Core Values: The Problems of Justification and Motivation
MAJ Charles A. Pfaff
Department of English
United States Military Academy
West Point, NY 10996

I. Introduction:

In the movie The Big Red One there is a scene where a German soldier, after expressing his views on the moral bankruptcy of Nazi leadership, is told by his sergeant that the unit is going to the Kasserine Pass where they will fight the American Army. The soldier refuses to go. His justification seems to be that the kind of people the Nazi leaders are and the goals they have established are simply not worth dying for. He concludes by saying to his sergeant, "I’m no damn Nazi fanatic like you!" The sergeant expressed his dissatisfaction with the soldier’s moral position by shooting him. As I watched the soldier’s body tumble down a sand dune, I wondered what exactly justified, in the sergeant’s mind, killing his soldier. It could not be simply disobeying a direct order since none was properly given. The sergeant had only announced the movement; he had not ordered it. What it seemed that the sergeant objected to was the fact that the soldier was disloyal.

Loyalty, as is apparent in this scene, is essential to the smooth and efficient functioning of an organization and as such, it is proper, in some sense, for members of the organization to hold the value of loyalty in high regard. However, as is also apparent from this scene, doing so will not always lead one to doing what is morally right. To determine if upholding a particular value or system of values is moral we must understand the moral justification behind it. If we do not have a solid moral justification for the values, then we will be in no better position than the sergeant when we tell our soldiers that loyalty is somehow morally better than the value of disloyalty. Furthermore, we want people to uphold the value (or values) for the right reasons. Someone who upholds a value simply because he or she wants to avoid being shot is not as likely to continue to uphold that value when this possibility is removed. These, then, are the problems that I see with current sets of core values: the justification for the values or either arbitrary or weak and the programs designed around them do not supply a morally sufficient motivation for members of the services to uphold them.

My purpose here is not to ‘bash’ core values or to make the claim that they are somehow wholly inadequate to the task of facilitating moral education and behavior. However, these problems with the way the services have developed and articulated core value programs seriously undermine these programs’ effectiveness. What I would like to do in this paper is describe these problems and offer some ways to solve them without throwing the baby out with the bath water. I should note these criticisms would not apply equally to all services. Further, it is not my purpose to compare and contrast the different methods the services used to develop their core-value programs. For my purposes, it does not matter that some processes were more reflective than others, nor is it important that some programs are more comprehensive than others. As long as the justification for the values is weak or there was arbitrariness of any kind in their development and as long as these programs fail to offer an adequate account of moral motivation, then these criticisms will hold. What should also be of value then is the method I will offer for addressing these criticisms.


II. Justification

I will address two issues regarding justification. The first is arbitrariness and the second is weakness. A justification is arbitrary when it is determined by chance or individual preference. A justification is weak if it does not enable us to distinguish between values that are moral from those that are simply expedient. To some degree, all of the core values programs offered by the services suffer from one or more of these problems. Before I discuss a solution, however, it is important that we understand exactly why these are problems.

For each of the services, there was at least an element of arbitrariness in the process used to determine them. The Navy and Air Force values had their origins in the edicts of high-ranking officials. The Army values were ultimately determined by the doctrinal process, which involved consensus of committee and personal preference and thus was, to some degree, arbitrary.1 This is not to say that no thought went into establishing these values or that the entire process was arbitrary. This is also not to say that some processes were not better than others. However, as I stated before, I am not engaging in a comparison and contrast of each of the programs. It is important to note, however, that at least two of the services seem to have employed an arbitrary process in determining the core values because each service has a different set. Unless we can articulate the Army’s seven, and the Air Force and Navy’s three values as somehow being the same, it does seem that it would be worthwhile to comment on the issue of arbitrariness and justification.

