something other than that of the ancients. But in fact Locke endorses much of what we find in the ancient accounts about the nature of virtue in another one of his books, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and rather than disregarding what we might call positive duties, he in fact argues in the fifth paragraph of his Second Treatise that his state of nature provides the foundation for every consideration of charity and virtue. (6) So, for Locke we will see that individual and civic virtue are jointly in my interest, an interest that is compatible with Socrates's argument. And his account of the nature of citizenship will further enlighten our understanding of our common commitments.
It is worth noting that Locke and Plato even begin similarly, both starting with the origin of cities from individuals who recognize that self-sufficiency is not the best state for human beings, that civic (as well as other forms of human) community increases the security and opportunity for the virtue and thus happiness of the citizens. Locke argues that in the state of nature, a non-Hobbesian state of perfect freedom and equality under natural moral law (which all nation-states enjoy in relation to one another to this day, he points out), human beings may order their lives as they see fit so long as they operate according to natural moral law. For perfect freedom is not the absence of law, but rather its presence. Liberty is possible only with the submission to law, for without such submission, our lives and property are subject to arbitrary and legitimate confiscation by anyone else. Only law thus guarantees the authority of liberty, for I have the right to protect my life, limb, and goods only if there is a general moral law governing all men that so authorizes and thus makes it right. However, since evil men will resist the authority of natural law, it becomes beneficial to enter into political compact with other good men for the purposes of mutual protection and the enhancement of justice. For a greater number of virtuous, weak men can put to flight and bring to justice a smaller band of vicious, stronger men. Thus, justice is more likely to be achieved through political compact than without it. Locke also argues that the state of nature makes it more difficult to exact justice, since hot tempers might cause us to exceed the demands of justice in addressing a harm. But in entering a political compact, I give up my right to execute the law of nature against my transgressing neighbor into the hands of the political community, thereby protecting myself and my neighbor against the vice of vengeance and fury. Thus, political community mollifies the passions and appetites by creating a structure for their proper and safe venting, a structure that is more likely to secure the blessings of liberty for which one entered into the compact. Therefore, it is well within my interest to leave the state of nature for the state of political society.
According to Locke, anyone who enters the compact does so with an explicit understanding of the duties of citizenship, since no one can be born a citizen. Just as we Americans recognize that a hereditary right of kingship is ludicrous, so we should recognize that a hereditary right of citizenship is nonsense. Both citizenship and kingship place serious duties on those to whom they belong, and so they may be entered into solely through informed consent. One who enters into the political compact not only gives up his power of executing the laws of nature on his own to the political community as a kind of umpire, but he also commits himself to the defense of the commonwealth as required by that umpire. So, the American tradition of the citizen-soldier in the militia or the posse of deputy marshals suddenly created from ordinary citizens is grounded in the nature of citizenship. All citizens, as members of a political community, by definition, must be willing to give their lives for the sake of the political community. If one refuses, then one simply places oneself outside that political community with all of its benefits and protections (in addition to violating the compact to which one explicitly committed onself.) Thus, the duty of all citizens whether civilian or military is to come to the aid of the republic even to the point of the shedding of one's own blood. Therefore, the oath that all of you took to enter into military service is not really an especially military oath, but rather the oath of allegiance that all citizens owe to the Constitution of the United States. It really is a citizen oath, and I would recommend that we require that all 18 year olds eligible for voting be required to make it.
