Theory in Practice:
The Possibility of a Professional Ethic
LTC Tim Challans
January 20, 1999

Table of Contents

Introduction The Current State of Professional Ethics


Section 1 The Unreflective Life: Indoctrination


Section 2 The Pseudo-reflective Life: Lost in the Particulars


Section 3 The Quasi-reflective Life: Instrumental Moral Methods


Section 4 The Reflective Life: Autonomy for Automatons


Conclusion The Future of Professional Ethics





The Current State of Professional Ethics

Much of moral philosophy deals with practical moral problems, and many philosophers work to solve some current problematic.1 The current problematic in military ethics is nothing short of a crisis. For those not willing to recognize a crisis, the current state of affairs should at least be a cause for concern and, hence, reflection. Alan Donagan says that "a graduate of Sandhurst or West Point who does not understand his duty to noncombatants as human beings is certainly culpable for his ignorance; an officer bred up from childhood in the Hitler Jugend might not be."2 Evidence grows daily to indicate that the U.S. military does not understand this duty, or, perhaps more accurately, moral principle of protecting noncombatants.3 Not only has the military violated and been ignorant of this principle on numerous occasions, even within the last decade, but they have also failed to examine or question this illegal and immoral behavior openly.

The centerpiece of military ethics should be the moral application of military force. Because the business of the military involves killing people and breaking things, military ethics should examine the moral boundaries and limits of those activities. Military ethics should focus, then, on its main business: its public charter. But the public military discourse on ethical matters has not focused on its public charter; it has abandoned its examination of public morality and has focused exclusively on the private. While this shift in focus may not be deliberate, our leaders could not have misled us more effectively if they had done so intentionally. Ethical matters concerning private behavior occupy center stage in military moral discourse, as they do in moral discourse at large in this country.

The energy directed toward matters of private behavior, particularly sexual behavior, has completely eclipsed any dialogue about any substantive moral matters regarding the moral application of military force.4 The military has openly discussed ad nauseum (normally after an unsuccessful cover-up) the personal indiscretions of a few people over the last several years,5 but it has not spent five minutes publicly discussing the means, ends, limits, or implications of applying deadly force. Outside legal and philosophical circles, the public dialogue on substantive moral military matters does not exist. Imagine a professional medical ethic or law enforcement ethic that focused exclusively on issues of sexual harassment and sexual behavior to the complete neglect of any substantive moral issues unique to that profession, issues pertaining to the saving or losing of life or limb or to the protection or destruction of human life. As sobering as those thoughts may be, we are fortunate that medical and law enforcement professionals—as well as the general public—have continued to address moral issues that deal specifically with the business end of these professions.6 Unfortunately, this imagined absence of a professional ethical dialogue exists in our military. The military is "wagging the dog" in reverse, turning their attention away from weighty moral matters concerning the military’s involvement in the military end of statecraft and diplomacy and turning it toward puritanical standards of private behavior.7

The current crisis is the result of the current ethical understanding and practice within the military profession. Three categories of practices comprise the myriad causes that have led to this crisis: 1) resorting to indoctrination, 2) relying on particularism, and 3) using instrumental moral methods. Each of these categories of practices stands in a unique relationship to reason, reason being specifically understood as philosophical reflection or theoretical inquiry. Resorting to indoctrination is the rejection of ethical theory, relying on particularism is the avoidance of ethical theory, and using instrumental moral methods is the dilution of ethical theory. The rejection, avoidance, and dilution of ethical theory have inadvertently led to error and the resulting crisis. Professional military ethics should embrace moral education based upon theoretical inquiry and theoretical reflection in order to avert a crisis of considerable and demonstrable moral error, which is caused by the rejection of theory (leading to indoctrination), the avoidance of theory (leading to particularism), and the dilution of theory (leading to instrumental moral methods).

Professional ethics has resorted to methods of indoctrination in lieu of ethical theory, but indoctrination will ultimately be self-defeating because it is unreflective and heteronomous. Moral indoctrination unreflectively brings with it moral error in the form of bias, prejudice, intolerance, and relativism. Professional ethics has also turned to particularism instead of ethical theory, but moral particularism does not work because it is pseudo-reflective and the error it causes outweighs any appeal it may have due to its accessibility. This pseudo-reflective particularism causes moral error because it is laced with bad reasoning, normally that of reasoning in an unjustified manner from particular to particular, which causes great incoherence and inconsistency. When attempting to be reflective, professional ethics has relied upon instrumental moral methods instead of theory. These unjustified quasi-reflective instrumental moral methods lead to moral error because they posit false realities and lead to faulty practices and consequences. These methods disregard the limitations and problems of decision procedures and are directed toward either unreflective or poorly chosen ends.

Thomas Kuhn talks about scientific crises, crises that led to scientific revolutions.8 Were the retrograde motions of the planets viewed simply as anomalies against the background of a sound Ptolemaic, geocentric universe, or were they indicators of a crisis, calling for a radical change in the deeply embedded understanding and practice of the times? Kuhn has successfully argued that the anomalies indicated a crisis, one that fomented a revolution that was more than a millennium in the making—the Copernican Revolution.9 Do anomalies represent simply anomalies, or do they signal a crisis, calling for a complete reengineering of the current understanding and way of doing business? Military leaders would have us think that the few sexual indiscretions in the recent past are simply anomalies against an otherwise sound professional ethic. However, the current moral failings of the military are not anomalies against the background of a sound ethical understanding and practice. That we are concerned mainly about "family values," whatever those may be, is a strong indicator that the problems are deeper.

Only deep, theoretical reflection can avert the crisis caused by these three practices: indoctrination, particularism, and instrumental moral method. Theory provides the basis for deep reflection that leads to understanding and good judgment. Theory may not give ready answers or moral knowledge, but what it can do is help us to avoid error by disclosing and articulating the reasoning of methods we do employ. Additionally, an institution can only be reflective if each of its members is reflective. The reflective life is only possible if the members come to understand and live a moral life on their own. In other words, they must be autonomous, and professional ethics, therefore, has to be based upon moral autonomy.

Professionals are ethical practitioners,10 and therefore the military professional is also an ethical practitioner.11 The professional ethical practitioner can practice ethics either reflectively or unreflectively. Unreflective practice can take many shapes, but reflective practice will require the practitioner to think philosophically, to understand the role and use of theoretical inquiry, a more narrow definition for reflective practice than some might define it, to be sure. Many people want to do ethics without moral philosophy. Moral philosophers are no more expert than anyone else in ethical matters, nor are they better exemplars. They do have something to contribute to the enterprise, though.

Section 1
The Unreflective Life: Indoctrination

Army leaders have seriously wrestled with the subject of ethics for the last couple of decades. They know it is an important subject. However, the Army is content to turn this important area over to the purview of training and indoctrination. Except for the role that philosophers play in teaching ethics courses at the three military academies, the military has largely ignored the role that moral philosophy can play in moral education. This turn toward ethical training and away from ethical education is a conceptual turn toward Sparta and away from Athens. To aid in its quest for indoctrination, in addition to turning toward Sparta, the Army has also recruited the services of Jerusalem. The main problem with indoctrination is that it is a morality that ultimately rests on an appeal to authority, which makes the enterprise of ethics for the individual unreflective and unjustified due to the rejection of ethical theory or theoretical inquiry.