Arbitrariness is a problem because if we determine our list of core-values arbitrarily, then we have no way to tell if it is better or worse than another list. We have no way to answer questions like why we should value integrity and not dishonesty. In the case of the Army values, after the proposed list went to committee, fairness and wisdom was voted out and integrity were voted in.2 If the justification for our values is simply that those in charge of determining them preferred this set to others, then it would be logically possible for other values to be core values. Furthermore, we would not know if the list is complete nor would we be able to determine with any degree of certainty whether the values we had included were the right ones. If there are no constraints on what could constitute a core value, then how do we justify excluding values such as fairness and wisdom? In fact, it is not clear that we could give good reasons not to include dishonesty and loyalty to oneself (careerism). If there is no independent measure of moral reason, then anything can be a core-value and the list could change as the preferences of the people in charge change.

It would be tempting to avoid arbitrariness by pointing out that members of the organization must uphold the values if the organization is to succeed. In this way, the values are justified by expediency. While this does solve the problem of arbitrariness, it creates others.

If the values are justified solely in terms of how they affect the success of the organization then the moral worth of these values will be directly linked to the moral worth of the activities of the organization. If the structure of morality is someone doing something to someone then we certainly have to consider the effect upholding these values have on others if we are to determine the value’s moral worth.3 If I am in an organization that is dedicated to committing genocide and I uphold the value of integrity because I know that this is necessary for the organization to succeed, then my integrity has a direct causal link to the act of genocide, even if I do not actively participate. If I instantiate integrity for the sake of committing genocide, then the moral worth of my integrity is the same as the moral worth of committing genocide.

Even if the organization dedicates itself to morally good aims, justifying the core values this way would imply that anything that facilitates one’s ability to be a good member and contribute to the success of the organization has the same moral worth. If this were the case, then technical skills like marksmanship, navigation, computer programming and others would have the same moral value as integrity because they are all, depending on your job and organization, equally necessary to the efficient functioning of the organization.

If we truly wish to develop moral—and not merely effective—soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, we need to find a way to anchor what we value in an objective account of morality that transcends the goals of the organization to which we belong. Such a way should not only tell us how to accomplish the goals of the organization in a moral fashion; it should also help us evaluate whether not these goals are, in themselves, moral ones.

III. Motivation

Another problem with the core-value approach is that it does not provide an adequate account of moral motivation for members of the organization to uphold the values. It tells members of the organization what they should believe in, but it does not give a very good account of why they should act on this belief. Before I demonstrate this, I would first like to discuss why this is important.

Why should we care why someone does the right thing as long as they do it? The answer to this question lies in the fact that motives are our reasons for acting. According to Hume, they consist in belief plus desire.4 If we take moral attitudes to be beliefs, then these beliefs will depend on the existence of an appropriate desire if they are to motivate us to action. If this desire is not present, it would not matter if our moral beliefs were correct, we would not be motivated to act on them. Thus, if morality were only about discerning right and wrong it would be deprived of any intrinsic relation to conduct. This is why motivation is important to any moral system.

But some beliefs and some desires are better than others. I have already discussed the issue regarding beliefs. If the core-values are the moral beliefs that we must be motivated to uphold, then they must be moral values. This means their justification must be rooted in an objective morality if we are to consider upholding them morally good and not merely expedient. The only way we can be sure of this is to ensure they are appropriately justified. The next question regards what will constitute a morally good desire.

Core value programs must give good reasons for someone to act in such a way to uphold the core values. If the members of an organization have an internal point of view towards their organization’s values, they will view a failure to uphold these values as something to be avoided and punished. In such an organization, the values themselves provide a reason for behaving in certain ways and punishing those who do not behave in those ways. People with an internal point of view regarding values will uphold the values because they are their values—these values are an integral part of their identity.

We can contrast this with people who uphold a value because of an external point of view. This means they uphold a value only because they fear some sort of sanction. When the sanction is removed or is not as harsh or likely as the consequences of not upholding the value, they are likely to fail to uphold the value.5 This means giving members of an organization good reasons for internalizing a set of values must surely be a necessary part of an account of morally good desire. However, even this is not sufficient. An evil person can internalize evil values and still feel they are his. To give us a sufficient account of a morally good desire, we must add something else.

