Military Service as a Practice: Integrating the Sword and Shield Approaches to Military Ethics

Journal of Military Ethics 5 (3):183-200 (2006)
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The military's purpose centrally includes fighting its nation's wars, serving as the nation's sword. The dominant approach to military ethics today, which I will call the ?sword approach?, focuses on this purpose and builds an ethic out of the requirements the purpose imposes on soldiers. Yet recently philosophers such as Shannon French and Nancy Sherman have developed an alternative that I will call the ?shield approach?, which focuses on articulating a warrior code as a moral shield that can safeguard soldiers? humanity through the stresses and losses of war. Arguably, the sword approach is, if necessary, insufficient: the claims of the shield approach must be taken into account. It may seem that a military ethicist could simply employ both approaches in parallel. I will show, however, that the real possibility of conflict between the two approaches, due to their disparity of focus, calls for a more careful reconciliation. I will argue that conceiving military service as a practice in Alasdair MacIntyre's sense makes possible the integration of the central claims of the sword and shield approaches into one coherent and comprehensive military ethic



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Christopher H. Toner
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Whose Justice? Which Rationality?Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 1988 - University of Notre Dame Press.
After Virtue, 2nd ed.Alasdair Macintyre - 1986 - The Personalist Forum 2 (2):156-159.

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