LTG (Ret.) Walter Ulmer recently told me that he did not care why a soldier acts ethically; it is important only that the soldier behaves ethically.12 In other words, the soldier’s behavior is the only relevant feature when it comes to ethics. Conversely, understanding, desire, motive, and other factors of intentionality are not relevant features. Military organizations have relied upon methods of indoctrination for centuries, and the military still uses these methods. The only change is that over the last several decades social and behavioral scientists have been able partially to explain and to verify empirically certain methods of manipulation.

Behaviorists assume that people understand the difference between right and wrong; ethics is easy. All the institution has to worry about is motivating and inspiring its members to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. Paternalistic authority is the operative concept. In fact, much empirical research on the subject of ethics in organizations concludes with the idea that organizations should decide what is right and wrong for its members; moral deliberation should not even be a concern for the individual.13

Even though no single academic discipline is singularly suited to handle the complex subject of leadership, the social scientists have virtually monopolized the academic study of leadership within the Army. The Army sees ethics as being merely a part of leadership, so ethics is therefore subsumed under the dominion of the social scientists as well. And even though cognitive psychology has eclipsed behavioral psychology in the academic world, the Army has not yet caught up to this evolution, and the social scientists who have contributed to the subject in the Army are still operating on behaviorist assumptions, worrying only about input and output.14 Note the name of the leadership department at the Military Academy: Behavioral Science and Leadership (BS&L).

A salient example of moral indoctrination is the unprecedented and overrated focus on values, most notably marked by the values dog tag and the laminated values wallet card for which soldiers ceremoniously sign. Ironically, the emphasis on values makes up about 99% of the discussion of ethics in the Army, and the Army’s approach simply to indoctrinate the values will do less than 1% of the job of an ethical education. Again, the focus is on training, not education. The Army is imparting ethics to its people in the same manner it imparts tactics or military discipline. The Army has been making a conscious effort to turn away from Athens as it deals with its professional ethic. The Army has ethics doctrine, and this doctrine is in its leadership manual.15 Doctrine is not called doctrine by accident. The Army fully intends to impart its doctrine to its members through the process of indoctrination. Some very intelligent military people have been very skeptical about doctrine for a long time. Clausewitz referred to doctrine as the "tyranny of fashion" and was much more interested in getting military professionals thinking about principles, thinking theoretically.16

Unfortunately, Army doctrine must be written so that it can be immediately apprehended, without reflection. Reflection requires a suspension of judgment, and the hesitation required to think things through runs counter to the military premise that people must at all times be decisive. Doctrine must also be written so that people can immediately put the information to practical use. Doctrine is not a vehicle for reflection, nor can it simply stimulate thought or be written so that it requires comprehension, which requires reflection.17 Only those parts of the emerging leadership book relating to ethics that can be immediately apprehended and put into practice remain. The chapter on moral reasoning became an appendix at one time, marginilizing the whole enterprise of moral education. The moral reasoning chapter that became an appendix has now been completely eliminated, indicating that the Army is not yet ready to spend time thinking, reflecting, upon the subject.18

Of course, the major problem with any moral system based on authority is that something is not right or wrong just because of some edict or because of some interpretation of some edict. For example, disrespecting people is bad because it hurts people, not because some authority says it is forbidden. Ben Franklin suggests that something is not bad because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is bad; likewise, something is not right because it is permitted; it is permitted because it is good. Franklin’s statement is no doubt a gloss on Socrates’ question posed to Euthyphro, "is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"19

One type of an appeal to authority for morality is religious authority. The two major philosophical problems that would exist if the Army based its professional ethic on divine command would be metaphysical and epistemological. The metaphysical problem is one of begging the question due to the presumption of a supernatural being. Any attempt at promoting a religious, or a spiritual, foundation would presume the existence of something supernatural. There is a wide array of ideas among the religious communities about the existence and nature of the relationship between a supernatural being and the nature of morality. The epistemological problem compounds the metaphysical one. While the metaphysical problem revolves around the nature and existence of things supernatural, the epistemological problem revolves around our being able to know the nature of the relationship between things supernatural and morality. The indefinite variety of religious doctrines and interpretations leave no chance of any kind of agreement, agreement that would be necessary for a professional ethic. Even if people could come to some kind of agreement, which is impossible due to religious relativism, there is no requirement in a governmental organization to adhere to any supernatural tenets. Indeed, "even if recent Christian ethical theorists capture the essence of Christian ethics, it is unclear what of significance they add to secular ethics."20

Commanders turn to chaplains for ethical matters, and the Chaplain’s Corps is responsible for more than eighty percent of ethics instruction in the Army. This is an astonishingly brazen practice for a governmental institution in a free and democratic society in the late 20th Century.21 Robert Audi, among other philosophers, argues that religion should be separated from morality in general. All of his reasons are even more applicable to a professional ethic, especially a profession that is part of the government. His argument is based on the principle of separation of church and state, a principle that made America unique at one time. Simply stated, the principle guarantees that government does nothing either to hinder or to promote religion. Religion is a matter of individual conscience, and it is too important for governmental meddling.

One of the principles that Audi talks about is the principle of religious neutrality. This principle goes beyond the notion that people have freedom in choosing a religion. It includes the notion that people are also free to have no religion whatsoever. This principle is important, for it guarantees that the government is not favoring being religious over being non-religious. Six months ago, there was a section in the emerging leadership doctrine that covered this principle of neutrality. The book at that time even included a clause from the Constitution (from the original document, not one of the amendments), from article vi, clause 3, which says that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any public trust or office or public trust under the United States." The most recent draft version has taken out this concept of neutrality and now includes language22 that highlights the importance and utility of religious belief in the Army.23

A dangerous recent trend in military ethics is the merging of ethical thinking with religious thinking. The intent of this relationship has shifted from that of religious neutrality to that of religious foundation. The military over the last decade has become more and more openly religious, and this open religiosity in the workplace is becoming more and more accepted, partly due to the current interest in indoctrinating morality.24 This public approval of religious identification amounts to the endorsement of religion, and a specific religious tradition, which ultimately entails governmental establishment of religion. However, the church has a voice in moral matters throughout America, surprisingly even in its governmental institutions. The Army looks to the Chaplain’s Corps whenever the topic of morality comes up.25 The Army Chief of Staff recently published his booklet on values in which he states that the Chaplain’s Corps is instrumental in helping the Army to understand its values. How are the chaplains who have forsaken reason going to communicate an understanding of values to the Army? And if the chaplains are employing reason, then why do the Army’s ethicists have to be chaplains?26 The military should not ground morality in religion or religious precepts. To do so would mean to impose some metaphysical assumptions upon people who are not required to accept those assumptions.

Appeal to any authority for ethical matters will be unjustified. The greatest problem with an appeal to authority is that once people submit to authority as the justification for acting "morally," then it is just as easy for the authority to impose something immoral. When authority is the arbiter, it is just as easy to do something bad as it is to do something good.27 Ultimately authority will have the potential to create prejudice, bias, and relativism.28 Prejudice, bias, and relativism lead to moral error and any program that leads to moral error is highly suspect.