Let us penetrate a bit deeper into this notion of being willing to lay down one's life for the political community, since this concept lies at the heart of Lockean citizenship. We think typically of a willingness to die for the political community. But is that all it means? Is the willingness to lay down one's life a merely negative concept, a willingness to die? Or does it also have a positive side? Compare the marriage compact for illustration. All of you husbands would, no doubt, claim a willingness to die for your wives? Then ask yourself an additional question: are you willing to live for her? It is actually easier, I think, to be willing to sacrifice one's life negatively in terms of death than to sacrifice one's life positively in terms of one's own daily commitment to her good. A man who loves his wife sacrifices his life for her daily, not just when called to physically die for her. This is the virtue of marriage. So also, a man who loves his country sacrifices his life for her daily, not just when called to die for her. And what do we mean here by "self-sacrifice"? Socrates has already made this quite clear: the reigning in of our appetites for the greater good of the soul, a good not only of my soul, but of the souls of my community whether conjugal, familial, or political. The 'self' that needs sacrificing is that appetitive side of me that might interfere with my commitment to duty.
So, the question to ask yourself is this: are you pursuing moral virtue daily in your life? For this is the heart of citizenship. It is for this freedom that our grandfathers died on the beaches of Normandy, in the forests of the Ardennes, and in the jungles of the Pacific. Do not think of freedom as the ability to do whatever you please, even to commit vice. For that is to separate freedom from moral law. And that creates not freedom but anarchy both in the soul and in the civic community. Did our forefathers spill their blood so that their sons could abandon their children, lust after pornography, indulge their yearning for strong drink, commit adultery on their wives, and pursue money as the supreme good? No, is the truthful answer. No one dies so that others can commit such actions. We die so that others might pursue what is good, what is best-not the indulging of appetite, but the pursuit of wisdom, moderation, justice, and courage. Freedom is not license; it is a positive concept, not of the absence of law, but rather of the love of the law. A virtuous man loves the moral law no differently than a virtuous husband loves his wife and a virtuous citizen loves his country. He receives the law not as a grudging duty, but as the delight of his soul. The debasing of the soul by destroying it through appetitive disorder is not anyone's moral right; rather, we are free to become good men, good husbands, good citizens. (7)
Notice that I am no longer talking to you as military personnel, but as citizens. For what I am saying goes to the lives of civilians and military personnel alike. What holds us in common is our mutual commitment to citizenship. Any values gap between us and that mark of good citizenship is a values gap that we must address. But we address it only through the personal commitment to virtue, both individual and civic.
On Citizenship, Democracy, and the Founding Fathers
Though we see some of this citizenship virtue in your willingness to die for country and some of the same in the civilian emergency corps, we have to admit, I think, to a general failure to recognize the importance of the pursuit of virtue as a national priority. Rather, we notice an increasing appetitiveness in our people, an increased willingness to pursue power, pleasure, and personal appetite without constraint or shame. But if we would read our own philosophical and religious traditions, we would see that this was fully predictable. Fully 2,500 years ago, Socrates offered one of the most prophetic portraits of the danger democracies pose for civic virtue. In Book VIII of the Republic he describes how various forms of regimes that do not make virtue their chief objective collapse into worse forms. And he puts democracy in the next to last place, right before tyranny. Why? Because people in democracies tend to turn their freedom into the license to enslave themselves to their passions, and this makes them ripe for tyrannical control.
Socrates argues that democracies typically arise out of regimes committed to making money, what he calls oligarchic regimes. Democracy follows oligarchy, because in oligarchy money is the chief, the only good. When economic success becomes the chief or sole national objective, then the opening of new markets and the stretching of old ones becomes an obsession. Since money is more important than virtue, opening markets for objects that do not cater to virtue but in fact openly approve vice becomes acceptable. And so, while a society committed to virtue would never permit a multibillion dollar pornography industry, one committed to exploiting people's passions for their money would. While a society committed to modesty and honesty would never create a multibillion dollar fashion industry committed to the principle that clothing worn only once or twice last year is clearly ready to be abandoned, one exploiting people's vanity for their money would. When money is your chief objective, you will do better financially in the short term by encouraging people to live as appetitively as possible and then exploiting the markets created by their determination to indulge their appetites. This can be seen most vividly in the financial markets aimed at older children, now overwhelmed with an unashamed determination to actualize every base passion in order to sell music, sneakers, sunglasses, and anything else imagined. Notice that in this age of sophistry (8), the truth and the good have no place. Advertisers do not even bother trying to make arguments for the superiority of their products, because they have successfully conditioned people not to think critically but simply to respond to passionate images.