For the account of motivation to be moral the desire must not only arise out of one’s personally identifying with the values but also out of one’s desire to create or uphold some good. This brings us back to the issue of justification. The core values must lead to some good, and we can only know that they do if they are well justified. For our motivation to be properly moral we must also believe this and must desire to create that good. Furthermore, this good must transcend the good of the organization and be rooted somehow in objective morality. Only in this way will we be able to separate ourselves from the Nazis.

In the Army core values program, soldiers are properly motivated as long as they recognize that by joining the Army they have obligated themselves to uphold the values. As the new FM 22-100 Army Leadership states, "But when soldiers take the oath, they promise to live by Army values."6 The Air Force calls the values the "price of admission."7 Without any other moral foundation, the motive for upholding the values is that they are, essentially, a condition for employment. The problem with this as a motive is that at times when one’s employment would seem to require that one violate a value (or values) one would have just as good reasons to uphold the value as not. For example, my boss might ask me to lie on a readiness report and threaten me with the loss of my job if I do not do so. While each of the services’ core-values clearly guides me to disobey my boss, they do not give me good reasons to do so.

If I apply the Army’s core values, the answer is clear. My loyalty to the Army is more important than my loyalty to my boss. Being loyal means fulfilling my obligations to the thing my loyalty is directed at. Thus, my obligations to the Army are more important than my obligations to my boss, so lying on the readiness report would be wrong. Additionally, lying would also violate the values of honor and integrity and would be, on those grounds, also wrong. However, if the only reason I have to uphold the values lies in the fact they are conditions for employment, then it seems irrational to uphold them if I believe that by doing so my boss will fire me. If the only reason I have to disobey my boss is that that too could result in the loss of my job, then the only choice would be to select the option that would make losing my job the least likely. This undermines the purpose of the values, since part of their function is to help us act in a morally correct way independently of others’ opinions, no matter how influential that other might be. This is why it matters that people not just do the right thing, but do it for the right reason.

When the consequences of acting morally are unfavorable to the agent doing the acting, that agent needs powerful and compelling reasons to do the morally right thing. An agent needs to understand and truly believe that it is better to be fired than to violate his integrity. Given the unique nature of the military, this understanding is especially important. Since much of the purpose and function of the military revolves around committing acts of violence, it is especially important that its members understand and truly believe that it is better to be mutilated or killed than act immorally.8

If the system of ethics the agent relies on does not provide these reasons, it will be seen as largely irrelevant. This will be especially true in circumstances where its application would create some harm or inconvenience to the agent. If the agent sees this system of ethics as largely irrelevant, then it will not motivate the agent to act in the way it prescribes. If the agent is not motivated to act on what the system of ethics prescribes, this system will fail to do what it was designed to do: prevent members of the organization from acting immorally. When this happens, this system will live only in professional development sessions and in the entry training courses (basic training, officer basic courses, etc.). It will seem irrational to apply it in the "real world."


IV. A Solution

When core-value programs lack a proper justification and fail to provide adequate moral motivation they fail to give military personnel the moral framework they need to determine what constitutes moral behavior. I think reinterpreting the values as virtues can solve these problems. By anchoring the good in human flourishing, virtue ethics allows us to offer a solid justification for our values and account for moral motivation. Furthermore, we can do this without importing many of the problems normally associated with virtue ethics. We can also do this without having to deny the beneficial insights provided by other ethical approaches.

To illustrate this, I am going to give an account of how good leadership is necessarily tied up in human flourishing and show how this will allow us to derive and justify the virtues of leadership as well as provide the moral motivation core-values programs lack. I think it is fair to start with leadership since essentially the purpose of the core-values is to give leaders at all levels a framework for making moral decisions and followers a means by which they can tell if their leader’s decisions are moral or not. While we can certainly require military personnel to understand and uphold the values, the role these values play is firmly tied up in the role leaders play in organization. This being the case, it makes sense to start with leadership.