Section 2
The Pseudo-reflective Life: Lost in the Particulars

There are several interesting phenomena emerging in the practice of applied ethics, or professional ethics due to the current paradigm.29 One type of problem arises for reasons of accessibility: many practical ethicists are intentionally avoiding the difficulties of theory and are turning to a popular, accessible mode of particularism. Particularists, who embrace particularism, hold theory in contempt. This approach, sometimes referred to as particularism, sometimes as concrete ethics, is a burgeoning subject in philosophy. Those who are drawn to particularism are motivated by the disdain or distrust they have of ethical theory. This position shuns theory, for "the antitheory position is motivated by the perception that when moral agents think about moral questions, they do so not in terms of abstract principles with an aim to systematize some large chunk of moral experience, but in terms of concrete relationships with other people within the context of their understanding of those relationships, histories, and the institutions in which they are embedded."30 The main problem with particularism is that it avoids theory and hence remains unreflective because it is inconsistent, incoherent, and laced with bad reasoning, most notably that of reasoning from particular to particular.

Particularism is the view that there are no principles, no universals; this is more or less a nominalist viewpoint. The dominant form of this type of ethics is the narrative. Narratives are stories that can come in the form of histories, fables, mythologies, anecdotes, unrelated maxims, or perhaps even case studies. "One of the more interesting claims that emerges from this literature is the suggestion that narratives are a richer resource for moral reflection than theory."31 Philosophers who have embraced the narrative tradition include Alasdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum, and Charles Taylor.32 The critique of particularism here does not entail the claim that narratives serve no purpose in ethical reflection; they do serve a purpose. They provide the examples upon which to theorize. My objection to particularism is the claim that principles and theories serve no purpose. Narratives by themselves, however, without reflecting and theorizing about them, will not get the job done. The Army’s current infusion of Respect for Others Training (ROET) is a case in point. Facilitators report that the stories in the chain-teaching material did more harm than good during the training.

Yet while narratives can be a rich source to draw upon, this very richness creates a problem of incoherence due to the sheer number and diversity of narratives available to any individual. Take my case, for example, which would be typical or representative of many Americans now living in the United States. As an American, I have all of the history and folk heritage of America as sources that inform my identity. I can claim a German heritage from my mother’s side of the family. My father’s side of the family came to the US from England. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that our family name is of French origin. So, now, I can add the unique characteristics of at least three European countries to the set of American narratives I can turn to for direction. As a military professional, I have all military narratives to draw from, worldwide. I can use as models the characters from the Indian wars in America (actually from both sides, due to some Cherokee admixture), the Visigoths in early Europe, or even the French Foreign Legion. I can turn to the particulars of these narratives for guidance. When considering harm to civilians in a military operation, for example, I can turn to the history of General Sherman’s march to the sea and the burning of Atlanta in the American Civil War. Sherman said that "war is hell" and argued that it was better to get war over quickly – no matter what it takes – rather than let it drag out for a long time. This line of thinking is quite popular in the military even today, and it shows up in many different, but related, forms.33 These narratives are certainly richer, but how does one live an ethically coherent, consistent ethical life based on narratives? How do I pick and choose among the narratives? What justifies the stories?

Another problem with this approach is the complexity and lack of coherence that is the result of this very richness. A good example of the utter confusion of multiple narratives is well-illustrated in the Broadway musical Into the Woods. This is a story about a family that finds itself in the middle of several fairy tales at the same time: imagine the characters from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and a whole number of tales running into each other. The musical provides a great representation for what actually takes place in the mind of a child: the characters all run together. A child may read from the Book of Virtues one year and from the Tales from Scheherazade the next. Let’s say that this child is confronted with a choice of either lying or telling the truth. Should he look to George Washington and the cherry tree and be blatantly candid or draw upon the example of Aladdin and be sly, cunning, and deceitful?

A deep problem is that there typically is not quality reflection associated with this approach. The fact is that reflection is not a feature at all here. A person can be like George Washington one day and like Aladdin another day and not make the mental connection that honesty is even the issue. If he did recognize that honesty were the issue at hand, then he would also recognize that the two stories give him conflicting guidance. People who would rely on narrative would not spend any time sorting out the inconsistencies in the stories, for this would be so cumbersome that it would make the whole enterprise of narrative hardly worth while. The sorting out of inconsistencies in these narratives would involve the application of principles, which would entail theoretical thinking. To engage in theoretical thinking in order to use narratives would defeat the whole purpose of narratives, which is to avoid theory. In order for someone to worry about inconsistencies, they would have to give some regard to the notion of consistency, yet the last thing people want to give up is inconsistency.34

Since particularism avoids theory and principle, the ethical ideas themselves (justice, honesty, courage) and the relations among these ideas are not made explicit. The lessons, ideas, and relations of these ideas remain "tacit knowledge."35 That is, the ideas remain at a preverbal stage; they remain inchoate ideas if they exist as ideas at all. Since the ideas remain at the preverbal stage, there is no deliberate reflection. An exploration of tacit knowledge can shed light on the mechanism of acquisition of pre-theoretical intuition. This way of doing ethics is what R. M. Hare describes as the intuitive level of ethics, to be distinguished from the second level, which is the critical level.36 Intuition is good only if it has been well trained; moral intuitions can mislead us as readily as linguistic intuitions. Age and maturity are not factors here. Anyone who reads Aesop’s Fables and abstracts the relevant principles—the morals of the stories—is engaged in moral reflection. We have to look beyond the parable to the principle.

Michael Polanyi describes his concept of tacit knowledge in a brief and economical way by saying that "we can know far more than we can tell."37 He goes on to explain how he thinks this works: "in an act of tacit knowing we attend from something for attending to something else."38 In the case of recognizing a face, for example, we would attend from whatever rules or principles we would use to make the actual judgment and we attend to the actual judgment itself. "We are attending from the features to the face, and thus may be unable to specify the features."39 By analogy, it is possible to use the same schema to describe the mechanism for coming to moral judgments in an intuitive manner. People can and do make intuitive moral judgments about an action roughly in the same way they can make judgments about recognizing a face. The moral judgment is what we attend to; it is our intuition. What we attend from in making a moral judgment that is a pre-theoretical intuition is whatever set of beliefs we may happen to hold. If these beliefs have been informed solely by amassing the particulars from narratives, then this set of beliefs is potentially a jumbled mess of incoherent, inconsistent beliefs that come from a bewildering array of narratives. The chief outcome of the way of particulars is to engage in an ethical practice that merely justifies and perpetuates prejudice. The narratives, histories, anecdotes, unrelated maxims, and case studies contain prejudices – normally at a deep, implicit level – that are not articulated.