And so, Socrates says, democracies emerge and in order to maintain their commitment to freedom which they of course define as the absence of appetitive restraint, i.e., in terms of anarchy rather than liberty, they decry any attempt to suggest that some things such as virtue are better than other things. They move from the true principle that all men should be equal under the law to a commitment to the false notion of the equality of all things, even ideas. (9) So, it becomes repugnant to the young even to think that one idea could be superior to another. But of course, this also means that no ideas are really false or bad, that all can be indulged equally, and thus that there are no true principles that ought to govern and restrain the passions. The young are addicted to moral relativism, or to the idea that there is no moral truth, not because they have ever really examined it, but because it responds to their passionate commitment to the democratization of all ideas, that all ideas have been created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, namely that they not be criticized, evaluated, or rejected, because this is unkind. Kindness toward persons thus swiftly becomes kindness toward ideas, and before long the capacity of the young to think evaporates, replaced only by a capacity to express themselves (read: their passions) and to imagine newer and more elaborate ways to indulge the appetites.
The loss of genuine critical thinking skills, i.e., the capacity to evaluate ideas as being true or false, good or bad, undermines the soul's chief defense against being overcome by desires, namely reason. Wisdom is lost on such persons and as the passions completely enslave their souls, our young slaves return with renewed passion to devour even more for their appetites. They reject marriage as requiring far too much self-control, dedication, and devotion. They wait to have children until the last possible moment; what once was considered the honor of having a family is now considered the death-knell of the truly happy life. Socrates goes on to describe how they exchange wisdom with foolishness by employing an Orwellian redefinition of key virtues:
. . . and naming shame simplicity, they push it out with dishonor, a fugitive; calling moderation cowardliness and spattering it with mud, they banish it; persuading that measure and orderly expenditure are rustic and illiberal, they join with many useless desires in driving them over the frontier. (10)
So what we ought to be ashamed of, these young people call being 'simple-minded.' What should be considered such a dishonor that one flees the public sphere, instead turns into a retreat for dishonor itself. A self-controlled and moderated life is instead classified as 'cowardly,' so that the young person who refuses to indulge in alcohol, sex, or drugs is called a "chicken" (or its contemporary counterpart) by his peers. And as for measured and orderly expenditures, these are considered old-fashioned and out of step with a liberal society; instead base, useless, and empty desires push them right out of the soul as our young person creates mountain upon mountain of debt. Did Socrates have it wrong? I do not think so. Listen to what else he depicts these uncontrolled desires doing to our young people:
Now, once they have emptied and purged these from the soul of the man whom they are seizing and initiating in great rites, they proceed to return insolence, anarchy, wastefulness, and shamelessness from exile, in a blaze of light, crowned and accompanied by a numerous chorus, extolling and flattering them by calling insolence good education; anarchy, freedom; wastefulness, magnificence; and shamelessness, courage. (11)
So, four terrible conditions get called good names as the old concepts are forgotten. Let us review each of the four. First, insolence replaces good education. Rudeness, arrogance, and haughtiness are indeed the chief results of contemporary American education. Convinced that all ideas are equal, there is really nothing to learn except new ways to prove that all ideas are equal. Thus, the democratization of ideas turns the truth-hungering soul into a gaunt, bleary-eyed, wretch who sees himself as in need of no food for the mind whatsoever. Books are studied not to learn from, but rather to criticize as backward, homophobic, sexist, and racist. The wisest men are heaped on the pile of burning books with the simple epitaph: "There goes another dead white male." And so our young are insolent beyond belief and think at the same time that they are well educated. Second, anarchy replaces freedom. Once freedom is defined negatively as the absence of moral law or any restraining principle, it follows that anarchism becomes the guiding principle. Third, wastefulness replaces magnificence. Our young people have exchanged a generosity of spirit with a wasteful indulgence of resources at the same time they pride themselves on their concern for the environment. They waste time, parental wisdom, and civic opportunities with the same hand that picks up aluminum cans. And finally, they replace courage, that great and manly virtue with shamelessness. For American youth, to be courageous is to speak your mind regardless of what nonsense happens to be within it. The model for courage is the Jerry Springer show with so-called "courageous" people coming out of every closet Springer can find to reveal to flattering crowds their sickest secrets, while any who dare to raise a moral objection find themselves the objects of the deepest fury. There simply is no shame left in America. What is left to be discussed that formerly was considered shameful? What remains to be done that in former times would have disgraced a civic-minded person? Nothing. Courage as the preservative to hold to what is true, good, and lawful against all threats of harm and promise of pleasure has been subtly replaced by its opposite.