V. Leadership and Flourishing

Someone once told me a good leader is someone who can get people to do something they would otherwise, given normal considerations of self-interest, not do. Nevertheless, history provides us numerous examples of leaders, like Adolf Hitler, who were very effective at this, but whom we do not want to characterize as good leaders. Given Hitler’s insufficiently unique place in history, any description of a good leader that could include him seems unsatisfactory. It is not enough to say that a good leader gets people to do difficult or unpleasant things or even simply leads an organization to accomplish its stated goals. To adequately describe what a good leader is we must understand not only how a leader should lead an organization to function properly, we must also have a notion of what the proper function of an organization is.

To understand the proper function of an organization, we must have a notion of what is good for human beings; that is, what is necessary for them to flourish. This approach allows us not only to consider what is good for the many, but what is also good for the few. This is what distinguishes the virtue approach from a consequentialist approach. In a consequentialist approach, something is morally good if it creates more of a desired result such as happiness or pleasure than any other possible alternative. If some people must suffer in order for this good to be created, then so be it. In the virtue approach, however, something is good if it contributes to creating the conditions for the good life for everyone. Since everyone enjoys this good life, agents do not need to choose between what is good for them and what is good for others. In this approach, agents’ actions benefit themselves as well as others.

Many of the questions surrounding what it means to flourish can be answered by looking at similar relationships in biology.9 Just as a biologist can tell what it means for a particular life form to flourish by looking at its mode of living, how a normal individual engages in this mode of life, and what circumstances are favorable for this mode of life, a philosopher can determine what it means for human beings to flourish by analogous means. If this is true, then it does not seem unreasonable to expect that one can learn what it is for human beings to flourish by studying human beings and human life.10

This analogy, however, is incomplete. It does not necessarily follow that just because biologists find norms in nature by studying how organisms live that an ethicist can determine ethical norms by studying how humans live. Because there is such a difference between our notions of what it means for a plant or animal to flourish and what it means for human beings to flourish, it may be that the study of human flourishing must take on a very different form. The notion of human beings living well is so bound up with conventions composed of a complex variety of moral and social values that, as conventions change, so does what it means to flourish. This analogy breaks down then because human beings, by their nature, are social.

For this reason, I am not going to try to deliver a complete account of human flourishing on which we can anchor all of our virtues. Nevertheless, I will start with the assumption that such an account is possible. If such an account of flourishing exists, whatever it consists in, it will have to account for our social nature. This means the account will have to describe what kinds of social behavior contribute to flourishing and which ones do not. This leads me to my next assumption: social activity depends on cooperation. If human beings are essentially social creatures, then cooperative activity will be a necessary part of a flourishing human society.

If cooperative living is uniquely human, and in fact essential for human life, if not human flourishing, then we must understand what it means for cooperative activity to be successful if we are to understand what it means for human beings to flourish. While it may not be possible to completely determine everything that is required to lead a flourishing, cooperative life, it is interesting to note that most cooperative efforts require leaders. In fact, many of the communal activities such as commerce, politics, morality and, I would argue, knowledge and the arts, require some sort of leadership to accomplish them effectively. Therefore, it should be possible to characterize leadership as essential to human flourishing. Therefore, what it means to be a good leader becomes relevant to questions of human flourishing.

This, however, is insufficient if we are to give a complete account of what a good leader is. Cooperative activity is not unique to humans. If we attempt to describe human flourishing, in part or in full, simply as successful cooperative activity, then it will become difficult to separate good human leaders from good animal leaders. If we simply say leadership is good because cooperative activity is necessary, then the ‘alpha-male’ of a wolf pack could be just as ‘good’ as a human leader in that both could lead their respective ‘communities’ to survive, even survive well. However, human activity, unlike wolf activity, is not only social but is guided by rationality and reflection. Therefore, if we are to understand what a good leader does and is, we must have a more complete account of human nature and the conditions that lead to human flourishing.

Aristotle, whom Martha Nussbaum describes as "the defender of a single objective account of human good," gives us an account of human flourishing.11 According to Nussbaum, "This account is supposed to be objective in the sense that it is justifiable by reference to reasons that do not derive merely from local traditions and practices, but rather from features of humanness that lie beneath all local traditions and are there to be seen whether or not they are in fact recognized in local traditions."12 In Aristotle’s view, there are numerous spheres of human activity such that if humans are to flourish, then they must behave appropriately within each of those spheres. He describes appropriate behavior within a sphere as virtuous behavior. So to flourish, human beings must behave virtuously. I will return to the idea of virtue later, but for now this account will suffice.