Theory has become completely absent, and narrative has become the dominant form, in the exposition of the emerging leadership doctrine. Storytellers focus on entertaining us—affecting our will or motivation to act morally. They do not add much to our understanding. A continuing assumption here is that ethics is a problem of the will, not of the understanding—that is how novelists, storytellers, can become moral experts. There are two other problems with narrative. One problem has to do with what I will call the normative fallacy. We commit this fallacy any time we mistake or conflate what happens to be the case with what ought to be the case, we derive an ought from an is. In other words, the word "normative" actually changes its sense from what we take to be an empirical norm (what actually happens) to what we think should be a norm (what should happen). We commit the fallacy when we unjustifiably turn a descriptive statement into a prescriptive one.40 I call it the normative fallacy because to call it the is/ought fallacy is too cumbersome and to call it the naturalistic fallacy is technically inaccurate. We potentially commit this fallacy any time we derive a prescriptive claim from any historical or fictional claim without a normative (prescriptive) analysis.41

The other problem has to do with the fact that the narrative, whether historical or fictional, already has an ending; we know how it is going to turn out. In the real world, we do not know how our moral problems will turn out. Narratives cannot be action-guiding because our stories, as they unfold, are incomplete.42 To believe that our real-world lives will turn out the same way as the stories do is to engage in pure folly. No amount of analysis of the relevant features or causal connections would ever be enough to make this a worthwhile enterprise. The Army turns more and more to the narrative, and the Marine Corps uses this method exclusively by solely teaching their own history.

The anti-theorists would argue that the theorists are lost in the abstractions. I argue to turn this claim on its head: the anti-theorists are lost in the particulars. If there are holes and inconsistencies in approaches that employ theories, then there are even greater holes and greater inconsistencies in approaches that focus on the particulars.

Section 3
The Quasi-reflective Life: Instrumental Moral Methods

Instrumental moral methods are often aimed at ends that are unreflective or unwarranted. Further, these methods replace moral reasoning with inadequate decision procedures and opaque methods. The main problem with instrumental moral methods is that they are unjustified and dangerous because they have a faulty, undisclosed theoretical basis due to the dilution of theory.

These methods are instrumental because they are designed to produce ready answers or provide pragmatic procedures. Examples of these methods include ethical decision-making procedures, oversimplified and underdetermined maxims (such as the golden rule), and mnemonic devices (as in the acronym for the Army values, LDRSHIP, which stands for loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage).43 There are many other examples of this type of thinking. One quite prevalent invocation of naïve realism (meaning that the moral choice we have is exactly as it appears, or, more exactly, one specific description of the appearance) occurs whenever people speak of any moral problem as a moral dilemma and use the dilemma as a problem-solving tool. A dilemma can mean—among other things—that one has only two alternatives in deciding what to do. Discussions in applied ethics are rife with this type of thinking. Consider the example from the current Army leadership manual of a company commander in combat who continues to receive orders that result in the injury or death of his men. This is certainly a problem of moral import. However, the problem is couched in terms of a dilemma. "After sorting it all out, it seemed to me that I had only two choices. I could either refuse to obey orders or continue sending men to death and injury for no understandable purpose."44 Even as the story turned out, these two choices did not lay out all of the possibilities. The unit received different orders and something entirely different happened. Few people realize the inconsistency as they read it. They still largely think of a moral dilemma as one that presents only two alternatives—the positing of a false metaphysical reality as well as a false moral theory. There may be cases in which only two alternatives are possible for a moral choice, but these would be extremely rare, if they existed at all—logically or practically. People versed in informal logic would recognize it as black or white thinking; people versed in formal logic would recognize it immediately as a false dilemma.

Within professional ethics, the most misunderstood—and perhaps most talked about—concept is that of loyalty. Ethicists virtually always want to have loyalty competing with some other notion, usually that of honesty. This is imposing a false duality on the issue, again invoking a naïve realism. There is no reason to think that honesty and loyalty have to be at odds all the time: that is a false assumption with which to begin the process of deliberation. Again, there may possibly be instances of true dilemmas (in the ontological sense), but in moral choices there are almost always additional choices that would be compromises, compensations, or integrations.45 They conflate the two senses of dilemma, and they treat their epistemological dilemma (not knowing what to do) as an ontological or metaphysical dilemma (having only two choices). The failure is that rarely do applied ethicists describe the ethical situation adequately.46 What happens here is that they take what happens to be an epistemological dilemma, meaning they simply don’t know what is right in a situation, and they turn it into an ontological dilemma, meaning that they are positing a moral reality that admits of having only two choices.

Rush Kidder, a popular ethicist and founder for the Institute for Global Ethics, uses this method, or lack of method.47 Throughout his books and his published material he uses the language of dilemmas: truth versus loyalty, individual versus community, short term versus long term, justice versus mercy. In all these cases, he posits a false metaphysic, a false reality. We do not live in a moral universe in which people have to choose between these pairs of features. Principles, maxims, and acts exist in a many / many relationship; they do not relate in pairs.48 In reality, each of these pairs need not even be in tension. Alan Donagan argues that consistency is an important feature of legitimate systems of morality. It would not make sense to set up a moral system in which we would be in a state of constant inconsistency. He says he knows "of no specific case of perplexity simpliciter that has plausibly been alleged to arise in any competently formulated traditional moral system."49 And yet, this is the presumption that is present in any ethical discussion that employs the language of dilemmas. Ethicists who operate on a false reality in ethics are not unlike medieval physicians who diagnosed and operated based on the four humors or alchemists who practiced their craft based on the four elements.

Another pervasive way of speaking about applied ethics, in fact it is perhaps the current paradigm, is that of the language of values.50 One cannot go an entire day without hearing about family values or values-based organizations. Deep thought or reflection is absolutely absent in the vast majority of these discussions. In most discussions about family values, rarely are any particular values ever mentioned. What would some of these family values be? It is largely feel-good rhetoric. The Army has adopted a moral "values-speak" language, used most by the Army’s leadership. Army leaders are now walking bumper stickers; they think about morality simply in terms of slogans and platitudes, with little or no real thought or reflection. As for values-based organizations, most people who talk about them speak as if organizations will change drastically for the better if they become values-based. Weren’t the Nazis a values-based organization? Himmler declared that the SS values were loyalty, obedience, bravery, and truthfulness 51--they are strikingly familiar. Having values or being values-based will not guarantee morality. The problem is that there is never enough thought going into what these values might be, how they might relate to one another, how they fit into a larger ethical context, how they function in character development, or how limited they are when it comes to guiding action. For the practical ethicist, values are often those beliefs that they grew up with, that their parents gave them, or that they learned in church. Again, the values are reified into entities that presume a type of moral realism. Most discussions about values remain utterly vacuous because people do not reflect upon them enough to figure out what they really are and what metaphysical assumptions they are positing. In reality, individual values can refer to very different categories of things: moral virtues, obligations, principles, and so on. There is no systematic development in the history of values.

One way to organize ethical problems is by making the distinction between problems of the will and problems of the understanding.52 Many who engage in applied ethics think that we have no problem in understanding what we ought to do; the problem is in having the will to do what we know we should. But yet it could be that attaining understanding is more difficult than common sense would have it. This may especially be true for professional ethics when considering, for example, the political profession and the practice of statecraft, for "It’s not doing what is right that’s hard for a President. It’s knowing what is right."53 There is nothing ordinary or common about the ethical situations that doctors, policemen, politicians, and members of the military routinely face. It is not adequate to turn to precepts or maxims such as the Golden Rule.54 Common sense and sacred scripture are both underdetermined when it comes to difficult issues, such as the saving or taking of lives. Only theory can inform these difficult problems.