My freshmen (sophomores are usually too arrogant to be affected) conclude their reading of Book VIII of the Republic with their mouths hanging open, so astonished that a Greek from 2,500 years ago could have predicted with such accuracy the truth about their generation. And it does not require much imagination to see how these kinds of people are ripe for tyranny. They have no stomach for defending true liberty with their blood; they can be bought or bribed with every kind of power and pleasure and government handout; they are in effect just like the citizens of the late Roman Republic as its defenders warned that imperial tyranny was on the horizon, a warning that was fulfilled.
And we should add that our Founding Fathers wholly agreed with these predictions, so much so that the latter in the Federalist Papers explain in great detail why they rejected democratic government in favor of a limited, representative, federated republic. The statement that the United States of America is a republic not a democracy is not a trite little expression, but a statement of tremendous significance. Our founding fathers discovered in their research of history that every major democracy of any size collapsed into tyranny, because mob-rule replaced wise counsel as decisions were made by passionate people. Like Socrates, our founding fathers were very concerned that this country be ruled not by the passions of its people, but by their reason. And so they created every barrier to passionate mob rule that they could in the new Constitution. With all this discussion of late about abolishing the electoral college, you might go and read the original Constitution and see how not one major office in the Federal Government was to be acquired through general election! The Supreme Court Justices were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Senators were chosen by the state legislatures, not by statewide votes. The President was chosen by the electoral college through means to be determined by the several state legislatures. Only the lower house of the Congress was elected via direct representation, and this only by small districts and only for two years. The Framers of the Constitution knew that general popular election or popular voting on important legislative matters catered to the immediate passions of the people making them vulnerable to demagoguery. So, they created a system with two houses and three branches of government that would filter the passions of the people out, and take a great deal of time to slow action down for adequate consideration, so that reason and wisdom might have a chance to rule. The founders expected gridlock on any issue where contrary passions were aroused without adequate reflection; this is not a bad thing, but a safeguard they created. Only military threats to the nation itself had to be met with decisive and immediate action, and so the President was given the powers of Commander-in-Chief to use whatever military forces currently existed to decisively engage enemies of the new republic.
Our Founding Fathers were not democracy-lovers; on the contrary, they were democracy-haters. The principle of a government "of" the people does not entail populism, but as Locke argued at length, a government that is originally authorized and continually maintained by explicit consent of citizens when their reason matures sufficiently to join the political compact. This can be achieved through a federalized and highly representative form of government. Our founders knew that democratic government would unleash exactly the appetites that would doom the new nation to disorder, faction, lawlessness, and ultimately war, and so they rejected democracy in favor of a federal republic that would encourage the cream of virtuous citizenship to rise to the top of the American people.
In fact the Founding Fathers talk about the role that public education should play in the formation of civic virtue. (12) Our contemporary democratic abhorrence of morality in the classroom runs directly contrary to their hopes for the creation of a virtue-based education, designed to inculcate good citizens. When Franklin quipped, "We've given them a republic; now we'll see whether they can keep it," he was referring to the general acknowledgment that only a civically virtuous people would thrive under the Constitution and the genuine worry that civic virtue would in post-revolutionary generations give way to crass materialism and the passionate natures that invariably follow from it.