Nussbaum offers her own set of ‘spheres’ of human activity, which she describes as "certain features of our common humanity, closely related to Aristotle’s original list, from which our debate might proceed."13 That is to say, everyone makes choices of behavior in each of these spheres. These common features include mortality, the body, pleasure and pain, cognitive capability, practical reason, early infant development, affiliation, and humor. If one acts properly within each particular area, we would describe that person as acting virtuously. If one acts improperly, we would see their behavior as defective. Additionally, I would like to point out that one must behave properly in one sphere without behaving improperly in others, if one is to remain virtuous.14

So what is leadership’s contribution to human flourishing, or more appropriately, to appropriate function within these spheres? First, let it be said that while it may be possible to determine the spheres of human activity and even to derive a notion of what it means to act appropriately in them, doing so is often in contradiction with our desires. For example, within the sphere of "the body" functioning appropriately would mean doing those things that promote health and avoiding those things that could do harm. This does not, however, stop many people from engaging in just the kind of behavior that puts them at risk: overeating, drinking too much alcohol, driving too fast, etc. It also does not answer the question of when is it permissible to put our health at risk. Soldiers in battle routinely put their bodies at risk, but would we say they are not functioning appropriately? This point underscores the need for leadership if communities and organizations are to contribute to the good life for its members and society as a whole. Leaders help us answer these questions. Good leaders do that well, bad leaders do not.

This then is the purpose15 of leadership--to define what it means to function appropriately within the various spheres of human activity and to direct and inspire communities and organizations to do so. What a good leader does within these spheres is make clear and help define the goal or goals that the group will pursue and then inspire people to accomplish those goals. However, it is not simply a matter of setting goals and letting subordinates achieve them. Good leaders guide subordinates as they work toward the goal to ensure they do not function inappropriately in another sphere. Furthermore, good leaders understand the purpose of their organization and the dynamics of how the goals of their organization affect other elements of the environment. Consequently, they are constantly reevaluating both the ends and the means of their organization to ensure appropriate function within the spheres and when the situation requires it, they articulate new goals. In short, good leaders select the right goal at the right time and inspire people to reach it in the right way.

This account provides us both justification and motivation. The virtues of leadership are justified by how they help us fulfill the purpose of leadership. If they are necessary for us to fulfill the purpose of leadership, then they are "core" virtues. If they are not necessary, they are not "core" virtues. Our motivation to uphold these virtues comes from the fact they are part of our identity as leaders. Virtues do not describe what we should do, but what we should be. If we desire to be leaders, we should desire to be good leaders. To desire otherwise seems irrational since being a good leader (in the sense I have described) contributes to the good of the person as well as all people. How much or how little depends on the organization and the leader’s place in it, but it always makes sense to do more good than less. Thus, the motivation to instantiate the virtues of leadership is that by doing so we promote flourishing, not just for ourselves or the organization, but also for humanity.

We can certainly desire only to be effective leaders and describe and justify those traits that will lead to effective leadership. But if that is all we aim for, then we have removed the moral component out of that description and we should not pretend that the resulting traits are ethical ones. This point is an important one. It is not sufficient that we rely on an account of human flourishing to determine what the core virtues are. We must also communicate an understanding, or at least a picture, of human flourishing to those in the organization. In this way, we can articulate why it is better to be honest rather than dishonest and face death rather than commit a war crime. This is because the way we act largely determines the kind of people we become. Since dishonest people and war criminals do not live the good life, it would be irrational to act in such a way to become such a person. Certainly, this means at some point we will have to agree on some account of human flourishing, even if it is incomplete. That, however, is beyond the scope of this paper. What remains is to describe what the virtues are.