One of the biggest problems with instrumental moral methods is that they are directed toward ends that are either unreflective or unwarranted. Most of these methods are incomplete decision procedures. The game of tic-tac-toe has a complete decision procedure; the principles that would guarantee victory are completely codifiable. The game of chess is much more complex, and the principles that would help one to win this game are not codifiable; there is no complete decision procedure for chess. The moral universe is astronomically more complex when compared to chess than chess is when compared to tic-tac-toe, so the possibility of a complete moral decision procedure is very low, indeed. Another difference between these games and a professional ethic is that the end for these games is quite clear while the moral end for the military is not. The end of chess is to win; this is not the end for the military. The end of military activity is to achieve a better peace than that which existed before the hostilities.55 If the moral method is instrumentally aimed at victory (which it often is) instead of attaining a better peace, then we will not be moving toward the proper moral end. The official policy is that the military exists to win the nation’s wars. Not only is this concept too narrow, but it misses the final end, which is something beyond victory. If the military achieves victory through immoral means, then it will not achieve its final end, which is a better peace. The military has much work to straighten out its thinking about its end, its purpose.56

Many people unwittingly employ theory, or theory fragments, that would not be justified upon adequate reflection. Keeping in mind that I am focusing on an institution and its institutional or corporate ethic, the cost of invoking unexamined ethical theory can be high. One of the specific problems that needs attention is the imposition of some kind of moral foundation. Any foundation would require the presumption of some kind of moral realism. There is no type of moral realism that would be appropriate for a governmental institution in a democratic society. Unreflective practice happens in many ways because there are many ways either to avoid or misuse theory. Much of the argument revolves around the problems associated with applied, or professional, ethics when theory is either ignored or badly exercised. Ethical practices and methods that either shun ethical theory or misuse it will be problematic. In the end, the argument will end with the conclusion that moral practitioners, especially within professions, will be better off understanding and embracing ethical theory in their practices than not doing so. The way of instrumental moral method can be just as misguided as particularism. While the way of particulars is dangerous in that it can perpetuate prejudice in moral thinking, employing instrumental moral methods is also dangerous in that it can create prejudice in moral thinking. The generation of prejudicial moral thinking is an unwanted outcome in the practice of ethics.

Section 4
The Reflective Life: Autonomy for Automatons

People continue to be as interested as ever in ethical matters. There is no lack of commentary containing moral prescriptions or judgments in the newspaper, on the television, at the office, from the pulpit, or around the dinner table. The interest in applied ethics may even be increasing in the professional arena. People in the medical, business, and military professions are spending increasing amounts of time discussing values-based organizations and employing ethical decision-making procedures to their ethical problems. Colleges and universities are expanding their curricula to accommodate the fashionable idea of "ethics across the curriculum," and there is an increasing demand for more applied ethics courses: medical ethics, business ethics, military ethics, environmental ethics, to name just a few. But while applied ethics has become a growth industry, philosophical ethics has not – the interest in moral philosophy has not grown in like proportion.

There are many reasons for this lack of interest in philosophical ethical theory: many have great difficulty with it; others question its appropriateness, and some think it has limitations. It can be a difficult subject due to the fact that it is largely isolated terrain that philosophers have clearly marked and kept well-protected for themselves. So, while some practitioners are comfortable with ethical theory the vast majority of practitioners find ethical theory to be an esoteric and mind-bending enterprise that employs impenetrable language, perplexing logic, and abstract concepts, all of which seem far removed from practice. Many people, including some moral philosophers, think that ethical theory is appropriate only for moral philosophy and that it is inappropriate for the everyday person to use in everyday life. Others, and particularly some moral philosophers, criticize ethical theory and are a part of a growing anti-theory movement.57 The avoidance of ethical theory due to its difficulty, inappropriateness, and limitations are deeply rooted in a desire to be practical, in a penchant for pragmatism. The challenge is to be able to appeal to theory for moral reflection while avoiding any appeals to metaphysical realism.

As Kant argued, when there are problems between theory and practice the problem is not too much theory but that "the fault is that there is not enough theory." Kant gives an example of responding to an artilleryman – who is ridiculing the difference between theoretical prediction and empirical experience – by replying that "if mechanics were supplemented by the theory of friction and ballistics by the theory of air resistance, in other words if only more theory were added, these theoretical disciplines would harmonize very well with practice."58 As Kant argued, the solution to the problem is not to discard theory, but to turn even more toward theory. The word "theory" can refer to many things; theory will refer to more than Kant’s characterization of a theory as merely requiring a set of principles.59 Theories help us to do many things: to understand, to explain, and to judge. Theory helps us accomplish these goals through conceptual exploration, criticism, and imagination.60 In addition, theory also needs to be self-conscious, disclosed, articulated, and transparent—not opaque—in other words one should be able to "see through it." It cannot contain unarticulated, undisclosed doctrines. This requirement rules out dogma as a possible source of morality.

I will not argue for one ethical theory over another, and I will not argue from within a particular theory. Instead I will write about ethical theory. From time to time I will draw upon theories in other disciplines to help articulate concepts about moral theory. "It is the function of the philosopher to be able to theorize about all things."61 Theory does not possess the negative qualities that many philosophers claim, such as Edmond Pincoffs.62 Theory simply does not do what the anti-theorists claim it does; it is not hopelessly abstract, reductivist, and heirarchical.63 There are different types of theory, and many divide normative theory from meta-ethical theory.64 The pursuit of normative theory is enough, because careful normative theory will pay attention to many of the topics within meta-ethical theory. One who is careful with normative theory will pay attention to the language and to metaphysical and epistemological issues.

Only principles and perhaps the theories that ground those principles make principled moral thinking a possibility. This may be an obvious tautology, but what is not obvious is the obverse proposition, that moral practice using indoctrination, particularism, and instrumental moral methods are by definition unprincipled. So, one of the major outcomes of using theory in ethics is that of obtaining principled moral thinking. Principled moral thinking is preferable for many reasons. Morality does not need a foundation; justification is enough. Moral judgment requires a justification, a rational justification. Thinking can then be consciously consistent. The principles help us to organize and understand and explain the particulars that we are confronted with continuously. Our practices can be informed when backed by principles that are tied together with theory. Theory can be an aid even at an unconscious level. It will inform our intuitions as well. Drawing upon Polanyi’s theory, the theories that we spend time reflecting on and the principles embedded in those theories will contribute to our tacit knowledge. The principles that make up the theories will be those features that we tend away from while we tend to making judgments. This explains why our pre- and post-theoretical intuitions can be so radically different after spending time with theory.

An example of this is the effect that the study of formal logic has on a philosopher. Many philosophers claim that the study of logic changed their thinking, at least in the way they saw and thought about things from that point forward. To study formal logic is to study a theory about how we should reason; it is theory, based on a set of principles. Most philosophers do not deliberately spend time using logical tools to assess all their thoughts. And it may take years for them to recognize much application for the logical principles they learned. But what does change is the way they recognize good and bad forms of thinking, and they can eventually do much of this at a tacit level. Their post-theoretic ability to think logically has increased, even if they never use the language of validity and soundness again. They tend away from the particulars they studied and are able simply to tend to making the intuitive judgments with far more accuracy and efficacy.