So then, how can we return a bloated and appetitive citizenry to the constitutional commitment to virtuous citizenship? That, I think, is the question underlying the concern about a military/civilian values gap. And the answer is not to settle for the lesser national souls of oligarchy or timocracy as our major political parties seem intent on doing, pursuing either fiscal supremacy or national honor in the world community as chief objectives. Instead, we must initiate a return to the best things, to virtue on both individual and civic levels. And it is here that I confess that many of you military people have the advantage, since by not merely joining the military vocation but by living it seriously, you already demonstrate a keener sense of citizenship than many of my fellow civilians. And so, I think that what you can do is to model the virtues of good citizenship unashamedly, and speak (13) about the vital importance of returning the country to its constitutional roots. But most importantly of all, you can form the personal relationships with civilians that will enable them to see your souls on a day-to-day basis, and by the conduct of your lives, arouse the sleeping giant of virtue that lies dormant within them. This requires an active engagement with your fellow citizens-not isolation on military bases or the formation of friendships solely within your military culture. It requires injecting yourselves into civilian civic organizations, civilian religious groups, civilian athletic concerns, the heart of civilian culture.
And for you military educators, you have a special role to play in opening lines of communication with the civilian universities. It is vital that the current civilian academic attitudes toward the military be corrected by engagement with bright and virtuous military officers. Students are stunned when they meet such officers. At Ashland University where I teach, we have instituted a program whereby we bring such officers to campus for talks on military-philosophy related areas, and the program thus far has been quite successful. The students realize that their assumption that military service requires one to abandon clear thinking is fundamentally flawed and that commitment to country is a worthy vocation. (14) You need to understand that many of these students have reported to me that they have never had a serious conversation with a military officer in their lives! So, I urge you officers with graduate degrees to leave the military culture-nest and venture out into the civilian academic world to present serious, thoughtful, and scholarly talks on topics designed to engage the civilians in thinking about our common citizenship. The military virtues are not solely military, but rather the virtues appropriate to any great people. So, model them, talk about them; engage the citizenry.
If the people of the United States, citizens of both military and civilian stripe, reacquire an understanding and love of their status as citizens of the same great republic, then any value gap and its attendant threats will be replaced with a return to the core American values, the citizenship virtues, that inspired our founders.
1. Since I am shifting terms here from "values" to "virtues," I should explain how I understand their meanings. By a "value" I mean whatever any particular person or group happens to hold dear, or value; it is, i.e., the thing valued. Note that the object in question may be a concrete thing like a diploma or an abstract quality like courage. And note further that one's valuing an object does not make that object morally valuable; one might value jealousy for example. A "virtue" I understand with Aristotle and most of the philosophical tradition to be a habit of excellence; in the moral realm it is a habit of moral excellence. A moral virtue carries with it a standard of moral excellence, a law or a rule or a measure to which I am supposed to conform my thinking and conduct. So, given the differences between these terms, military values are what military people tend to value, while military virtues are the habits of thought and conduct that make for excellent military officers. One would hope that what military personnel value are in fact military virtues.
2. If we were are driven solely by competing passions, then the freedom to choose means nothing more than whatever passion currently has the strongest force within me. But this is not freedom at all; rather, freedom is the capacity to choose on grounds other than desire, so that we can choose against desire. And I think a bit of reflection will reveal that this is precisely what is occurring in much of our ethical lives.
3. For those for whom the term "soul" can mean nothing more than the brain or the mind, it is worth noting that such a commitment to materialism tends to support rather than contravene this point. For if the soul just is the body under a very complicated description, then given that the body has certain conditions for its health, it follows that the soul, a part of the body, would have the same. Thus, a commitment to a material interpretation of the "soul" is no safeguard against Socrates's argument.