VI. The Virtues of Leadership

As discussed earlier, an Aristotelian account of virtue ethics includes spheres of human activity such that if one is to flourish, one must behave virtuously in regard to these spheres. If the above account of leadership is accurate, then it can be added to the list of spheres of human activity since it is necessary for human flourishing. In Aristotle’s account, each sphere has associated with it the virtue or virtues necessary for appropriate behavior. The virtues that I believe are associated with leadership are selflessness, courage, wisdom, caring, integrity, and competency. They are justified because they are necessary if leaders are to fulfill their purpose and this is necessary if they are to contribute to human flourishing. If the purpose of leadership is to define what it means to function appropriately in the spheres of human activity, then leaders will require practical wisdom and selflessness. The former is necessary if one is to discern the proper ends and the latter is necessary if one is to mediate when achieving these ends conflict with self-interest. Leaders require courage, caring, integrity and competency to inspire and direct others to achieve these goals. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor a complete account of the virtues, it does illustrate how one using this approach can derive and justify the relevant virtues.

Now I would like to turn to describing what the virtues consist in. COL Myers has remarked that if any moral approach is to be truly comprehensive, it must account for the three dimensions of the structure of morality: agent, act, and outcome.16 I would like to take a moment to show that the virtue approach does, in fact, do this. While virtue ethics focuses on the agent, it stands in a particular relationship to other ethical approaches that include the notion of duty and consequences. Duty corresponds to the dimension of act and consequences correspond to the dimension of outcome.

Duty based ethics evaluate our acts in terms of how they correspond to certain duties and consequentialist ethics evaluates our acts by their outcomes. Just as in duty based ethics we have an obligation to perform certain duties conscientiously, in virtue ethics we must habituate and instantiate a virtue conscientiously. As such, to fully instantiate a virtue the habituation of virtue can take on the qualities of a duty. Therefore, any description of virtue will have a component of conscientiousness, and thus duty, to it.

Just as in consequence-based ethical theories we must concern ourselves with the consequences of an action in order to determine its normative value, in virtue ethics we must be sensitive to the conditions that frame our moral choices. Thus, when determining how to instantiate a particular virtue we require an element of compassion.17 To instantiate a virtue without taking this into account can result in actions that have disastrous consequences. This is only to say that virtue is context sensitive, not that it is relative. Its "anchor" is a particular notion of human flourishing.

Finally, I will include the Aristotelian notion of the "golden mean." Aristotle often describes a virtue as a mean between two extremes. Some virtues have additional subtleties that we can go into as appropriate. Therefore, while a virtue is a mean between two extremes, it must be arrived at relative to each individual and in the specific context of the situation. Its instantiation must be moderately applied and with an element of compassion. For example, a generous contribution is a mean between the extremes of stinginess and extravagance. However, what we may consider stingy or extravagant is again defined in terms of the particular cause one is contributing to and to the resources available to the person contributing. Moreover, a virtue is not any state of character, but one that contributes in a direct way to the realization of human flourishing. Therefore, supporting a hate group simply is not generous, no matter how much you give and what your idea of flourishing might be. There are those who might say it is generous because it leads to their concept of the good life, but because it does not lead to it for all (if indeed it really leads to it for anyone, including members of the hate group) and works against the opportunities for certain groups of human beings to flourish, we can exclude it. This is another way we can demonstrate that virtue is not relative. What is "virtuous" behavior in one sphere is not truly virtuous behavior if it works counter to human flourishing in other spheres.


VII Avoiding the Troubles of Virtue Ethics

The good thing about this approach is that it can be pursued without importing many of the difficulties normally associated with virtue ethics. It is a weakness of virtue ethics that human flourishing is difficult to define. However, this approach does not require us to completely define human flourishing. Certainly, leaders will have to have some notion of what human flourishing consists in, but we can establish the virtues of leadership merely by accepting that cooperative activity is essential to human flourishing and that leadership is essential to cooperative activity. It only requires us to recognize that leadership is a sphere of human activity the appropriate function of which is to fulfill the purpose I described earlier. This allows us to distinguish between good leaders and effective ones, between the military officer and the Mafia godfather. The good leader leads his organization and the individuals within his organization to promote human flourishing. Since the Mafia does not do this, we may call the godfather effective, but we would not call him good (at least in the moral sense of the word).