Likewise, ethical theory can improve a person’s moral judgment. Just as logical judgment will tacitly develop after the formal study of logic, a person’s moral judgment will tacitly develop after the formal study of moral theory. When making a post-theoretic intuition, the person will tend away from the particulars of the principles embedded in the moral theory and will tend to making judgments that are principled in nature. The effect of studying moral theory is not immediate. Those interested in quick payoffs will more likely turn to ready-made decision procedures and any number of techniques that are readily available, described in the first three sections. The deep understanding that comes from theoretical study happens over a long period of time. A person who has studied ethical theory will simply see moral situations much more differently than someone who is merely applying common sense or a folk-ethical moral approach.

For decades people relied on farmer’s almanacs to predict the weather so that they could get the most out of the cycles of nature. But they really did not understand weather or climates. It was not until they theorized about the weather that they came to understand it better. When they finally theorized to the level of frontal systems, they had reached a level of understanding so that they could explain and predict at a much more sophisticated level. This level of understanding, explaining, predicting, and judging did not come from relying on common sense, tending to the particulars, staying in the world of appearances, and following the shadows on the wall. It came from theory. Common sense did not teach us about weather fronts. Common sense did not tell us that the earth goes around the sun. Common sense did not tell us about the structure of the atoms that are the basis of our physical being. Common sense did not tell us about evolution. Common sense did not produce mathematics or logic. Common sense does not provide the most defensible theories that inform our practices. If common sense did not aid us in these common endeavors, why should we rely on common sense in ethical matters, especially in professions engaging in activities that are anything but common?

Indoctrinators assume that moral problems are simply matters of the will – people know the difference between right and wrong; they just do the wrong thing for one reason or another. In actuality, the more significant problems are problems of the understanding. These problems can only be correctly sorted out through the deliberate use of moral theory. We can go farther than attending to only those moral issues that deal with the voluntary actions of the agent. We can examine and attend to those aspects that deal with the structure (culture / climate / etc.). How do we improve judgment, perception, understanding?—by theorizing. There is a gap between theory and practice and it should be kept neither too large nor should it be bridged too abruptly. Moral autonomy will require that we treat each member of the profession as a thinking being capable of rational thought and logical thinking.65

Many criticize theory because they think it is too abstract and doesn’t adequately connect to reality. There is room for some of the better highly contextualized moral theories, such as Walzer’s just war theory. Contextualism is not just a recent development in ethics, and it has some promise and could contribute to the theoretical pursuit of adequate applied ethics. In actuality, the major theoretical traditions, to include Kant’s and Aristotle’s theories, are also highly contextualized. Their theories are not guilty of much of the criticism that the anti-theorists want to give them.

Moral philosophy and the enterprise of theoretical reflection can contribute in an important way to the understanding and practice a professional ethic, for the other approaches have some deep problems that reflection can help to fix. There has not been a sustained philosophical critique of applied or professional ethics to date. As much as ethical theory is shunned, feared, avoided, and watered down, there is a great need to embrace theory and explore the relationship between theory and practice even further, for "the general topic of theory and method in moral philosophy is large, important, and underexplored."66

 The Future of Professional Ethics

So, several conditions are necessary before a professional military ethic is possible. People within the institution must be reflective. The institution must recognize the moral autonomy of each individual. A key feature of a professional military ethic is that while much of the ethic is a given as individuals enter an institution with a long history, the ethic must by rooted in the individual. Until then, the ethical practice will remain unreflective. Instead of basing morality on some form of moral realism for a professional ethic, it should be based on its ability to be justified by reason. Another key feature is that this justification is something that can be agreed upon. The moral autonomy of each individual in the profession is the basis of the rational ratification required for justification. The moral practices of any institution can be misguided. The dialogue must be open to make adjustments to the professional ethic when discrepancies are discovered. The only way to improve the ethical practices of an institution is for each member to scrutinize the practices to see if they can pass the bar of reason. This is not the current arrangement. The debate or the dialogue is just not there.

A professional ethic is not possible through indoctrination. It is not possible if we simply tell stories, or even recount our own history. Finally, it is not possible through the use of short-cuts, rules of thumb, honor codes, or homespun maxims. One cannot, by definition, be a reflective practitioner by avoiding theory or by leaving invoked theories unexamined. Reflective practice requires an understanding of the role and use of ethical theory. The role of theory is to help us to understand the particulars, to see consistencies as well as inconsistencies. Articulation, clarity, and consistency are important features of a moral life. A professional ethic is not adequately guided by common-sense morality. The main reason is that many professions are engaged in a business that is anything but common. Many professions are engaged in mortal matters, and issues surrounding the saving or taking of lives are not within the repertoire of the average person. The military is in an extraordinary business, and military professional cannot draw upon childhood lessons of ordinary life to deal with the ethical complexities involved. This means, in part, that a professional ethic is not based on a theory that would be apprehended by everyone (as Kant hoped), but it is something that requires education (as Leibniz thought). The project is to disclose and to avoid error, rather than to find answers to specific questions. An examination of professional military ethics will have parallels and applications with professional ethics in other professions.67


1. Grotius worked against the skeptics to ground morality in a sensus communis, Hume worked against a popular religious morality to establish a secular ethic grounded in human nature, Bentham worked to improve the poor state of affairs in England , and Kant worked to defeat the problems associated with any heteronomous moral system, creating a sophisticated justifiable morality, grounded in reason and available to everyone. "Every interest is ultimately practical, even that of speculative reason being only conditional and reaching perfection only in practical use." Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977).

2. Alan Donagan, The Theory of Morality, (University of Chicago Press, 1977), p. 135.

3. Exams at West Point strongly indicate that future officers do not know the laws of war or the spirit (principles) of those laws. Paul Christopher says that "the relevant military manual advises soldiers to obey only lawful orders while at the same time acknowledging that they will often be unable to tell lawful orders from unlawful ones." Paul Christopher, The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction to Legal and Moral Issues (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1994), p. 145. Christopher adds "the truth is that as I write this in 1992, many of the officers and men of the U.S. Army have no more knowledge or understanding of the laws of war than they did during the Vietnam War." Christopher, p. 138. Ignorance and neglect of these laws, which embody moral principles, have led to horrific actions on the part of the U.S. military during the last decade. Most notably, Paul Ramsey, a former US Attorney General, has written a book cataloguing the war crimes committed by the U.S. during Desert Storm. Paul Ramsey, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994). Ironically, but not surprisingly, euphoria over the U.S. victory has led the public and particularly the military to completely disregard the book; the book is now out of print.