4. We must recognize that an attempt to identify interest with appetitive pleasure requires that I prove the premise that whatever I desire is good for me. And while some philosophers such as Epicurus, Rousseau, Hume, and Mill have attempted to do just this, all except possibly Rousseau nevertheless end up distinguishing desires into those that are better than others. In other words, some desires need controlling. So, in effect they concede the point. My interests are not identical to my desires.
5. Note that this qualifier is very important, since it makes sense of Socrates's inability to commit to very much formal civic virtue. Each time he tried to participate in the civic community he was nearly killed, because the character of the citizens of Athens was so repugnant that their government itself became corrupted. So, Socrates instead devoted himself to the individual virtue of the citizens, but he always insisted that this was a mission to the city of Athens itself-i.e., his mission to individuals was a civic benefit, so much so that at his trial he insisted, quite seriously I believe, that he deserved for his life-long labors in this regard free maintenance from the city. He saw correctly that he had served the city's real interest-virtuous citizens.
6. Locke in fact endorses Hooker's argument to this effect, namely that the state of perfect equality in the state of nature provides the foundation for all the duties of mutual love that men owe one another, duties including justice and charity.
7. Locke distinguishes the noble and just executive from the appetitive and self-serving one by appealing to King James I in Chapter 18 of the 2nd Treatise: "I will ever prefer the weal of the public, and of the whole commonwealth, in making of good laws and constitutions, to any particular and private ends of mine. Thinking ever the wealth and weal of the commonwealth to be my greatest weal and worldly felicity; a point wherein a lawful king doth directly differ from a tyrant. For I do acknowledge, that the special and greatest point of difference that is between a rightful king and an usurping tyrant, is this, that whereas the proud and ambitious tyrant doth think his kingdom and people are only ordained for satisfaction of his desires and unreasonable appetites, the righteous and just king doth by the contrary acknowledge himself to be ordained for the procuring of the wealth and property of his people."
8. The Sophists were Socrates's major opponents. He successfully distinguished his mode of philosophical inquiry, dialectic, from theirs, rhetoric. By 'dialectic' Socrates meant a commitment of one's intellect and will to the true and the good regardless of whatever degree it might satisfy one's desires. The question always was, "But is this just?" never "Does this fulfill my wants?" The Sophists, on the other hand, thought that all such discussion of the true and the just was merely another clever form of speech designed to win sympathy from the young. Their objective was not the truth, but rather power, and so their methods of rhetorical persuasion involved manipulating one's audience into believing whatever the person who paid the sophist wanted believed-not unlike our contemporary advertising agencies. As a result they employed speeches designed to appeal to the passions of their audience, thereby bypassing reason, and making the fulfillment of one's desires central. So, while philosophical dialectic was a sincere search for the truth employing reason over against passion in which one's will was submissive to something greater than it, namely the true and the good, sophistical rhetoric was a search for power over others employing passion against reason in which one's will submitted to nothing.
9. Republic, 561c.
10. Republic, 560d (Bloom translation).
11. Republic, 561a (Bloom translation).
12. Cf. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia.
13. Public discussion of civic virtue is badly needed in American culture, and the military must realize that their participation in such discussion does not contribute to the politicization of the military nor does it threaten the rule of civilian authority. One way to overcome such worries is to make the point-men of public discussions lower-ranking officers whose potential overstatements can be easily explained as youthful exuberance. Also, by injecting captains and majors into the civilian business, academic, and civic worlds, there will be much more personal connection, since there are many more of them than there are general officers.
14. It is increasingly common for American students to commit their lives either to a plane higher or lower than that of the nation. On the one hand, some students opt for commitments to the world or "planet" itself, while on the other, some students opt for commitments to particular subsections of American society, whether they be gender, sexually, or racially identified. While students will commit to these higher and lower planes with great moral passion, it is very difficult for them to take seriously the notion that a commitment to one's country has anything like the moral standing they believe they see in these other commitments.