It is also a weakness of virtue ethics that even if we could define human flourishing we would have to appeal to a set of standards that lie outside virtue ethics in order to justify it. This issue is discussed elsewhere in this conference, so I will not dwell on it here. I would only point out that for this account it does not matter if we justify our concept of human flourishing and the accompanying virtues by appealing to utility, principle or some other method. The fact would remain that however justified, as long as we have a solid description of human flourishing, we can give leaders some idea of the kinds of people they should become and the kinds of things they should do.


VIII Conclusion

The strength of this account rests on the belief that there is a single unified account of human flourishing. It does not matter how that account is justified; it only matters that it exists. However, it does seem likely that such an account will ultimately be rooted in our nature. Since it seems that being social is fundamental to this nature, it seems fair to say that cooperative activity will be essential to human flourishing. If leadership is an essential feature of cooperative activity, then leadership is essential to human flourishing. If we think of human flourishing as consisting in spheres of human activity, then it seems reasonable to conclude that leadership would constitute one such sphere.

This being the case, we can then derive and justify the virtues of leadership and provide an account of moral motivation. The virtues of leadership are those that enable leaders to fulfill their purpose, which is ultimately to promote human flourishing. Since these virtues identify for us what a good leader is like, then anyone desiring to be a good leader should desire to instantiate these virtues. To do otherwise would be irrational.

The core value programs are not wholly inadequate in guiding moral behavior and education for the leaders of the armed services. Most, if not all, of the people who selected the core values have a well-developed ethical sense and know how to make morally good choices. As such, the programs they design will point others in the direction of making morally good choices. Core-values programs, however, are supposed to do more than point. They are supposed to provide leaders with a means to discern and do the right and avoid the wrong.

Nevertheless, as long as these programs neglect justification and motivation, there is no way for those with a well-developed ethical sense to motivate the creation of such a sense in others. When we ignore issues regarding justification and motivation we do not give members of the organization a way to discern what is morally good from what is simply effective. In such programs, the only reason we need to give to justify a particular act is that the organization requires it of us. Furthermore, the only motivation such an approach offers is that the organization will impose some sanction if we do not act in the way the approach prescribes. This approach can develop effective "team players," but it will not develop people capable of discerning the morally correct ends or the morally correct means. Effective team players may lead us to accomplishing the organization’s goals, but they will not be able to discern what those goals should be, nor how we should achieve them. Many of us believe that there is no substitute for victory. I think it is better to say that there is no substitute for moral victory. The core values do not help leaders discern what that might be, but the core virtues do.


1. LTC Tim Challans, interview by author, West Point, NY., 20 November 98.

2. LTC Tim Challans, interview by author, West Point, NY., 20 November 98.

3. Myers, Charles R. COL, "The Core Values: Framing and Resolving Ethical Issues for the Air Force," Airpower Journal Volume XI, No. 1 (Spring, 1997). p. 39.

4. Hume D. A Treatise on Human Nature (1738); ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978) Book II, Part 3, Section 3.

5. Christopher, Paul, Ethics of War and Peace, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1994) pp. 117-118.

6. FM 22-100 Army Leadership, (1998) p. 2-2

7. Blue Book Section II Why These Core Values?

8. I am grateful to Dr David Lutz for this insight.

9. Wallace, James, Virtue and Vices, (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1978). p. 19.

10. Ibid., p. 25

11. Nussbaum, Martha Non-relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach Midwest Studies in Philosophy Vol XIII (French and Uehling, eds, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN 1988). p. 243

12. Ibid., p. 245

13. Ibid., p. 246

14. For example, in the context of leadership, one may be courageous but not caring, and as a result fail to inspire subordinates.

15. Philosophers often use the Greek word telos to express this idea.

16. Myers, p. 39

17. I want to separate compassion from benevolence and caring in this context. The latter are virtues in their own right while the former is a necessary element of a virtue. One might argue that this is just supporting evidence for the unity of the virtues.