4. There are many other kinds of moral failures in the military right now (dishonesty, careerism, corruption), but these moral failings are not unique to the military profession. For example, the military has a long history of its leaders misrepresenting and downplaying problems; they downright ignore these problems as a result. In the early ‘70’s GEN Westmoreland ordered a critical study of the Army’s professionalism, to see statistically how poorly the Army was functioning in light of what was up to then only anecdotal evidence (the accumulation of many individuals’ horror stories). When he got the results from this study, they were so bad that he did two things: he suppressed the results of the study and ordered a second study. The second study proved the situation to be worse than the first one. These results were suppressed again, until two courageous officers, Richard Gabriel and Paul Savage went public with the results in a book entitled Crisis in Command, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978). In 1995 the Army repeated the professionalism study. The results were so bad that the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Reimer, did two things: he suppressed the study and ordered a second study. True to form, the results of the second study were worse, and the results are still not public. As important as these problems are as ethical failures, they are not unique to the military profession. Many professions suffer in the name of political expediency or for the sake of keeping a good image. To limit the scope of ethical problems here, there is more than enough material to deal with those ethical matters that are unique to the military, those ethical matters that deal with the military’s public charter, the charter of wielding deadly force.

5. CSM Gene McKinney, MG Hale, and Kelly Flinn are the key figures here.

6. The field of medical ethics or bioethics is among the richest and most robust areas with a healthy relationship between theory and practice. The law enforcement field constantly wrestles with the legal and moral issues of applying deadly force. Most law enforcement agencies conduct a thorough inquiry after every single shooting incident, and they hold their members accountable to uphold the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law, which include the moral principles of protection, restraint, and discrimination. The military does not have any interest in establishing a healthy exchange between theory and practice, nor do they have any mechanism of inquiry to ensure that deadly force is applied within legal and moral guidelines.

7. Take note of the current concern and public debate over the impeachment of the president and an inverse lack of concern over moral debate about embargoes and reprisals against Iraq.

8. I am not trying to make too strong an analogy between science and ethics. I am not implying that ethics requires any of the notions of realism that science requires.

9. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1962).

10. Almost everyone practices ethics. I say almost everyone because there would no doubt be some people who would disagree with the claim: perhaps those who have no interest in ethics or perhaps those who believe no such thing exists. The vast majority of people, though, are practitioners of ethics. They practice ethics, broadly defined: they think about what kind of people they should be, how they should live their lives, and what they should do in particular situations. These practitioners are college professors, artisans, laborers, students, and athletes; in other words they come from all walks of life. There are some groups of people who are more actively concerned with the topic of ethics than others. Moral philosophers, theologians, and ethicists (those who are actively involved in the business of ethical consulting, working in what has been called applied ethics or professional ethics and claiming to have some sort of credentials based on education or training) spend a good deal of their time thinking, writing, and speaking about the subject of ethics. Even the most theoretical moral philosophies are concerned ultimately with practice in some way.

11. They are becoming ever more self-consciously aware of their ethical practices because they are seeking either to establish, revise, or refine the moral guidelines or parameters for their organization—their professional ethic, so to speak. Ethics is a big topic for professions as diverse as the government, big business, medicine, law enforcement, and the military.

12. I have been a long-time admirer of General Ulmer. He is not only one of the few general officers who truly proved to be a good leader and knows what he is doing, but he is also one of the few out of those few who has studied, researched, reflected upon, and understands the subject matter of leadership. I differ, however, with his behaviorist assumptions and conclusions.

13. The conclusions of a typical study advocate the following to enhance ethical behavior in an organization: leaders who model ethical behavior, reward and punishment systems, and a focus on adherence to the law and professional standards. Such studies do not mention anything about moral education or character development, and they will never mention anything as immeasurable as intention, desire, belief, understanding – the very topics of a moral education. Linda Klebe Trevino, Kenneth D. Butterfield, and Donald L. McCabe, "The Ethical Context in Organizations: Influences on Employee Attitudes and Behaviors," a paper submitted to Business Ethics Quarterly, Special Issue on Psychology and Business Ethics, Oct. 1996.

14. Behaviorists rely on the assumption that behavior simply can be shaped, either through operant conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning. Stimulation (in the form or reward or punishment) occurs after the behavior for operant conditioning, and stimulation is given before the behavior for Pavlovian conditioning. The key point here is that the technique is conditioning in both cases. Behavioral conditioning disregards what actually occurs in the mind—the mind remains a black box. Philosophers who work on action theory, and recently cognitive psychologists, think seriously about what goes on inside the black box, and it is messy. Even after many decades of work, they have not improved upon the folk-psychological understanding of intentionality, intentionality comprising two major categories of things: beliefs and desires. Even so, they have done some great work by working on just these two ideas. Disregarding intentionality (why people do the things they do) greatly simplifies the work of the behaviorists, for all they have to do is worry about input and output. To get different output, all that is necessary is to adjust the input. Control of people is easier under this view because "reasons do not explain behavior; causes do." Alexander Rosenberg, Philosophy of Social Science, 2d. ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995), p. 35.

15. For the last three years, I have been one of two principal authors for the Army’s book on leadership, its leadership doctrine. The book will be published this summer as FM 22-100, Army Leadership.

16. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), p. 189.

17. John Dewey distinguishes between apprehension and comprehension in How We Think, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1991). He says that this distinction is like the one between können and wissen, practical knowledge and theoretical understanding.

18. Another example of the Army’s conceptual preference of Sparta over Athens occurred recently at West Point. West Point sponsors an annual national conference on ethics. Students from across the country are invited to attend and spend several days in small and large group discussions about the subject of ethics. The speakers, facilitators, and mentors are military leaders and captains of industry—the ethical practitioners who typically have no background at all in understanding the subject academically. They spent days going ‘round and ‘round, from one logical fallacy to the next, digging themselves deeper and deeper with false dilemmas and category errors (to be discussed later). The philosophers were not invited—intentionally. Additionally, West Point has a multi-million dollar endowment to create a Center for the Professional Military Ethic. The center belongs to the commandant, the general in charge of discipline, training, and indoctrination—not education. The philosophers are not invited to participate in the activities of the center, either. So, the center is clearly going to be a center of indoctrination, not education. Interestingly, though, the new chaplain at West Point—the first military officer as a USMA chaplain here in such a position, in the rank of full colonel—in a position newly created to increase the religious power and presence at the academy, has recently said that he is greatly looking forward to being involved with the center. Sparta, aided by Jerusalem, is in charge, and Athens has been left out.

19. Plato, Euthyphro, in The Trial and Death of Socrates, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1975), p. 12.

20. Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), p. 15.

22. Apparently this is not unique to the military. James Rachels describes the process Mario Cuomo used to bring a sense of morality to the city government of New York. To ensure a diversity of opinion, he brought in an equal number of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. The average American probably associates morality with religion and would not think twice about Cuomo’s method.

23. The chaplains have long espoused in their own doctrine (which applies only to them) that it is their job to ensure the spiritual fitness of the Army. Now this language of "spiritual fitness" has creeped into the leadership doctrine, (which applies to everyone in the Army). One of the parts of the Lemon Test, a legal test that is used to help keep church and state separated, features the idea that any governmental initiative must be secularly motivated. As a result, morality in the military has to be secularly motivated; otherwise church and state have merged. A good argument could be made to get the chaplains out of the ethics business in the military. A recent Supreme Court case (Katkoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d223 1985) that tested the constitutionality of the chaplain’s corps holds that it was constitutional to keep the chaplain’s corps for the purpose of providing religious services for the Army. The court said nothing about the purpose of the chaplain’s corps being to look out for the "spiritual fitness" of the Army, nor did it say anything about their playing counselor, for that matter. Religion should remain inside the chapel; chaplains should get out of the spiritual fitness business—encroaching on professional ethics and politics—and stick to their charter of providing religious services, in keeping with the letter and spirit of the recent Supreme Court decision based on the Constitution.

24. "The commander delegates staff responsibility to the chaplain for programs to enhance spiritual fitness since many leaders and subordinates draw moral fortitude and inner strength from a spiritual foundation." FM 22-100 Army Leadership, (draft) Select Review Version, (Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army, October, 1998).

25. Official military functions (parades, award ceremonies, promotions, and graduation ceremonies at military academies!??) often feature some form of sectarian prayer or observance. Military commanders (who have captive audiences) are witnessing to their troops. Military dentists (who also have captive audiences) are proselytizing. Voice mail messages contain religious allusions. Strangers identify themselves as being believers upon introduction, much like secret handshakes of old, only they are not secret anymore. Invitations to social functions contain explicit religious messages. Religious metaphor suffuses the language: people are often referred to as "brother" and are often said to be doing the "lord’s work." Everyone knows who the believers are.

26. The Army’s weekly newspaper ran a front-page headline, "Army Chaplains always have been a source of counseling and spiritual guidance for soldiers. In the wake of Aberdeen, their services may be needed now more than ever." Army Times, Army Times Publishing Co., May 19, 1997, front page.

27. Certain types of liberal moral theology posit theories of false reality as well. Those who confuse universality with absolutism are painting themselves into a corner; they create a moral system that puts one in a quandary even before anything happens. A moral system that has a quandary, perplexity, as a starting point, even before someone does something wrong, is called perplexity simpliciter. "Hence it does not follow, simply because a moral system lays down a plurality of exceptionless precepts, that perplexity simpliciter is possible in it, notwithstanding that a surprising number of Christian moral theologians have disarmed themselves against the onslaught of ‘situation ethics’..." (Donagan, p. 147). Even more problematic is that "there have been movements in Protestant moral theology to repudiate the doctrine that natural human reason can generate any moral laws at all" (Donagan, p. 62). This would not be so problematic if churches kept their doctrine confined to their own faith communities.

28. We should never forget that the nazis wore belt buckles that said "Gott mit uns" or fall prey to the temptation of subscribing to the idea that might is right. Stanley Milgram’s experiment demonstrating how susceptible people are to authority should never disappear from our memories.

29. See Gordon Campbell’s JSCOPE paper on the difficulties of religious relativism, "Of Reason, Ethics, and Morality."

30. I will use the terms applied, practical and professional ethics interchangeably. Applied ethics and practical ethics refer to the same thing. A professional ethic is a little narrower, because it refers to a practical or applied ethic of a particular institution.

31. Dwight Furrow, Against Theory (New York: Routledge, 1995), p. xiii.

32. Furrow, p. 36.

33. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Moral Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

34. Major Carl Bradshaw argued that it would be much more expedient to assassinate heads of state in an article "Taking out Saddam could work" in Army Times January 12, 1998, p. 63.

35. Bernard Williams, p. 23.

36. Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1983) and Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).

37. "I shall be calling the two levels the intuitive and critical…" R. M. Hare, Moral Thinking (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 25.

38. Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, p. 4.

39. Polanyi, p. 10.

40. Polanyi, p. 10.

41. Ian Hacking describes this subtle yet important shift in meaning in his book about the emergence of social science, The Taming of Chance, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 160-164.

42. R.M. Hare describes this problem when he talks about any normative (prescriptive) conclusion being unwarranted if is based on a descriptive premise, unless there is also a prescriptive premise. Language of Morals, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 46.

43. Dr. Schneewind made this comment on a previous version of this paper.

44. I resisted the employment of the acronym because of the conceptual relationship among the values. When the Chief of Staff (CSA) mandated the acronym, the conceptual relationship was destroyed. The CSA is now disturbed about the apparent lack of conceptual coherence, the coherence his decision destroyed.

45. Army Field Manual 22-100, Military Leadership (Washington D. C.: Department of the Army, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1990), p. 33.

46. Daniel Statman, Moral Dilemmas (Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 1995), pp. 8-14.

47. This is the problem of relevant descriptions, discussed in Onora Nell’s Acting on Principle (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), pp. 12-31.

48. Rush Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), pp. 118-145.

49. Following Nell’s analysis in Acting on Principle, (Ann Arbor, New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), pp. 10-11.

50. Alan Donagan, The Theory of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), p. 149.

51. The current values movement is due to the momentum that still exists from the failed values clarification project in the ‘70’s.

52. "Speech of the Reichsfuehrer—SS at the meeting of SS Major-Generals at Posen, October 4th, 1943," Document 1919-PS. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Vol. 4 (Washington, D.C.: Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, 1946), 558-72.

53. Alan Donagan makes this distinction in The Theory of Morality, pp. 112-142.

54. Lyndon Johnson used to say this. In James R. Rest & Darcia Narváez, eds., Moral Development in the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics (Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), p. x.

55. The Golden Rule turns out to fall short of giving guidance on at least three counts: people may have different tastes (there are many masochists out there), people should be treated differently based on age, position, education, situation (a judge would not rule in the case of a minor or incompetent based on how he wants to be treated), and the rule says nothing about how we should treat ourselves. Donagan, pp. 57-66. George Bernard Shaw states it more elegantly when he says "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you; they may have different tastes."

56. Even Clausewitz talks about the end of military activity as being peace. Military victory is merely a means to that end. "The original means of strategy is victory—that is, tactical success; its ends, in the final analysis, are those objects which will lead directly to peace." On War, p. 165.

57. This is the subject of a book by Henry S. Richardson, Practical Reasoning About Final Ends, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

58. Most notably this movement has been seen in the work of Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985) and Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 2d ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988).

59. Immanuel Kant, "On the Common Saying: ‘This May be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice,’" in Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 61 - 62.

60. Kant, p. 61.

61. Robert B. Louden, Morality and Moral Theory: A Reappraisal and Reaffirmation, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 143-152.

62. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1004a35-b1).

63. Edmund L. Pincoffs, Quandaries and Virtues: Against Reductivism in Ethics, (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1986).

64. Louden, p. 97.

65. One philosopher who makes this distinction is William Frankena, Ethics, Second Edition, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1973), p. 4.

66. A few years ago, I witnessed a briefing to the CSA by the War College, and the subject was critical thinking in the Army. The War College portrayed the subject as being difficult and esoteric, and they claimed that the War College was the only place in the Army that taught it. In fact, an uninformed observer may have thought that the War College invented critical thinking. They also recommended that, because of its difficulty, the Army allow people to engage in this subject area only when they have reached the War College. They recommended that they not even allow the subject to be taught at the staff college; the young minds there are too impressionable. They collectively did not realize that many of the people in the lower ranks are already ahead of them in this subject matter.

67. Jamieson, Dale, "Method and Moral Theory" in A Companion to Ethics, edited by Peter Singer, (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1991), p. 486.

68. I want to thank my colleagues at West Point for reading and providing critical comments, especially Mike Burke, Marilyn Elkins, Elizabeth Samet, Pete Fromm, Tony Pfaff, Peter Stromberg, Mike Orenduff, Randy Dipert, and Tony Hartle.




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